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Work-Life Balance, Interview Prep, and Tracking Your Spending with Ben Trela. This week on the show, we get tactical. Ben shares his insights on theory vs. application, work-life balance, job interview prep, and much more.

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What’s going on everybody? My name is Ben Trela and THIS is Taste For Tenacity.

This week, I wanted to get a bit more tactical and share some of the things I’ve learned professionally.

To give you guys some quick background about my work history (so you know where I’m coming from), my first paid gig was a newspaper route through elementary and middle school. I did the lemonade stand thing a few times, but this was the first consistent income I had.

When I started high school, I dropped the route. Tennis, diving, and theatre didn’t leave much time every Wednesday and Saturday to deliver.

My next gig was spending a summer at a bike shop as a sales associate during the summer after my junior year. I got to work with my brother (which was a blast) and start to learn about sales.

After my senior year, I took a job as an Educator Assistant at the Michigan Science Center. I spent the entire summer working with kids. I worked with every level, from pre-k all the way to eighth graders.

If you ever want to learn about how vastly different kids can be, spend a summer working with them.

That job ended in early August (right before I started studying at Wayne State).

My next gig was with Rock Ventures, and I started there four days before I started at Wayne. Rock Ventures was my first, real office job.

During the four years I spent at Wayne, I spent a total of three of them working at Rock Ventures.

Now, when I tell you I got to see everything, I mean that I really got to see everything.

I started by folding invoices. That’s it.

Every day, I’d get a 4-500 page stack of papers that I’d have to sort through. I’d fold the invoices in thirds, put them in an envelope, and send them to the mail room.

For three hours a day. Five days a week.

I worked with our team to essentially automate myself out of that job, and then I got to move onto bigger and better things. I worked on the wind-down of a company, I worked as an accounts payable clerk, I did the accounting for multiple startups, I carved a company out from our portfolio, I reviewed thousands of pages of legal docs to make sure our investments were correct, and then I worked as a business intelligence analyst. All while holding the title of “intern”.

In the year of my college career that I wasn’t at Rock, I did a few fun things. First, I had an audit internship with a Big 4 accounting firm. I realized I needed a break, so I took four months off before starting as an independent contractor. Basically, I got to do the same work but on my own terms.

So yeah, I’ve been around the “real world” for a while now.

I want to use this show to walk y’all through some of the things I’ve noticed along the way.

First up: Theory vs. Application.

One of the most important things I’ve seen is the difference between learning theory and learning application.

Theory is great, don’t get me wrong. Theory is what allows us to start recognizing patterns and understand why things are the way they are.

What’s more important, though: knowing why we should do something or actually being able to do it?

I’m partial to application. It’s one thing to know something. It’s a totally different thing to be able to apply it.

If you want to make yourself insanely valuable, double down on application.

Next up: The Learning Cycle.

While we’re on the subject of learning, I want to walk through how we learn something.

There are three major steps: What, How, and Why.

Looking back over my career thus far (which sounds ridiculous, but I’ve been in the “real world” for four years), this cycle is clear.

As an AP clerk, I learned the basics of accounting. I learned debits and credits. I learned the “what” of accounting. What to do.

Next, I took an auditing internship. That was alllllll about the how. I was tasked with determining whether (1) the processes made sense and (2) whether companies were actually abiding by the processes.

I learned how businesses processes should be structured to ensure that they’re both productive and protect the company.

Lastly, I learned the why. I got to work closely with brilliant people to understand why business operations are run the way they are. I got to learn the underlying strategies to running a business and the goals that a solid biz can accomplish.

Next: How I prep for a job interview.

IF THERE’S ONE PART OF THE SHOW THAT YOU LISTEN TO, THIS IS IT.

Full disclosure, I love interviews. I’m going through an interview process now, so it’s fresh on my mind, too! If I’m interviewing for a job, I’m already confident that it’s a company whose values and mission align with mine. This process is meant for people that are looking for jobs that they actually love with companies that fit their interests.

I will preface this section with a warning: THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IN AN INTERVIEW IS BE AUTHENTIC.

We all can tell when we’re being sold to or when someone’s putting on a front. We can feel it.

Interviewers are on a totally different level. Their job is to find the post possible candidates for a job, and so they know what to look for and how to well when someone’s full of crap.

Be genuine in your responses. You’re still trying to present yourself in your best light, but that doesn’t mean you have to put on a total façade just to get the job.

And think about it, would you really want to work somewhere that would force you to wear that same façade the whole time? Would that be a healthy work environment for you? How would you feel about your job in 2 years?

Now with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get tactical.

The main thing you need to do is get a feel for the company.

First, pull up the company’s website. Dig around for their mission and vision statements. These will give you insight into the company’s overarching “Why?” of existing.

If you like it, sweet! You should have an employer whose mission is similar to yours.

Next, dig around to find what its core values are. Knowing its values will help you craft your answers to common interview questions.

Think back over your experience, however vast it may be, and think of projects or lessons you’ve learned that are showcase the company’s values.

Maybe one of the company’s values is creativity. Think of an experience that shows how you creatively solved a problem.

NEVER actually say the value that you’re referencing, though. In our example, I’d say, “Well, in this project, we were able to take a fresh, new approach than the rest of our classmates to solve a complex problem.”

We allude to creativity, but we never specifically name it. 

Next, I’ll look for blog posts or articles that the company has written. This will help understand what’s on the company’s “mind.” You’ll be able to see how the company thinks and get a feel for the company’s style.

Then, I’ll look for breaking news about the company and its industry. Here, we’re trying to get a better understanding for the overall context the company is working in. This step will help show what problems the company is dealing with and how it’s trying to evolve and adapt.

Lastly, I review my resume. I want to be familiar with everything that I’m telling them about myself. I’ll also have a few stories/experiences at the ready that aren’t listed on my resume. I want to have as many experiences and answers ready as possible. It’s all about getting tools in your toolbelt.

That’s it! Is it overboard? Maybe, but it’s how I give myself the best chance of getting that job.

Next up: work-life balance.

I’m probably one of the worst people to ask about work-life balance because I’m not a “balanced” person.

During college, one of my friends said, “Ben, you’re nuts. Don’t you have any other setting?”

“I only have one setting – 400%.”

If I had to sum myself up in one sentence, that’d be it.

There’s little to no balance in my life.

Whatever I’m doing RIGHT NOW, I’m all in on. Cut out the rest of it, it’s all noise anyways.

My secret to work-life balance is to structure things so that I can be all in on one thing at a time.

Let’s take family life. On Sunday evenings, my parents host Sunday dinner. Whatever family is available (siblings, nieces, aunts, whomever) goes to my parents for dinner and to catch up. Nothing crazy formal, just a good chance to get together.

Now, when I was active in my fraternity, I would not go to meetings that were on Sunday night. That was family day. I won’t hang out with friends on Sunday night. That time is to spend with my family.

Leisure time? that’s dedicated for leisure, whether that means watching some TV (my latest binge has been Mind Hunter) or reading a book.

I believe in focusing solely on what’s important now and setting the rest aside.

Is spending time with your family important? Dedicate time to it.

Do you love to read? Set aside time.

Drawing? Yup.

If you don’t dedicate time to it, it won’t get done.

Last, but certainly not least: Tracking your spending.

The reason I start with tracking spending whenever someone asks me to help them figure out money this:

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are.

Tracking your spending give you a baseline of where your money goes. It also allows you to figure out whether you’re spending money on things you value.

There are a few different ways you can go about this. To start, I typically suggest reviewing three months of transactions. I know that sounds like a lot, but it gives you a good sample to look at.

Ok, method number one is the simplest. Get your credit card/bank statement, a sheet of paper, a pen, and get to work. Write what you spent and what category. Categories can include mortgage/rent, insurance, groceries, restaurants, and books. Write out every single transaction, category, and amount, then total them all up for each category to see what you spent on.

Method number two is almost identical to number one, but, instead of paper and a pen, you use Microsoft Excel. Same process, just with typing instead of writing.

Method number three, and my personal favorite, is to use a tool/app that pulls your transactions from any and every source possible. I use Mint (it’s from the TurboTax people) to track all of my spending. I spent a bit of time linking all of my accounts, and now it takes maybe five minutes to review everything. It even creates some solid charts and reporting so you can see where your money’s flowing.

Now, once you get three months in (whether you go back in time or start now), take a look and see where your money is going. Every cent (EVERY CENT) should be accounted for. I promise you’ll find some crazy stuff.

The cool thing about tracking your spending for those first three months is that it redirects your awareness. It forces you to be aware of every dollar you spend. Naturally, you’ll start to spend less money. Pretty neat, hey?

Just start there. Start with becoming aware, and we’ll go further once we’re ready.

So yeah, that’s it for this show. I threw a lot at you guys, so take the week to digest it. If you have any thoughts or specific questions, hit me on my Instagram. I’m @ben.trela that’s “at ben dot trela”. Looking forward to hearing from you.

OH, and one more thing. Take one last, good look at this podcast art because tomorrow at 1:11 pm, we’re rolling out the new cover. This art has served us well, and I’d like to thank my face for getting us this far.

From Taste For Tenacity – Show 024, this is Ben Trela. Thanks for listening. 

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