In his book, Get Back Up – From the Streets to the Microsoft Suites George Santino shares his rare humor and the story of his rise from humble beginnings through a series of adventures—opening a sports bar with no walls, cursing out a drill sergeant, battling a hiring manager to get a job offer that he intends to turn down, and more—that culminate in a long and successful career with Microsoft, building a family and losing (and regaining) a small fortune along the way. Throughout, Santino shares his business insights and perspectives on mentorship, and stresses by example his central lesson: no matter what life throws at you, always remember to get back up.
Here are some of George A. Santino’s best tips for career seekers.
Competition is fierce when it comes to getting that job. How can you stand out from the crowd? And how can you successfully stand out once you land it? Follow these steps and you just might be on your way to a new and exciting career.
Preparing for the interview
Before you walk into that office and start answering interviewer questions, you have to answer some of your own. For example:
- What does this company do specifically?
- What recent successes have they had?
- What recent failures have they had?
You would be amazed how many people fail to do this, even when conducting the research is often right at their fingertips. Employers expect prospective employees to know about the company. There is no excuse not to, but take it a step further:
TIP: When asked why you want to work for the company, recite a list of their recent success and their future expansion plans, if appropriate.
Once you’ve scheduled the interview, make sure you do the following:
TIP: Remember, you are making a life altering decision here. To the company you’re just another hire, but to you, this is your life. Ask enough questions to be sure you really want the job.
Follow-up after the interview
When the interview is over, be sure to do the following:
TIP: Consider actually writing a physical note and putting it in the mail. You’re looking for a way to stand out. This will accomplish that.
If the company makes you an offer, that’s great. You may or may not be able to negotiate the terms. However…
If you end up not getting an offer, you’ll most likely be informed via a form letter.
When you hear the objection, do the following:
Example: When George Santino was first turned down by Microsoft he was told it was because he didn’t have a college degree. He asked the hiring manager why that mattered given the fact that Bill Gates, the founder of the company, also didn’t have a college degree. She responded that it was more about demonstrating that he could finish something, to which he replied, “Instead of finishing college with a business degree, I went out and got 17 years of business management experience.” That answer got him invited back for a second interview.
TIP: Remember: A rejection doesn’t mean no; It’s simply a request for more information.
Now that you have the job
Now the real work begins. Your first priority is determining what it takes to be successful in that job and doing those things. Where do you start?
Show up ready to go
Woody Allen says, “80% of success is just showing up.” That may be true but you have to show up prepared. So find out what’s required of you that first day and get there on time and ready to go.
Understand your role
Before you accepted the job offer, you had some understanding of what the position required of you. Now that you’ve arrived to work, you have to completely understand what you’re supposed to be doing. Be sure and discover the following:
TIP: Read and understand that job description. Talk to the other people doing the same or similar jobs. Ask questions of your mentor and your supervisor. Basically, take the time to truly understand your role and its associated deliverables.
Learn what is valued and rewarded
Make sure you’re spending your time doing the right things every day by knowing the following:
Get the feedback you need
Know what it takes to be successful at your current job. You need to know what results are considered “just doing your job” and what results would be considered exceptional enough to possibly garner you a raise, bonus, or promotion. During your performance appraisal is NOT the time to hear you could have done better.
Throughout the year ask your boss about your work. You need to know if she thinks you are meeting or exceeding expectations for your deliverables. If you’re meeting them, find out what exceeding expectations looks like, and then take action. The next time you meet with your boss ask if you are now exceeding expectations. If your boss says you are, then keep it up. As the review approaches, remind your boss that she said you were exceeding expectations.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to say, in a respectful way, that you assume if the review were done today that you would be assessed as exceptional and therefore would get exceptional rewards. If your boss pushes back, ask what more you can be doing. This can this can be uncomfortable for some people but this is your career. If you don’t speak up for you, who will?
What is required at the next level
Once you know how to be successful in your current job, assess the requirements necessary to do the job at the next level. Find a way to start doing some of the things required of the next position there.
TIP: Hold yourself and your boss accountable for giving you the feedback you need to adjust your effort towards exceptional performance. When you do excel, make sure you get the rewards you deserve by having those conversations with your boss early and often before the actual review.
Whether you’re trying to get the job, or you’re requesting feedback on how to do better, standing your ground and advocating for yourself can be pretty uncomfortable. You may feel out of line, unprofessional, or arrogant. But remember, as long as you frame your requests in terms of a genuine desire to learn more—about what you can do differently and better–you stand a better shot at getting what you want.
About George A. Santino:
George A. Santino has been a fast food restaurant manager, life insurance salesman, Realtor, sports bar owner, liquor salesman, shoe repair owner, real estate investor, software tester, software engineering manager, and Microsoft partner.
George’s life has been filled with many ups and downs. At one point he injured his back so badly it required three operations and led to an eventual diagnosis of Failed Back Syndrome and he was told he would never work again. This was one of the many times George was knocked down but he always got back up, eventually landing a job at Microsoft—after being turned down four times—as an entry level lab engineer and retiring twenty years later from his position as Partner Engineering Manager. Get Back Up: From the Streets to Microsoft Suites is his first book.