Career Crashers 68: Joe Pas on How Daily Blogging and Personal Projects Help You Win Opportunities

'People think “oh if I have to personalize every pitch I send in, that’s going to take me forever!” — it really doesn’t and the payoff is totally worth it." - Joe Pas

Joe Pas is a marketing associate at Marginal Revolution University (M.R.U.), an alumnus of the Praxis Bootcamp, and an expert at daily blogging.

Joe has an incredibly varied set of work experiences and used that range to become adaptable and confident with new opportunities.

“Be clear, then funny.”

In this episode, Joe talks with Joel about his experiences and how they have helped him to succeed in his career in marketing. He also shares how he won his current role with the help of daily blogging and his process for pitching companies about job opportunities.

“They hired me on the strength of my body of work, specifically my blog posts. I had, at that time, somewhere around 200 blog posts. And they were like ‘okay, this guy is committed. He can stick with something. His writing is really really good. We want to take a chance on him.'”

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Show notes – How Daily Blogging and Personal Projects Help You Win Opportunities

  • How Joe uses his website and daily blogging to pique interest and signal adaptability.
  • Why it’s a good idea to show personality, rather than just ‘stay professional.’
  • How Joe ended up at Praxis and how his body of work and daily blogging helped him get hired, despite no previous work experience.
  • Why Joe wrote sales copy for eating insects (crickets) as a side project, and what it taught him.
  • Joe’s work flow when he was job hunting, using Crash.
  • How to do your due diligence on a company and personalize your pitch in less time.

Connect with Joe

Full Transcript: – How Daily Blogging and Personal Projects Help You Win Opportunities

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.

It’s time to crash the party.

Joel
Super excited to be joined by the one and only Joe Pas, who is marketing associate at Marginal Revolution University, as well as another Praxis alum. We’ve been interviewing a few Praxis alum to share this mindset that we are in joint mission to share with the world meaning Crash and Praxis are on the same page about showing not telling, proving your ability to create value, using projects and pitches to win opportunities.

So Joe, is really fun and unique. If you look at his website, or you look at his Crash profile, crash.co/JoePas, he’s got a little bio on there, I’m just gonna read that it’s Joe believes even the smallest act can drastically improve someone’s life. Drawing from a wealth of experience ranging from teaching music in Detroit to chopping down trees in South Dakota, Joe’s work is people focused and consistently among the best, whether he’s writing an article making a sale or coming up with another great idea, you can count on Joe to deliver consistent high quality and unusually empathetic work.

And so Joe’s got this going on. This sort of brand that’s really unique, genuine, authentic, and we’re gonna flesh that out. So Joe, tell us about this decision to kind of talk about chopping down trees in South Dakota. How does that relate to your ability to prove your value in the marketplace?

Joe
Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me on. First of all, the reason I included that sort of thing, so and in other, there’s a section on my website called about me, and it’s sort of a collection of interesting facts about myself. So the one that people have gravitated toward is I have a little anecdote about how much I like the cold, and I like cold places, and people are like, That’s weird.

And the reason I do that is because I want people to say, That’s weird. I’m interested in that, I wonder what else is up with the guy. The other reason I do that is specifically the tree chopping thing, is because I want to show people that I have a diverse background. And that I’m not afraid to do things that are either uncomfortable for me, or sort of strange.

I think that’s a valuable skill to have. And that it signals adaptability, and a lot of what you do, especially when you’re starting out in your career, you need to be adaptable, you are going to be doing stuff that you didn’t expect to be doing, especially if you’re hired at your first job. And you’re sort of doing the grunt work.

I think signaling that adaptability and that sort of drive to just do whatever comes your way happily. And with a good attitude. I think that’s really important for people to see.

Joel
Yeah, so out of my own curiosity here on your on your website. One of the bullet points here is the first major purchase I made with my own money was an iPod Nano in 2009. The second major purchase I made with my own money was a box of Cubans from the guy behind the library also in 2009. So obviously, it’s it’s slightly humorous.

And like you said, it makes you interesting, it shows you’re interesting, but there’s Is there anything else? You’re signaling with that one?

Joe
Yeah, so I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t remember writing that. So thanks to past me for being pretty funny. When you’re going into a role like marketing, what you need to understand is that a lot of marketing can be pretty similar. And I have abhor templates, patterns and stuff like that. I like to be unique, and I like to be creative. And I think writing something that sort of sets people off kilter, and is also funny, that’s the key is you have to hit the tone, right?

So you can put in a bunch of like, random jokes and stuff in your bio, or in your copy or something. But if it doesn’t really land, it’s going to turn people off more than make them interested. So my approach is sort of I write I write something. I look at it and I say, how would I react to this if I didn’t know myself if I were a complete stranger? And if it’s still funny to me, then that I like, Okay, this is good. And it’s going to speak to people and it also reflects my personality.

If I don’t think it’s funny, as objectively as I can manage to observe it, that I just cut it out. And it’s better to be clear, and not funny than to be. Oh, look at me, I’m so Goofy, but not actually get your message across or communicate what you need to communicate.

Joel
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, marketing, sales, and it’s about storytelling, right? It’s about connecting with people. And it’s so refreshing to go to your website, and to watch the video. That your hire me video, which is also your video for your Crash profile. It’s creative, you have these different cuts, and it’s humorous. And it’s it’s signaling, it’s showing that it’s revealing that you are a human being. That you have personality that you’re someone that people want to work with.

I mean, one of the misconceptions and the typical mindset in job hunting, is it just be professional, just show your credentials. And what people really need to understand is no, no, all companies are people too. Every hiring manager, recruiter, CEO, etc, wants to work, selfishly, you know, wants to work with interesting people, that’s going to be in your favor, of course, you need to show your specific skills like you’re talking about be clear first, then funny.

But there’s so much power into just showing your authenticity and your personality and your humor. Because that’s an everyday part of being on the job and working with other people is connecting with those colleagues. And also you what you did in one of these was talking about, you’ve traveled to dozens of national parks, and you said, This extensive travel taught me to keep taught me to keep my mind open as I deal with others.

So again, you’re you’re showing your soft skills. Hey, I have an open mind. And I know how to connect with people. Right?

Joe
Yeah, I think that’s really important. When you’re, when I mean, when you’re talking about marketing, which is what I do, you’re communicating with you really, at the like a high level, you really don’t know how many people you’re going to be communicating with. I mean, you have your email list, and you’re like, Okay, I have 50,000 people on the list. We have this many Twitter followers, but you never know where something is going to travel and how far it’s going to travel.

So I think that experience that I’ve had traveling, like physically all over the country, spending time with people from every I mean, when I worked at the National Park, I was with people in one room, we had 10 countries represented. And I think that experience has really helped me in that.

I understand, I hope, I think I understand the different points, like a wide array of viewpoints and backgrounds, and sort of where people are coming from. And that helps inform the copy that I write and the decisions that I make at work, because at the end of the day, you’re not just write, you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing for other people.

And the more you can talk to other people, and you can experience other people and what they’re actually like and sort of because it’s it’s it’s really easy to get inside your own head and say, I know how to do this. I know what’s best for this. I’ve taken this course I’ve been doing this for this amount of time. But you need that extra dimension of others. Before you can really start knocking things out of the park, I think.

Joel
Yeah, how much better is it to do what you’ve done, which is show your marketing skills through this copy through the stories and daily blogging versus I took this course. Man, it’s good to take the course. And it’s not that there’s no value there. But this is really just the epitome of show, don’t tell. And also, this is a great example for anyone listening, who’s maybe at the beginning of their career, or just trying to build a body of work or starting daily blogging. Think that give yourself more credit for the experiences you’ve had in your life.

You could go back when you did a lemonade stand when you’re 10 years old. What did you learn? I mean, I mean, you you were captain of the volleyball team. What did you learn? What what communication skills did you learn? You could write a blog post and do daily blogging about that you could do a video about that. I mean, don’t undersell your previous experience, even if it’s not a, you know, sexy job title, right?

The previous experience is just your previous experience in life, whether it’s traveling around the country, whether that’s playing sports, whether that’s working at McDonald’s, I mean, there’s so much you can extract if you just take a few minutes and reflect on on the soft skills that you’ve built through your different experiences.

So Joe is great example of that. Now, you went through this Praxis program and I’m curious, kind of the preamble to that what what ignited you to take this take this fork in your road to change into this apprenticeship program and do what most people don’t do?

Joe
I originally went to college for music education, a jazz performance. I was there for this is at the University of Michigan, I was there for a year and a half. And I said, I hate this, it takes all of the joy out of making music, I would like to do something else. And that’s something else at that time was joining a monastery in the United States.

So I packed up all my stuff. And I basically traveled around the country to different monasteries, and spent time there. While I was doing this, I was also taking classes at a community college. I eventually decided not to join the priesthood or the monastery. And at that point, so that was that was probably a year after I left school more like two years actually. Um, but at that point, I was like, I have no idea what I want to do, I, I dropped out of school, this thing that I was sure I wanted to do, I actually don’t want to do it. I have no skills, I have no idea what I’m doing.

And I just happened to I was really into education policy at that time, because I was so turned off from, you know, American higher ed, specifically, when I was in college. I was like, there must be something better we could do. And I read on this website, the Alliance for Self Directed Education, an article by this woman, and I used to know her name, and I forgotten it. But she was writing about this program called Praxis.

And she said, Oh, I’m on location in Cairo, studying my fourth language. It’s because of this program. And I said, I want to see what that’s about. So I went to the Praxis website, I read about it, I did some research. I convinced my parents that it was a good move, which was tough, but they eventually relented. And I applied, and I got in, and I believe, at the time, I don’t know if she was being serious or not. But the person I was talked to throughout this process said that I set the fastest time for Praxis acceptance, because of my excitement about it.

Um, so that was back in November of 2018. No, January of 2018. When I applied, I got in in February. And then I took a gap because I already planned to go work at a national park with very little internet access. So I worked there. And then I actually started Praxis January of 2019. Um, what I did in Praxis is the reason I have this job at Marshall Revolution University.

I so so it’s it’s a for people who don’t know, it’s a very small sort of startup-y organization, there are six of us on the team, and we make Economic Education videos and other materials for teachers. And I was hired on as the marketing associate, not because of any marketing skills that I had, not because of any, like, Oh, look at this amazing thing that I did at this job that I had. They hired me on the strength of my body of work, specifically, my blog posts and daily blogging.

I had, at that point, somewhere around 200 blog posts in my archive through daily blogging, and they went through those and they were like, Okay, this guy is committed to sticking with something he can, he can stick with something. His writing is really, really good. We think we want to take a chance on him. So I actually went through seven interviews with MRU.

And they, they gave me this assignment that ended up being like 20 pages long. So it wasn’t surely on the strength of my writing and daily blogging. But that played a huge part, they would not they told me this, they would not have noticed me or even cared about me, had I not had that body of work. And I didn’t think it was anything special. I just started daily blogging and wrote a blog post every single day about whatever came to mind, whether it was working at the National Park, whether it was one of my friends, and we had a conversation that day, whether it was something I ate, I just kept it going.

And daily blogging was enough for them to say we want to take a chance on this guy. That was a year and three months ago, and I’m still there. And I’m really enjoying it and they like me and I like them.

Joel
Yeah. Man, I can’t I can’t say enough even if it sounds like a broken record to some people who have been listening to the show, like the daily blogging is so valuable. There’s so much signaling power there. So even if you just did that for two weeks, 30 days, do daily blogging, all of a sudden you just signaled your creativity, your consistency. I mean, there’s there’s so much value there.

But rewind. I love that you just had this audacity to say, I don’t want to be in college and just listen to your own instincts rather than, well, I have to be in college, because that’s what most people expect me to do, which is something that’s a thought of a lot of people.

But rather you said, No, no, I don’t like this. So I will leave. And that was the first step exit don’t do stuff you hate. You didn’t have a plan, necessarily. But you were leaving, something you didn’t like. So that was making progress, actually. And, and then you kind of follow your curiosities from there.

I mean, you found Praxisbecause you were interested in self directed learning, you found the lines for self directed education. So that’s sort of the theme there is just like, don’t do stuff you hate and follow your curiosity. And good things will happen.

And by the way, is just complete side note, coincidence, I was at the University of Michigan School of Music at the same time as Joe, but we’d never met. Anyway.

Joe
I forgot about that. Yeah, that’s right.

Joel
Yeah, it’s just complete coincidence. But um, you’re doing the jazz and I was, I was doing the classical.

Joe
We were a bit of an insular group.

Joel
That’s how it works.

So okay. You get into Praxis. And talk us about talk to us more about the portfolio building, you mentioned the blog challenge and doing daily blogging. But what other projects did you do in that boot camp besides daily blogging, or it doesn’t have to necessarily have to be in in Praxis, but just curious to talk more about this concept of body of work.

I know, one of the links you have in your website is this project to a log cabin resort room directory that you made to talk about just the power of signaling through projects.

Joe
Yeah, so that was when I was working at Olympic National Park. And that was another thing that I did, I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing. So I’m going to do this because it’s something that I want to do, and I’m going to enjoy it and figure it out from there. And I want I want to say before I start, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are skeptical of the power of daily blogging, I was once one of you.

And then it got me a job. So I advise you to at least try it. Anyway. So when I was at the National Park, I worked at log cabin resort, and I was hired on as a front desk associate, which meant I ran the cash register, and I checked people into their rooms, and I stocked the gift shop.

But I noticed that our root directory was really bad. It had a lot of typos, it had a lot of factual mistakes about the park. So I took it upon myself to basically redo the whole thing. I changed all the typos, I updated a bunch of the copy, I corrected some errors, specifically, a particularly catastrophic error. A difficult trail was rated as easy and it was like nine miles and somebody rated or somebody listed it as 1.2 miles or something. So that would have been a problem for any guests.

So I updated all of that. And I eventually, I put that into my portfolio. And the only reason that I have that, and it’s it’s a substantial thing. It was like 60 pages or something. The only reason I did that is because I said hey, I know I was just hired on as a front desk person, but I think I can improve this for you. Would it be okay, I don’t want you to pay me anything extra. I just want to do this and be able to use it in my portfolio. And they were like, Yes, please. We don’t care what you do with it.

But I never would have had that in my portfolio. I never would have that experience too if I didn’t just ask. And that’s sort of what I learned for. So this was after I got into Praxis, and I hadn’t started yet. But I was sort of using those practice principles of like the permissionless mindset. And I was like, Okay, well, the worst that can happen is they say no, if I asked to do this, so I asked, and I got it.

The other project that I want to talk about with Praxis. And this was when I actually did in Praxis is my sales slash marketing project. So when I was in the Praxis program, there were four tracks. You could do marketing, sales operations, or there’s something else that I’m forgetting.

But I was interested in sales and marketing. I had no experience in either, especially having gone to music school. So I was like, I want my project to really stand out. I’m going to try to sell the unsellable and I identified edible insects as something that’s unsellable. And I did a project where I wrote sales copy. I wrote one piece from an emotional angle and one piece from a quantitative data driven angle. And I scheduled calls with strangers and people that I knew and was like, Hey, I’m gonna read you this copy. I want you to tell me which one you like better.

And tell me if you are convinced to try a cricket after, after hearing my sales copy. And that was also a really big boost. So I got a few interviews not with MRU, but with other companies on the strength of that project. So they’re like, we just love the novelty of this, we love that you took it upon yourself to, to sell something that is so strange. And out there.

That’s another one of those things where like, oh, it gets people’s attention without being without turning them off. It’s like, Oh, this is unique. I want to learn more about this. So that was a really fun project. And that that one too, got me some action on the interview side.

Joel
Oh, man, that’s so fun. And yeah, it just shows me You don’t need to be going to the Praxis program to start doing these projects. I mean, that’s why we created Crash. But just it takes a little bit of that sort of creative gumption and that intrinsic motivation, because no one’s no one’s gonna assign you a project to go create sales copy about this cricket, right?

Like, if you can just you can just like pause for for a few minutes and use your imagination activate the imagination that you were born with, right? And then say, Okay, how could I create something interesting and valuable to signal my value in my interestingness, right. So just kind of ignite that creativity.

Okay, so I just want you to, to real quick overview some of the, your your process using the Crash platform, because you were doing that to pitch some other jobs back in 2019. And you actually inspired me when I was getting started on the Crash platform as well. You were doing these pitch decks along with the video. And they were also very fun and creative. But I’m just curious if you can just overview your sort of workflow in your job hunt, and the process of researching companies and creating a proposition for them.

Joe
Sure. Um, it doesn’t take a lot of work to do your due diligence on a company, I want to say that upfront. I mean, I didn’t put zero work into finding stuff out about the company. But it’s not like this Herculean task that you need to undertake, I think people think about, oh, well, if I have to personalize every single pitch that I send in, that’s gonna take me forever, it really doesn’t. And the payoff is totally worth it.

So what I would do is I would identify a company. I didn’t even really care about the role at that point, I was more concerned with where’s the company located? And am I a good culture fit. So I would look at the company, I would research the company, of course, I would look at the roll as well, that did that played a factor. But once I found that this company seemed like something I’d be interested in, I would first so I don’t know if you still do the site Crash.

But when we were doing it, you had to make it was sort of, like you said it was a pitch deck, and it was made up of PowerPoint slides. And the first thing I would do is find the company’s primary and secondary colors. And I would change my whole color palette on high pitch deck to match that because it’s just, it’s really easy to do.

The second thing I would do is try to identify what made that company unique, and try to ape some of their marketing language and some of their their copy their graphics. So my very first pitch that I made was for a company called Hotel Tonight, and their logo is a bed. So I put on the cover of my pitch deck, a enlarged image of their logo of the bed. And then I took my headshot, turned it on its side and made myself laying in the bed. I thought that was really funny.

And I unfortunately, I finished it too late to apply to the job. But everybody I crashed was like, That’s hilarious. So I tried to take their own stuff and sort of turn it around on them and say, there was another one called Print for Me. And they, their mission statement was basically you want, we want everything to be clear. And we’re very upfront.

I said on the first slide, I Rule. Hire Me. And then I quoted them. I quoted that right underneath it. So they knew I wasn’t just being like a weird braggadocious person, like, I’m trying to match your company’s marketing language.

So I went through all that personalization. And then after that, I would record the video. I never used a script. I don’t like using scripts, because I’m not very good at reading them. So I try to do everything. I’m not off the top of my head, but I sort of have a verbal direction that I’m going in without having anything to scripted.

And at the end of it, I had, I don’t know, two to three minutes of really personalized, pretty funny, very interesting content that was designed specifically to get me an interview. Every interview that I got, I had like, I don’t know, six or seven. And all of them were like, We loved your video pitch, we know you don’t have the skills that we’re looking for. But we wanted to give you a chance, just like MRU, we wanted to give you a chance, just based on the strength of that.

So putting in that little extra effort of, I want to make sure that this company knows I want to work for this company. And I’m not just being perfunctory about sending in a pitch or sending in a resume or something. If they know that you’re interested and invested in them. That’s the difference that there that’s the difference putting forth that effort makes.

Joel
That’s what it’s all about being interested in them. And yeah, on the on the new evolved Crash platform, we have now the option to do either that large called large intro video, which would be to create that slide deck, along with the video that you did, and go that extra mile with, with the graphics and the slides. Also, you can just do a small intro video of just your face.

But whichever way you go, the principles you just you just espouse are what it’s all about, which is be interested in them and be creative, and be personalized and show interest and, and specificity and how you’re going to help that particular company. And that just makes all the difference. So definitely recommend people check out your your, your profile like crash.co/JoePas.

Anything he wants to you want to plug about sort of mru and what’s going on there. And how’s how’s that helping the world?

Joe
Yeah, so our mission is for everybody, everybody to learn economics. Basically, we think that learning economics has the power to help you change the world. Because if people understand basic economic principles, I mean, even things like a cost benefit analysis that has its roots and economics. And you can, if you understand the principle behind the cost benefit analysis, you can more effectively actually perform one, for example.

But our mission, So that’s one half of the mission. The other mission is just we want teachers of economics to have a much easier time doing it. So in addition to our video library, which you can just watch, it’s sort of structured like Khan Academy.

You watch a video, you take some practice questions, you watch another video, you take practice questions to reinforce your learning. The other side of it is we make lesson plans. We make curricula for economics teachers, we have stuff for homeschool teachers, we have stuff for high school teachers, we have stuff for professors. And it’s really, it all ties back into our mission of using economics to change people’s worlds and to change the world.

So right now, we’re really focused on our high school audience, because it’s such a strange time for everybody. But we are uniquely positioned to excel at virtual learning, because everything that we do is virtual. I mean, it’s all videos, and it’s all online lesson plans. So that’s where we’re focused right now. And we’re seeing pretty good adoption.

We’re working with a few different schools. We’re working with the state of Virginia to get our curriculum, like standardized by the state, so it’s going well.

Joel
Good stuff. Yeah. mru.org?

Joe
Yes, that’s correct. You’ll find all our videos.

Joel
Yeah, there’s another there’s another project portfolio project idea. If you’re interested in economics, you want to learn that, go watch some of these videos and do some daily blogging about what you learned. And all of a sudden, you have you’re signaling to the marketplace, your your curiosity and your self self directed motivation and all that.

So, Alright, thanks so much. Joe Pas, JosephPas.com and crash.co/JoePas. Really appreciate it.

Joe
Thanks for having me on. This was fun.

Isaac
Like what you hear? Go to crash.co and join the career revolution. Do you want to share your own career crash story? Send it directly to me at isaac@crash.co.

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