10 Tips to Manage Your Career

As told by former LinkedIn HR Partner Nathan Tanner

Career strategist Nathan Tanner worked in finance for several years before earning his M.B.A. and transitioning into HR at LinkedIn. He eventually became HR Partner of Product, where he provided HR counsel and support to a 1,200-person organization. He is now Senior Manager of People Science (HR) at Doordash.


While working in these roles, Tanner became fascinated with organizational behavior, talent management and leadership development. His recent presentation at UC Berkeley Extension follows up on his 2015 book, Not Your Parents’ Workplace: Critical Lessons for Interns and Young Professionals. But if you couldn’t make it to the presentation, we’ve got you covered: Here are Tanner’s top 10 tips—and you can watch the full presentation or view the highlights below!


1. Career development and networking skills don't come naturally to many people, so don't be discouraged.
During my first real job interview, I was asked to talk about a time that I took initiative. My mind went blank, so I described the time I asked a finance classmate out on a date! I've been given many opportunities to correct course since then, but the experience taught me that career development and networking skills must be practiced and developed. As we practice them, we become more comfortable and we can all improve regardless of where we're at now. We can find a mentor, schedule informational interviews, or go to lunch with someone new in the company or outside our industry each month.


2. Continual education takes many forms and may even help you switch careers.
At home, books and articles can help you stay on the cutting edge of the field. At work, continual education takes the form of joining new projects, looking to grow outside your comfort zone and continually looking for ways to stretch.


Additional education can also be valuable, whether taking continuing education courses or pursuing advanced degrees. When making a career shift, companies look at our experience, and if it doesn't match up well to the job listing, we're often not allowed to tell our story. Schooling is expensive, but my M.B.A. allowed me to do an internship and actually experience HR before jumping into it full time; it enabled me to rebrand myself and made the career transition easier.


3. Tweak your expectations about networking.
The goal is not to add 100 people on LinkedIn or to collect a ton of business cards. Think about you, your industry, and the goals that you have and how you can improve. Then, rather than thinking about what you can gain, try: "How can I build relationships?" "How can I give something to this person that she would find valuable?"


4. Weak ties matter.
It's initially counterintuitive, but you're more likely to find your next job from a weak tie in your network than from a strong tie, somebody you know really well. Because those "weak ties" are outside of our core group, they can provide additional perspectives and opportunities.


5. Instead of following an elusive passion, develop a long-term competitive advantage.
While "Follow your passion" isn't necessarily bad advice, it isn't always appropriate.

As Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha wrote in their book The Startup of You, you should instead think in terms of three different buckets: assets, aspirations and market realities.


First, what are your assets? What are you genuinely good at? What do you have going for you?


Second, think about your aspirations, which happens to incorporate the passion element. What do you want to do and genuinely enjoy doing?


The third takes market realities into account: What can you actually get paid for?


6. Stand out when interviewing by keeping the company's needs and culture in mind.
You need to do a decent amount of research before you're even in front of the company. It's critical to go beyond saying, "Here are the skills that I have and here's what I can do," and to make the connection to what the company needs. Be very specific and deliberate about what you can do and bring to that organization. You need a really good understanding of the company, what they do and what the position entails, which can also come from informational interviews.


You should ask yourself: "What are my strengths and how can I demonstrate that I can add value to the organization?" And just as importantly, "Is this place not only going to be a good use of my skills or a 'cool' company, but also a good cultural fit?"   


The questions you ask in the process should convey that you've done your homework. Instead of ,"Tell me about your company's culture," you might say, "I read this interview with your CEO, and she talked about your company's 'culture of transformation,' and here's how she described it. Is that true? What has that looked like to you?"


7. Tell a story.
"Walk me through your résumé," or, "Tell me about yourself," are opportunities to connect all the dots for your interviewer. Instead of going through your résumé position by position, bullet by bullet, take it as an opportunity to craft your story: "Okay, here's where I started out, here's where I'm at now, and here's the value that I can add to your company."


8.  Avoid the bait-and-switch.
In a good process, the interview should go both ways. Job seekers should actively ask questions and get a sense of what it's really like to work at the company. If a place has a really good culture, they're usually proud of showing that off in the interview process. It may be a red flag if only a few people are involved.


At good companies, you'll get the opportunity to ask, "What are the challenges that the company's facing? What are the opportunities?" If you get to the job offer before asking these questions, that's your chance to say: "I'm really excited about this, but I want to do a little bit more research before I jump into this, to make sure that I'm thinking about it the right way. Can I talk to a few more people who work here?"


9. Do your research before negotiating salary.
You don't have to have a higher competing offer in order to demand a certain amount. Pay-compensation transparency is a space that's growing quickly; LinkedIn recently rolled out a product called "LinkedIn Salary." Do your research and come to the negotiation with, "Your offer was X. Here are my expectations. Here's what I'm looking for, and here's why I should merit that pay." That's really important in leading the discussion.


10. Be intentional but not rigid.
With each job we have, we learn a little bit more about ourselves. The self-discovery process is continuous, so it's important to have a plan but also be willing to adapt because an amazing opportunity may be coming up. You want to be intentional about the way that you approach your career, but you don't want to be locked into a certain view about how things need to go or what the next step would be. You should aim for a balance between opportunistic and structured.