This week’s 5-on-5, we’re giving you an inside look at the Praxis education experience. We asked five Praxis Advisors to give their answers to five questions about their coaching experiences within the program.
What attracted you to become a Praxis Advisor?
Amanda Grimmett: I had the opportunity to run a skill share workshop for Praxis in September 2016, and I really enjoyed interacting with the participants during the 45-minute session. I realized during the Q&A portion, where we were able to dig into some of their specific needs and challenges, that I really enjoyed coaching and had a knack for it too.
Connor Jeffers: I got exposure to real work at an age where most people were stressing out about finals and vaulted across leadership positions to land a director title in a hot startup when most of my friends were getting entry level positions at fortune 500’s if they were lucky. Through my young career journey, I had no one to talk to, felt really isolated, and constantly had imposter syndrome. As an advisor with Praxis I wanted to coach young people through some of the hurdles I jumped, as well as give them a unique sense of guidance, as I can empathize with what they’re going through as young people in the workplace.
Amanda Kingsmith: The people. I watched my partner, Ryan, go through the program in 2015 and I was invited to tag along for a Praxis get together in Charleston where I met the Praxis crew for the first time. I was absolutely floored by the quality of the people and the deep and meaningful conversation that happened over the weekend. Months later, I had the opportunity to join Praxis as an advisor and I jumped at the opportunity.
Dan Sanchez: The emphasis on self-directed education is what appealed to me most. Praxis treats its participants, not as subordinate “pupils,” but as customers. They are in charge of their own growth, and Praxis serves them as a resource, a facilitator, and a coach. For example, as an advisor, I don’t dictate goals to my advisees, as a schoolteacher might. Instead, I help them identify their own self-chosen goals, assist them in thinking through how they can achieve them, and invite them to challenge themselves by undertaking professional development projects that will help them grow toward their goals.
Ryan Ferguson: As a Praxis participant in 2015 I got a lot of value from advising sessions. I experienced first hand how valuable advising sessions were to me in helping me achieve my goals, so the idea of supporting and pushing other participants in the same way was very exciting to me. As an advisor with Praxis I get to work with ambitious and self-motivated young people and help them achieve their goals. Having a front row seat to see our participants start creating their careers makes it a very rewarding.
What kind of projects are you working on outside of Praxis?
Amanda Grimmett: I work for a rapidly-growing hospitality company in NYC, so there is always something to throw myself into. Right now, I’m working with the research and strategy team to assemble and test a “minimum viable product” for a new branch of our company. My role in this project centers around curating events and programming that bring people together and build a sense of community around our brand.
Connor Jeffers: I am building a marketing agency focused on CRM and Marketing Automation tools to help growing startups scale effectively. I am also working on a startup studio with my business partner to take our learnings as entrepreneurs and apply them to starting companies in bulk. My pet project is real estate and remodeling, so I’m in the process of updating an old condo in Cabrini Green, Chicago to rent it out as an investment property in the next year or so.
Amanda Kingsmith: I wear a lot of different hats. I am a yoga teacher, I manage a yoga studio based out of Canmore, AB, I run a yoga podcast and online business that helps yoga teachers create and build careers they love, and I co-host a travel podcast called The World Wanderers. I am currently working on a new online course for my yoga business podcast, creating videos for my personal yoga teaching brand, and growing our online travel community.
Dan Sanchez: I’m the managing editor of a high-traffic, high-profile web site, which is the online public face of a 71-year-old non-profit organization that hums with the energy of a for-profit start-up. I commission, review, and edit articles for publication, and manage a team of five editors. We publish 48 articles every week, plus several ebooks a month. I also regularly write my own essays for our site, on topics including economics, history, political philosophy, education, personal growth, and entrepreneurship.
Ryan Ferguson: I have a number of projects that I work on outside of Praxis. The biggest is The World Wanderers Podcast, a weekly travel show my partner Amanda Kingsmith and I host about long-term travel and personal development. Over the course of three years we’ve built it up from nothing to almost 200 episodes and more than 500,000 listens and have had some great conversations with people we admire because of it. Beyond The World Wanderers, this spring Amanda and I created a yoga for men course, and I also do audio editing for a handful of podcasts.
What’s the most common challenge participants need your help with?
Amanda Grimmett: Participants usually come to me when they feel disorganized, though we often discover that this feeling is just a symptom of something else. When we zoom in and examine their goals, it’s common that the participants just need to tighten their focus — whether that means creating an action plan with concrete steps, or simply working on only one or two projects at a time.
Connor Jeffers: Freelancing and becoming an entrepreneur who generates their own income. I’ve transitioned from well paid startup leadership roles into consulting and building businesses full time while generating more income than any job has ever paid me, all while retaining the freedom to take vacations and work on what I think is best. Participants want to chart their path there.
Amanda Kingsmith: I work remotely from around the world, so I talk with a lot of participants about how to be productive while working remotely. I also find that one of the most common challenges that participants need help with is how to get things done when you have a busy schedule, whether it is deliverables during the bootcamp, work for their business partner, or professional development projects that they’ve set for themselves. We talk about everything that they need/want to do, break down their goals into weekly and daily tasks and put organizational systems into place to help them be successful.
Dan Sanchez: Participants often book calls with me to help with their writing. The biggest challenge for young writers, in general, is to keep their readers in mind. I call it, “writing like an entrepreneur.” Entrepreneurs get into the heads of their customers, anticipate their needs and wants, and then tailor their product for maximum appeal and customer satisfaction. Similarly, successful writers treat their readers like customers and carefully craft their writing to serve them. They ask themselves questions like the following: How can I intrigue my reader from the first sentence? What might my reader be (or become) curious about? What advice might my reader find valuable? What kind of story and character elements would delight and engross my reader? What kind of flow, in narrative or argument, would be easy for a reader to follow? Which additional words actually aid communication and enjoyment and which only serve to make the prose heavy and plodding?
Ryan Ferguson: Since I’ve moved into advising specifically for placement the biggest thing is helping participants build a great portfolio. Starting in pre-program, participants create a number of projects to build their personal brands and make themselves attractive candidates for business partners. When you are working on something it can be hard to see it from the outside. I give a lot of feedback from the position of a potential employer and help participants make their deliverables as attractive as possible.
What’s one of your favorite stories about how you helped a Praxis participant move towards their goals?
Amanda Grimmett: I’ve really enjoyed working with Madison Kanna and cheering her on as she develops Career in Mind. It’s been a blast watching her navigate from idea to action plan to content creation over the past few months, and seeing firsthand how the project has morphed and developed into something even better than she had originally envisioned. My favorite part of working with Madison is that, without fail, we always end the call laughing that Madison already knew the answers to her own questions.
Connor Jeffers: Wow. This is incredibly difficult question because I have so many! I’d say keeping with the themes above, I had a participant who wasn’t sure what to do next but was making some money freelancing here and there. Within a few weeks we had increased his rate by 5x, gotten him some steady clients, and created an income stream that wasn’t dependent on anyone but himself that gave him true freedom. It was really amazing watching that transition.
Amanda Kingsmith: Madison Kanna found her own BP in a junior engineering role. We hopped on a call to talk about how things were going and she wasn’t completely happy. The team wasn’t inspiring her and she really wanted to work remotely. I encouraged her to start looking for side gigs that could help her get experience to move towards her goal of working remotely. Madison went out and found multiple different part-time remote junior engineering jobs. She was hired on doing part-time remote work almost immediately and has now transitioned from part-time to full-time remote work!
Dan Sanchez: I spent 90 minutes helping one participant with her LinkedIn page, her website’s “About Me” copy, and her “elevator pitch” video. First, I got her to identify her goals: what kind of impact did she want her professional brand assets to have on potential business partners? Then I helped her evaluate whether her existing copy would have that kind of impact, and if not, what kind of copy would. Together, we figured out what it is about her experience, skills, and character that would most appeal to an employer, and how to effectively convey and highlight that. Afterward, she emailed me:
“Thank you for the time you took to help me with my writing this evening. The value of your feedback is nearly incalculable since my LinkedIn profile and website will be assets to me indefinitely. I’m convinced your input will make a difference in the opportunities I have in the future, and I can’t thank you enough for that.”
She recently landed a plum apprenticeship with an exciting tech startup.
Ryan Ferguson: I’m going to bend my answer here to shout out some of the participants I’ve worked with over the past three months. Angela Blair. Jackie Blum, Elon Donnelly, Quin Weidner, Alex Younger, and Corey Saunders are all participants I worked with who have recently secured business partners for their apprenticeships. In less than 90 days, they’ve all created great portfolios and worked hard to get great apprenticeship opportunities. They’ve handled the uncertainty around moving, worked hard through the bootcamp, and finally crush the interview process to nail down great apprenticeship opportunities.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to young professionals about building a successful career?
Amanda Grimmett: Always say yes. Whenever your boss is looking for a volunteer, stand up. Whenever a project needs to get done, do it. Whenever you have the opportunity to learn something new, take it. Whatever professional opportunity arises, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Even if you end up hating it, at least you’ll know for sure. Never limit yourself, or your career, by saying no.
Connor Jeffers: Step up and speak out. Far too many young professionals suffer from imposter syndrome and worry about whether their ideas are good ideas, whether they will be taken seriously, or if they actually are adding value. The reality is that what gets worked on is what gets brought up confidently and with good reason behind it. You can’t be a bullshitter, but if you dont take yourself seriously, neither will anyone else.
Amanda Kingsmith: Social capital matters, and it is important to build up your social capital when you are a young professional building a career. This means you do things when you say you are going to do them, you show up when you book calls, appointments or meetings, you respond to emails in a timely fashion, and you communicate if for any reason you can’t meet your obligations. Being busy and forgetting you said you would do something might fly with your friends and family, but it will sink you professionally.
Dan Sanchez: Treat your career like an ambitious startup enterprise, and consider yourself the entrepreneur at its helm. That means treating your bosses, not as taskmasters, but as customers. Treat assignments not only as responsibilities, but as starting points: clues for opportunities for value-creation that your supervisors haven’t even thought of yet. Crush your assignments and use your stellar performance as advertising material to “upsell” your bosses/customers on ways you could contribute even more value. As your value-creation rises, so will your opportunities and your income. Take time to get to know all of your colleagues and the challenges they face so you can figure out how to help them. The goodwill you build up with the people you work with throughout your career is far more important than any 401(k).
Ryan Ferguson: If you are not sure of what you want to focus on in your career, just start pursuing and creating content about something you are interested in. Starting a podcast about travelling has led to a lot of professional opportunities for me that have nothing to do with travel. Starting a blog, or a podcast, or a youtube channel shows a lot about your character, it helps you develop skills, signals your ability to create value, and will open a lot of unforeseen opportunities.
Interested in transitioning from student to entrepreneur? Download the Praxis program guide to learn more.