Career Crashers 66: Lolita Allgyer on What is Self-Directed Learning and Bringing it to Your Career

This week on Career Crashers, Joel is joined by Lolita Allgyer to talk about her experience growing up with self-directed learning how she has applied it to her career.

This week on Career Crashers, Joel is joined by Lolita Allgyer to talk about her experience growing up with self-directed learning how she has applied it to her career.

“I cold-called everyone in my contact list. Probably around 500 people.”

Lolita is currently a copywriter at Traffic Craft and former content strategist at Praxis, a role she started before she even turned 18.

“Being the youngest one on such a brilliant team was probably the biggest growth for me that could have been possible at that age.”

Lolita was home educated, so taking charge of her own self-directed learning has always been important to her. Today she shares her story of building a great career at a young age and her advice for others on teaching yourself skills and applying them at work.

Related: Career Crashers Podcast: Learning Skills with a Crash Mindset

Also Related: Career Crashers Podcast: How Projects and Pitches Set You Apart

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Show notes – What is Self-Directed Learning and Bringing it to Your Career

  • Lolita’s early experience with entrepreneurship
  • Taking part in the Praxis bootcamp
  • Learning and practicing sales skills by starting a podcast
  • How being young can be an advantage
  • Lolita’s advice for others on how to get started and do well will self-directed learning

Connect with Lolita

Full Transcript: – What is Self-Directed Learning and Bringing it to Your Career

Isaac
Welcome to Career Crashers, where we tell the stories of those who are not content to wait around following rules and hoping for good things to happen. Great careers aren’t found. They’re forged.

Isaac
It’s time to crash the party.

Joel
Super excited to be joined by the one and only Lolita Allgyar, who is a copywriter at Traffic Craft. And she’s also former content strategist at Praxis, our lovely sister company if, if you will. She’s also an alum of Praxis. So, welcome, Lolita.

Lolita
Good to be here, Joel. Thanks for having me on.

Joel
My pleasure. So I’m inspired by your story of constantly self directing, you’re learning and I know you were home educated. And that’s been a huge value of yours is sort of taking charge of the self-directed learning process building projects following your curiosities. So go ahead and give us the overview of your your backstory and how you kind of cultivated this mindset to take charge of your own self-directed learning.

Lolita
Yeah, well, I mean, I guess the cool thing is, My story starts a long time before I was even born. Joel, you and I were talking about this a little bit before we actually started recording. But my mother was a huge influence in my life and in my ideas on education. So when she was only 18 years old, she taught herself a new language and went to a completely new country, Paraguay, South America, and taught school down there.

And so her perspective on education was greatly influenced by teaching across cultures. And she has seriously impacted my view of education. You know, even after she graduated, she didn’t have a college education, but she taught herself all of this and like, built a beautiful career, you know, teaching a location that was completely new to her.

And so that perspective, that ability to just go into a new situation and learn something from it has always impacted me hugely. But personally, my desire to self educate, probably started around 13 years old. And at that time, I started a small business raising dogs. So at that point, the entrepreneurial spark was really lit within me. And I was just excited to learn in general. So with this little business, I started basically raising Golden Retrievers. I had three females and one male, golden. And they were my pets, but also a business opportunity for me.

At that point, I started doing self-directed learning of the basics of photography, marketing, sales. You know, how to be able to adjust pricing, you know, for a puppy. To make sure that people will actually want to buy it. The fact that males can sometimes be priced differently from females. You just learn all of the ins and outs just kind of by default. Whenever you start a business like that.

And so at that age, I loved entrepreneurship and love teaching myself. You know, then I hit high school, and realized, wow, like, this is something that isn’t just about, you know, building a business, this is something that I can actually apply to my own education. So during high school, I tended to go a little bit away from the norm. I didn’t follow a lot of curriculums, I kind of created my own curriculum.

I would follow rabbit holes and do as much as I could in a certain interest instead of just doing my next math lessons. And so when it came time to graduate, I graduated early at 17. I knew that I didn’t want anything like what I had seen in anybody else’s education. Honestly, I thought I was one of the only people that thought like that, until a Facebook ad popped up. And here, it was an ad for Praxis.

And I started going down that rabbit hole. Fell in love immediately with the idea and thought, you know what this is for me. I don’t know what’s next. But I do know that this is the type of philosophy that I’ve had in my own life. And if there are other people who have the same philosophy, I definitely want to be a part of it. So that was kind of how I got to Praxis. The beginning of my career, you know, at 17 and a half years old.

Joel
That’s awesome. And we’re gonna dive into Praxis a little bit more. But I’m curious about So you started a business with was it um, taking care of dogs for other people?

Lolita
So my business was actually raising dogs, breeding them and selling the puppies. I did also have several friends.

Joel
Breeding?

Lolita
Yeah. Yeah. So it was just, you know, one litter a year per each of my females. So it wasn’t like a big business. But it certainly was enough to teach me you know, number one, you have to get up every day and take care of things. Number two, you know, you have to actually put time and effort to actually make this a viable business.

So, while it wasn’t a huge, you know, entrepreneurial thing, a lot of entrepreneurs I think, start much bigger businesses at that age. It definitely was something that started me off on my journey.

Joel
Yeah, I’m just curious, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people, especially when they’re young, they love pets. And I’m sure that was one of the reasons you wanted to start this business. But I’m curious about how you decided to take that next step to actually go into entrepreneurship and learn the sales, marketing, photography, like what was the motivation to take it to that really concrete level?

Lolita
It was the money. Honestly, I knew that you could make a lot of money, you know, selling puppies. I loved every little stage, you know, from the birth, taking care of mom, watching these puppies grow up, naming them to, you know, finally putting that eight to 10 week old puppy in someone’s arms, like I loved every step of the process.

And I knew, you know, I’m homeschooled right now I have the time for this. I might as well pursue this. And kind of figure out what I can do and how I can make money doing that.

Joel
That’s awesome. Okay, so you went into Praxis. And what were some of the projects you did there? Because that’s a big portion of what we talked about Crash. Is creating projects and doing self-directed learning, creating portfolio like you already had with the dog breeding business. And then what was the next level of fleshing out your body of work so that you could eventually prove that in the marketplace?

Lolita
That’s a very interesting question. Because to me, you know, at the time that I joined the program, I, I guess I had, I’d been this entrepreneur, this self educator, up until that point, but I didn’t have much context for it. Like it was only after the fact that I realized how much sales and marketing I had learned through this little dog business. Then it was only a, you know, oh, let’s try this thing out. And hey, I’m an entrepreneur, yay.

But Praxis joining the program really gave me context and a framework for how to build my career with these skills. So coming in, I was very, I would say, very naive as to what you need even to be able to start a career to be able to show your work to be able to sell yourself. And so I just came in and consumed all the content possible. Like, Oh, yeah, of course, you could just write a blog post. And teach someone what you learned through self-directed learning and show off what you already know. Like, that’s actually a really good idea. I’ve never thought about that before.

You know, up to that point, it had just been articles and essays that I had written. So what I decided to do for I think the first really big project was start a podcast. It’s not an uncommon thing for Praxis participants to do. A lot of us loved the podcasting world. And so without having ever recorded anything in my life, that was super viable. I bought a mic. I did the research. And I talked to other Praxis participants and started a small podcast called Education Hearing about homeschooling and self-directed learning.

But I took it a step further. Because my goal at the time, was to really learn a lot about sales. And I read that, you know, cold calling and cold emailing are two really big skills that you need, you know, whenever you’re actually entering sales world. This is something that you can show off to business owners. And I thought, well, I’ve got a lot of friends, I’ve got a great contact list. Instead of just doing this podcast, I’m going to see if I can build an email list of subscribers, that I can send updates about this podcast to.

So I cold called everyone in my contact list, probably like 500 people. And I also cold emailed anyone whose email that I had. Probably around 300 people. And basically asked them if they would sign up for this new like, email list that I have. Obviously, only a small percentage of people answered. You know, in those those answered, I only got yeses from, you know, a certain percentage of those people as well.

But I think I got close to 150 subscribers, you know, in those first couple weeks of nailing down on cold calls and cold emails and kind of pitching the idea of this podcast to people. So for a first project, I would say it went extremely well. And my gosh, it taught me so so much at that age about what it means to you know, show your work.

Joel
Yeah, and I love what you said at the beginning. About you just had this lightbulb moment when you enter Praxis that you could simply write a blog post about what you know. And it’s not something that takes training necessarily. It doesn’t just mean you could just start a blog or or create a medium account and you could have any, you could pick any topic that you have had interest in in your whole life and just write and start self-directed learning. And then you’ve already signaled something to the world and that’s placing you probably in I don’t know top 10% of the market.

Good place in a sense, because most people don’t actually have that, that writing content out there. So you can just start with whatever you are interested in. Maybe you just want to talk about, you want to talk about your pets. Like you want to talk about baseball. Or just talk about anything you’re interested in. And you get the ball rolling in the new learn that creative process.

But that’s so cool that you made the education hearing podcasts into a sales experience. And I remember, first of all, I remember hearing that podcast and we’re on the same page, but our passion for education. So I remember, I loved hearing that podcast when it came out.

Um, but uh, tell us about the cold calling. Because for a lot of people, they hear Wow, you called 500 people, even if they already knew you. Like, that’s kind of maybe making an ask of your family and friends that’s rubbed them the wrong way, potentially, or, I mean, it was it was a pretty low ask just in terms of asking them to subscribe to an email list. But were you at all tell us about your sort of emotional state with the cold calls, were you at all apprehensive or nervous about starting that?

Lolita
You know, I looking back, I think there was probably a little nervousness. But I’m also an extrovert, and I love trying new things. So those two things, certainly overruled whatever nervousness there might be. Certainly, there was definitely a couple calls that I was like, you know, what, I haven’t talked to this person in like 10 years, you know, or whatever it was, you know, went to middle school together. How could I even like, what are they going to do?

And I did have some classmates that were like, What are you talking about? What Why are you calling me? So I did have a couple weird experiences like that. However, in general, the excitement about trying something new, and this knowledge that I was working toward this huge goal was the main emotion that I had, it wasn’t that idea, that feeling of nervousness.

Joel
Yeah, that’s great. I mean, it’s inspiring that you just use one for a new a new, you know, you ran with your strength, which was extraversion. And you were not afraid as well to just try something new. And you kind of just took that energy and kept going.

Lolita
I do want to say a little bit, I don’t want you to have to like cut something else out. But I do want to say a little bit about people’s reaction to that. Because I think what a lot of people don’t realize, at 17. 18, 19 years old is how much of an edge you have, just because of your age.

So if I was 25, and making these cold calls to people, they might not have the same reaction that they did when I was 17 and a half and doing this. But in general, all of these people knew me. Even if they didn’t know me well. And just the fact that I was doing something so unconventional, like I don’t know of anybody else who has done that specific thing, to sell their family and friends, you know, on a big idea that they have just the fact that I was doing that meant a lot of people were actually very interested in what I was doing.

They at least respected the fact that I had the ability and the gumption to make that call to them. And what I found was an overwhelming amount of support from people. So if anyone’s listening to this, and you’re, you know, trying to figure out if you should take that step out, you know, to show your work to be able to actually create something and put it out in the world. The answer is 100%. Yes.

Because your fears, the things that you think people might see in you are actually much smaller than what you think. And most of the time when you’re young people are only going to respect you for the things that you put out there and the work that you do to actually create something awesome.

Joel
That’s an awesome point about taking advantage of your young age, because you definitely have a leg up there for that very reason. And I’m also reminded of a Tim Ferriss quote, that what you fear most is what you need to do most. Something like that, where when you feel that fear, just go towards it, because you’re not going to regret anytime you can move through that fear.

On the other side of that is this feeling of confidence, because you’ve watched yourself do something difficult. And then you get the fulfillment of whatever that accomplishment is, and you’re not going to look back in your life 30 years later and saying, I wish I hadn’t done that really uncomfortable thing, you know. So having that having that as a rule of thumb is a good place to start.

Lolita
I love it.

Joel
So fast forward to actually you started working for Praxis. I believe is your apprenticeship, right? And then you just kind of merged into working there as your regular job. Um, just kind of walk us through generally you’re there about two, two years, I believe and tell us how you learned on the job. Tell us how.

Tell us about the hard skills, the soft skills. And because you didn’t go to college, you you weren’t preparing to you weren’t getting trained for the marketplace. You were just jumping right in and doing self-directed learning by doing so. Tell us about what you learned as an employee of Praxis.

Lolita
Yeah, so I think I think the main reason that I got hired at Praxis, obviously, it had nothing to do with my experience. I was completely inexperienced, as far as the skills that I needed, you know, for the job. But they were hiring an apprentice, you know, at the time that I was ready for my apprenticeship and told me that, you know, I could just come on into social media marketing role and kind of start from there.

But the reason that they hired me was because of my, like, I spoke out loud, about my passion for their program. From the very beginning, they didn’t ask me to write reviews, they didn’t ask me to post pictures, you know, in the Praxis t shirt. On Facebook, they didn’t ask me to talk about what I was going through. And what I was doing was self-directed learning everywhere that I went.

I just did that, because I was passionate about it. And on top of that, the podcast I created was very specifically, along the same lines of what the company, you know, stood for self education, that ability to just pioneer your own path.

I think that that’s the reason that Isaac probably originally reached out to me. And I think that’s a huge point for anyone looking for a good place to work, especially if you’re starting out, finding people who think the same as you who are able to have the same kind of business and career philosophy as you do is far more important than being able to find that perfect job with a perfect title, you know, with the perfect kind of experience that you have, and so that, I think, got my foot in the door.

That’s what really allowed me to get started from there. I just applied the same philosophy to my work that I had been doing so far to my education. I looked at Praxis and at the people that I worked with their specific self-directed learning opportunities, things that I could, you know, take, and I had the privilege of working with wonderful, incredible brilliant people there.

And being the youngest one on a on such a brilliant team, was probably the biggest growth. For me, that could have been possible at that age. A lot of what I learned, came down to the hard skills, because that’s what I didn’t hav, as much of. I had raw talent, I had this ability to kind of get in there, learn quickly. But none of that’s really good. You know, when you’re actually trying to sell yourself later on in life, when you’re actually going to find another job.

So I knew that I needed these hard skills. So really focused on building, you know, the ability to market things on social media, the ability to write, the ability to coach people, sales, all of these things, this idea that I had of this basic foundation of business, something that most people would go to business school to learn. But instead, I tried to go to Praxis and get a full time job to learn. That’s what I set my mind to learn.

And over the course of those two years, I can’t tell you how much I saw my growth just exponentially evolve. It was amazing to be able to literally watch that as I worked with each project that I, you know, created with every person that I talked to, and every step that I took, I could watch myself growing, right then right there.

And it wasn’t growing, because Oh, I got 100% on this test, or Yay, my professor likes me. It was specific, actionable, measurable growth that I could see, because I was making an impact on people’s lives and on the company.

Joel
So give us an example. For from during that time in terms of the growth and taking on new responsibilities. I’m guessing a lot of that was, again, self-directed learning. Tell us about the mindset and the specific project maybe? Did you identify, Okay, I think Praxis needs this. So I’m gonna go learn how to do this, or was it someone asked you to do it?

Lolita
I would say I would say it was a good mix of both because I was very vocal from the, from the very beginning that I wanted to get my hands in as many things as possible and learn as much as possible. So probably, I think probably four or five months into my job. TK, who was the education director at the time, approached me about a coaching role. They were unleashing a new philosophy module, and he said, Look, I saw the things that you created when you went through, like the basic philosophy module when you were in Praxis. And I think you’re the one you know, to really help take this on.

So that one was that wasn’t a good example of one that someone kind of reached out to me about but it was always based, because I was very open about the fact that I wanted more responsibility that I wanted to actually build my own skill in other areas. And that was the beginning of you know, two years of solid coaching experience that just diving in and talking to people and helping them work through their problems and being able to just have amazing conversations with you on people who were on a similar journey as I was.

An example of a project that I would have taken on myself, was at the, at one time, they were launching a new season of office hours, another podcast. And I knew that I wanted to be a part of it somehow. I had watched them, you know, record the video sessions that sometimes before and I knew that, hey, that could be a really cool project. And I kind of offered offhand like, Hey, I wouldn’t mind you know, making that one of the projects that I’m part of.

And before I knew it, that was fully in my lap, I had to figure out you know, how to actually video it well, how to be able to stay on track and take notes and be able to build a system and build a process for editing the podcast, as well as like, the video portion of the podcast and get it out on a weekly basis to people. How to cut clips, and how to be able to show that podcast on social media so that people would enjoy it.

And so that probably is one of my favorite projects that I worked on. That’s a little more of a long term project a couple months. And also one of the most fulfilling things to look back on, on of my time at Praxis.

Joel
Yeah, and that’s, that’s a fun podcast and really informative podcast. So anyone listening to Career Crashers podcast, who hasn’t checked out the office hours podcast, that’s with Isaac Morehouse, TK Coleman, and Lolita behind the scenes. There’s three, three seasons, so definitely check it out to get a lot of actionable tips on on career growth.

So let’s fast forward again. And you decided this earlier in 2020, to go out and take, take that next level of growth in your career, and you left Praxis and started self-directed learning more on your own and you kind of zoomed into copywriting and that eventually brought you to your current role with traffic craft.

But talk to us more about again, that motivation, because the theme here is you are directing you are taking initiative, you are self-directed learning by doing because of your own volition. So tell us about like this motivation to go ahead and leave Praxis and then take some time to really start diving into completely new material on your own.

Lolita
A big I mean, a lot of this kind of comes as you learn, you know, the more looking back you do, the more you see how you know, experiences of your life has really come to this one like point in time. Looking back, I know that starting at Praxis, one of my biggest goals was just to get a basic foundation of business understanding.

And I believe that I accomplished that goal there in those two years that I spent with them. And I knew that at some point, there would come a time where I just want to dive in to a couple very specific skills. Because, quote, unquote, marketing, that’s a very broad thing. And something that’s very hard to just land a job in, like you got to have specific marketing skills and be able to show those skills.

And I wanted to hone in on a couple specific skills, not just because I you know, because it makes it easy to find a great job. But also for my own sake, I want to have these skills in my back pocket. And I also, one of my main motivations, being a more entrepreneurial type is that ability to always have some skills in my back pocket, that I can make income that I can just bring up another source of income at any time.

And so, in the couple months of the summer that I wasn’t working full time, I decided that I was just going to hone in on those skills as much as possible. So one of those for sure was copywriting. Another one was photography. Another one was a smaller one, definitely programming because I know that can make a lot of money. And then just trying to find any other you know, small skills that I could build on the side trading started, like really, really researching finance, keeping up with the stock market, crazy time to do that I know, but being able to kind of focus on these four skills.

While I was figuring out what the next steps were was super important to me. And copywriting ended up being the one that I decided, hey, this is the most viable option right now to actually be able to build. It’s related to the things that I did a Praxis. I did a lot of copywriting even if I didn’t realize it. In my time there I was always writing articles, writing social media posts, writing emails, and I decided you know what, like, I’ve been doing this long enough. Now let me just hone this other craft, not just this thing that I do, but actually turn it into something that I am a master at.

And so from there it was just about diving into, you know, the great people watching and doing self-directed learning from people who know much more than I do, and just going to start finding my own clients. So I guess I joined copy chief which is a wonderful group of marketers, entrepreneurs and copywriters, specifically online, it’s run by Kevin Rogers, who’s an awesome copywriter, as of today’s world.

And there, I learned most of what I know, in theory about copywriting, I started copying great letters, I started kind of watching how other people would write kind of looking at new landing pages that were coming out and watching how these great copywriters would hone their craft.

From there just went on to, you know, find this role that I have now, which is a Traffic Craft, that was basically a role that came through on the job board. And I use the copywriting skill, but I had built up in the last couple months to actually pitch the owner of Traffic Craft, Corey Basada, and land that full time role with his company.

Joel
Right on. Pitching it. So okay, this is amazing stuff that you’re taking initiative. First of all, you’re taking the time, to structure your day. And focus in and no one’s telling you what to do. But you are owning all that all that’s really inspiring. So tell someone, some give someone some encouragement. Though, who might be hasn’t quite cultivate this mindset where, you know, a lot of people are taught growing up, what you need is to go get back to school, or go go to some extra training from the outside, to give you assignments in order to get a credential in order to get to that next level of career advancement.

Whereas you just tapped into the amusement park of the worldwide web as it were, and took advantage of that. Started honing, craft your craft on your own through your own sort of self discipline. So in your own creativity, you’re in your own, self-directed learning out loud, all these elements.

So what what encouragement do you have for someone, maybe, maybe who doesn’t have any body of work hasn’t really done, the blogging hasn’t really done much self-directed learning, but they’re kind of listening and they’re, maybe they’re thinking they need to go back to school, but what advice do you have for them to get started?

Lolita
Oh, that’s, that’s like a very, very big question. I think the biggest thing that has been beneficial to me other than you know, that innate curiosity and just willingness to learn, but the number one skill that you need to be able to self educate, is the ability and the understanding of how to do great research. Because there is so much information online is right at your fingertips, it’s not hard to access it.

But a lot of us I think get overwhelmed by the information overload. Just that knowledge that there’s so much out there. That, you know, we can spend time on Instagram and you know, just fill online, fill our heads with information. Or we can spend time on Google and do exactly the same thing. That’s very intimidating.

One of the greatest things I learned from Sarah Morrison. Who’s the Director of Operations at Praxis, as she said, Good stalking work is a huge career skill. And I have taken that to heart a lot in the last couple of years. That ability to just research it five different ways. Google it, look it up on Instagram, look it up on Facebook. Find you know, forums about the topic. Be able to learn about it. See what people are saying. Get reviews. Understand how the world in general is seeing. Again, you know, look on Reddit.

Whatever this thing that you want to study might be. Or whatever this thing that you want to learn is. There are experts who have created content on the subject, and you can learn from them. That’s a lot better than learning from some professor or someone who may or may not be enjoying what they’re teaching or what they’re talking about.

You can find someone who literally loves the content that you’re looking for so much, that they’re willing to put it out online, often for free or for a very low price. And that ability to find this information and to look forward in the right way is the number one skill that you can possibly build.

Joel
That’s a great answer. And cultivating your sense of focus and attention with that information overload. That’s just a meta skill. And then you can go from there.

Good stuff, Lolita. Go ahead and tell us where people can find you.

Lolita
Um, so I’m probably the most active on Twitter and Instagram. Instagram, mostly because of photography, and Twitter because of just random career insights and ideas that I enjoy.

So I am @LolitaAllgyer on Twitter and @Lolita_Allgyer on Instagram. You can find me pretty easily. I’m the only Lolita Algyer that I know.

Joel
Perfect. Thanks so much.

Lolita
Thank you, Joel.

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If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, don’t hesitate! Email Joel at Joel [at] Crash [dot] co.