Make money by not thinking about money

When I first resigned from my job as a headhunter, a friend asked if I wanted to start a new headhunting business together. It would have been easy to make money fast due to my experience.

“No,” I said, “because even as a top performer, I can’t even help a 100 people land the right job in year. And there are millions of people that need help. How many headhunters would the company need to have to help a million people? Too many and won’t happen. So there’s not enough impact.”

He laughed and said, “Okay I admire that! But I can’t believe you’re still thinking about impact. You’re old now, you should think about money!”.

“If I am able to create value for a million lives, the money will come.” I replied.

This conversation happened 5 years ago before WOBB even started.

Today, we have had over a million people visit our platform to look for jobs. And sometimes I would get a message from a jobseeker to thank us because they found a job through WOBB.

Nothing beats the feeling of being able to touch so many lives and building a company that has a strong voice in the industry.

Focus on creating value, not chasing money. It’s a “happier” way to build a career. Because if you create value for others, the money will come anyway.

The good advice that is actually toxic

“Don’t be stupid and work hard for the company. The company doesn’t care about you. Do the minimum required and look after yourself first.”

This is dangerous career “advice” because it puts people in an adversarial relationship with their own company. It’s you vs the company.

They subconsciously believe that if the company is winning, it must mean they are losing. And for them to win, the company has to lose. That they are not “on the same team”.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Because, think about it:
How could our career flourish if our company is struggling?

Our relationship with our company is symbiotic.

If the company does well, it reflects well on us. And the reverse is true also. If the company dies, people will see that we were partly responsible for it. After all, a company is only as good (or bad) as its people.

I’m not suggesting we should sacrifice other important parts of our life for our work. But I am suggesting that we should value our employers better and how our work contributes to the company’s success.
So the next time someone gives you this toxic advice, realise that this mentality is one of the most damaging mindsets for your long term career.

Our company wants us to succeed. Because that’s the only way the company succeeds. Our goals are aligned.

derek toh speaking

So what if you speak English well

Speaking English well doesn’t automatically mean you are a good communicator.

Some people speak with big words and beautiful sentences and at the end of it, you’re confused and don’t actually understand what their point was.

I’ve met people like this and it frustrates me when they use big words to show how clever they are and belittle / bully other people who don’t understand them.

Because the point of communication is to get an idea across to another person, isn’t it? So if I don’t understand you, it means you have failed to communicate with me.

I have also met people who don’t speak English well who are excellent communicators. They share their ideas in a simple way that is persuasive and easily understood by the person they are speaking to.

The reason language exists is to get an idea across to another person.

Speaking “beautifully” but not being understood or having no substance is not good communication.

When we speak, aim to simplify our message. Because the goal is not to impress, but to persuade and be understood.

Find the hidden gems

We all know people who interview well but are bad at the job.

And people who would be great at the job but don’t interview well.

And part of being a great interviewer is to find these hidden gems.

Because you will not only hire someone who is skilled, they will also be motivated that you saw something in them that others did not.

And the key to identify this person in an interview is to focus not on what is wrong with this person, but instead on what “could be right”.

So whenever you ask a question and their answer falls short of a good answer, ask again. Ask it in a different way. Don’t jump to conclusions that this person is not suitable.

Example:

You: “Why did you decide to join company X?”

Interviewee: “Because it was a better opportunity.” (Boring)

You: “Why did you see it as a better opportunity?”

Interviewee: (2 min long answer about their work, but not selling themselves)

You: “What did you achieve there that you didn’t include in your CV?”

It’s easy to forget that our goal as an interviewer is to find the right talent, not to test if someone has good interview skills. There’s a big difference.

Hope this helps you identify hidden gems and a wider pool of talent.

Maybe you need a room

Last year, something surprising happened when I shifted from an open desk to working in my own room.

“Modern” thinking says that a leader who sits in the open is an approachable leader, and a leader that sits in a room is an unapproachable one.

But since moving into a room, I have had more meaningful conversations with our people. Big problems were resolved faster and communication became more transparent.

Why is that?

In the past, when I was sitting in the open, many people found it difficult to have deep conversations, because they found it awkward to shift to a room to speak privately. Others would start to wonder what the conversation was about.

Now that I am already in a room, they can walk in at any time, and jump into deep and transparent conversations immediately.

Therefore I don’t think it’s about whether we can judge whether a leader is approachable or not based on whether they sit in the open or in a room. All this is superficial.

It’s about the leaders’ actual personality. An unapproachable leader who sits in the open will remain unapproachable. There are many who sit in the open and say they are approachable but employees don’t feel welcomed when speaking to them.

So if you are approachable, perhaps working in a room actually helps your employees communicate better with you.

Something for companies who want to adopt open cultures to think about. Don’t do something because other companies are doing it.

Have to consider whether it will actually work for your culture and leaders personality.

We are not trying to be a fun place to work

I’ve been criticised before about why I would create a fun work environment at WOBB and then contradict myself by not wanting to hire people who want to join us because it’s fun.

This is a big misunderstanding.

We are not trying to be a fun place to work.

We are trying to build a successful company. And to do that, we need the most talented people to come together, unite and work towards a common goal.

But something magical happens when you put together a talented, positively driven team who energise each other.

You start to notice laughter. You see smiles and people build friendships. Friends that encourage each other.

The “fun” is simply a by-product of this unity towards a common goal.

Someone who wants to join a company because it’s fun will actually disrupt this unity because they are here for the wrong reason. And in a strange way, take away the “fun”.

Also, companies that try too hard to be fun may be missing the point. We can’t force people to unite by throwing parties.

Focus on hiring talented people who want to join us to do great work, and unite them through common goals and shared values. Then watch as they make the culture become “fun”.

If you’re unhappy with your job now

If you’re unhappy with your job right now, it’s because what you expected your career or job to be is different from reality.

But the truth is, jobs are hard and building a good career is even harder. And it’s not just you who experiences this reality, everyone else does too.

You can, however, change something immediately, if you want to feel happier.

Change your expectations.

Expect that there will be moments that are stressful. Expect that sometimes you will be misunderstood. Expect that any organisation will have politics.

Ask yourself this instead:
“What should I be grateful for?”
“Who are the people who wished they had my job / career?”

Know that whatever challenge you are experiencing is normal. And instead, take on your job with a renewed sense of gratefulness and energy. And the desire to improve and be better at handling obstacles.

One of my favourite quotes:

“Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn

Why I don’t try to retain employees who want to leave

We’ve had talented employees leave our company and I often get asked why I barely try to retain them.

I’ve seen some employers almost beg employees to stay through counter offers and a promise of a great career.

In my opinion, this is bad. For both the employer and employee. It’s a downhill slope from this point on.

If they chose to stay because of your promises, you’ve created an unhealthy relationship where the employee will feel you owe them a career, even if they are delivering average work. After all, you convinced them to stay with a promise of a career.

They will have an inflated ego for doing average work which is bad for their long term career. And you will have to constantly deal with accepting average work as good work, bringing down the standards of the team.

A talented person who doesn’t want to be at your company is not as asset to you, and we should to learn to instead focus our time and attention on the people who actually want to be there.

The people who are loyal to you and believe in you are your real assets, and you owe THEM a career.

If they’re not skilled enough, then train them. Reward them. It’s a mistake to take your loyal people for granted and focus on trying to retain the people who want to leave.