The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Len's links:






Tyler Sellhorn (00:02): 
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Tyler Sellhorn (00:25): 
Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Sellhorn, and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work, with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire. 
Tyler Sellhorn (00:43): 
Today, we are blessed to be learning out loud with Len Markidan. Len is the CMO at Podia, where they are empowering creative entrepreneurs to turn their passion into income by selling online courses, memberships, webinars, and digital downloads. Len has been working in managing marketing teams remotely since 2011. Len has also consulted with more than 50 companies, solving complex marketing challenges. 
Tyler Sellhorn (01:05): 
Len, tell us what problems are you trying to solve at Podia? 
Len Markidan (01:09): 
We are primarily trying to solve the problem of the fact that, everybody has some passion or skill, or knowledge that they can monetize. And the fact that, it's traditionally really, really hard to do that. And our biggest problem is closing the gap between those two things, and making it as easy as possible to go from having something that you can share with other people and do it in a way that earns you some money, and actually being able to do that. 
Tyler Sellhorn (01:41): 
Really, really cool. As a marketing person, you've been very obvious and out front in the remote space on the internet. You are a fellow internet resident, as it were, and trying to encourage people to be very smart about the way they are marketing themselves online. When you think about that, obviously, we're here on The Remote Show, brought to you by We Work Remotely. We're a remote focused job board. So, people listening in, hiring managers, aspiring remote workers, right? I'm curious what you have to say to them, in terms of what you're thinking about marketing oneself and being smart about how we do that. Or, maybe even marketing a company, right? There's kind of two sides to this marketplace, as it were, and what kinds of things would you have to say to us? 
Len Markidan (02:28): 
Well, obviously, the remote landscape has shifted quite a bit over the last few years. And especially, we're recording this in March of 2022. And just about two years ago, everything got upended in the job market entirely. And, a lot of companies have been forced to shift to remote, and that's created this massive acceleration of remote work that, obviously, none of us wished that had happened that way. But, I think many of us who have been advocating remote work for a long time, are glad that, that's at least one silver lining to what's been happening over the last couple of years. And I think that, the answer that I would give in this question today is dramatically different from what it would've been two years ago. I think today, candidates can have a much wider choice of companies that are hiring remotely, and companies are needing to be much more competitive as hirers to make it clear why working for them remotely is a good choice. Because, just about everybody is giving people that option or at least considering giving people that option. 
Len Markidan (03:23): 
So, I would say for candidates, it's really not that different anymore from standing out as a candidate in any role. I think that being able to show that you can solve the problem that a company is facing, and I think that's the first part of positioning yourself for a role at any company that's hiring, is recognizing that they're hiring to solve a pain. They're hiring to solve some specific problem. And even if the job description isn't really clear about what that problem is, you can make it your job to do some research and try to figure out what that problem is, what that burning pain is. And, make it clear that you understand what it is, and make it clear that you can help them solve it. 
Len Markidan (04:02): 
And what that really amounts to is, you need to get specific and targeted when you are looking for new roles. The spray and pray approach, I think, was never particularly effective. And I think it's even less effective today, just because the doors have been blown open on geography and everybody can apply to any job. And so, that approach of applying to a hundred jobs with a copy paste application, it's even less effective than it was three years ago. And so, I think really understanding the company that you're applying to, really taking your time to explain to them, and explain in your application why you are a particularly good fit for that role, and why you can solve the problem that the hiring manager is facing. 
Len Markidan (04:46): 
And, doing just a little bit extra to stand out. It doesn't take much. Just a couple percentage points more than the average candidate is doing. Whether that's a little video, whether that's a little bit of research on the hiring manager, and maybe ways they've talked about problems in the company that they're facing, maybe on podcasts or on social media. And really, just showing that you've done the work to understand that this is the role that's a good fit for you, and that you're not just applying to every single job under the sun. I think that can go a tremendously long way for anybody looking to get hired remotely these days. 
Len Markidan (05:22): 
And then for companies, I think it's flipped a bit. The reality is that two, three years ago at companies that I've hired at, whether that's Podia, or Groove before that, or any other company that I've managed or hired at, it used to be enough to be remote. It used to be enough to be able to say, "Hey, we can offer you the flexibility of working from absolutely anywhere, and that is freedom. That is pretty unique to us. And if you want to work remotely, you don't have that many options, right, as a candidate." And so, that's a really, really compelling value proposition, when not everybody's hiring remotely. 
Len Markidan (06:00): 
Today, with everybody hiring remotely, the stakes have really, really, really been raised. And so for a company like Podia, when we go out to the market to try to find candidates, we're not just competing against a handful of other forward-thinking companies that are hiring remotely. We're competing against the Shopifys of the world, and the Facebooks of the world, and the Metas of the world. And, all of these companies with massive budgets, that they can put into employer branding and recruiting and all of these things that make them really, really appealing for certain types of people to work at. That's really hard to compete with. And so, I think companies have to start thinking a lot more like marketers, and hiring managers have to start thinking a lot more like marketers, whether you're in marketing or not. And, really being clear and upfront about, what are the specific reasons and what are the specific problems you can solve for candidates, with the job that you're posting, or with the company that you're hiring into? 
Len Markidan (06:53): 
What are ways that you can help candidates, in ways that perhaps a larger or more well known employer can't? And that could take the shape of everything from really unique benefits, to specific ways that you approach work life balance, to being really clear and upfront about the mission of your company, which I think has never been more important, given how competitive the hiring landscape is today. Lots and lots of different ways to make yourself stand out. But, I think we no longer have the luxury as hirers of being able to say, "We're a remote team, which makes us pretty unique in the space. So, you should probably come work here." We have to work a lot harder these days, and I think that's really, really shifted in the last couple of years. 
Tyler Sellhorn (07:34): 
Thank you so much for that deep dive. I want to kind of go back over the surface of what you've said and ask us to go deeper on a couple things. I know that at Podia, you guys do a lot to support individuals building their personal brands. You even used that phrase earlier. And I think it's going to be interesting for those remote job seekers listening in, to hear you talk a little bit more about what you all have learned as you've been supporting creators, building their personal brands, and how that crosses over to doing that five to 10% little extra, that gets us at the top of the resume heap, as it were. What are some of the things that you're seeing people being successful with? Maybe in your own hiring at Podia, or what you've noticed in some of your peers of like, "Okay, these are the things that are going to be standouts. Oh, let me learn more about this candidate." 
Len Markidan (08:29): 
There's actually quite a lot of overlap between what can make a creator really successful at personal branding, and what can make an applicant really successful at personal branding. And I think that one of the areas where that's really, really apparent is, we tell creators all the time in our content, in our trainings, we say, "Focus on what you are really, really good at, and just forget the rest." Because, there's going to be no shortage of advice that's dolled out across the internet, when you look up personal branding, or when you look up ways that you can market yourself or ways to get noticed by recruiters. And, they'll tell you to go to every single social channel under the sun, repost everything everywhere, post X times a day, make sure that you're just in people's ears and creating this echo chamber. And the reality is, that's almost never effective for any individual, right? 
Len Markidan (09:23): 
The reality is, we don't have the capacity to spread ourselves so thin. We don't have the capacity to do all of that. We don't have the capacity to be on LinkedIn, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and TikTok, and be talking about all these things in ways that are native to each of those platforms, and still have any time for whatever else you might be doing that day with your job or your family. And, it's really dilutive to think that you can be amazing in all of these different channels. 
Len Markidan (09:49): 
So, what we always tell creators is, kind of pick your zone of genius, right? If you are a fantastic writer that can do long form content and really feel comfortable in that space, then you should really focus on blogging. If you feel like you're really uncomfortable writing or it scares you, but you're okay with talking and you can kind of riff on topics for some amount of time, in a way that is compelling to people that want to learn about them, maybe you should have a podcast. If you feel more comfortable on video, do that. If you're more comfortable in design, then you should maybe be on Instagram or maybe be on some of the more visually forward social channels. 
Len Markidan (10:31): 
But, really focus on that one thing that you think you can do, in a way that's five or 10% better than most people. And that's really where I would start, by making your mark. And so, that's always what catches my eye about an applicant. It's never, "Oh man, this applicant is so interesting across all of these different things." It's almost always that one thing where I think, "Oh, this is unique. This candidate has a really fascinating Instagram account, where they have these kind of interesting visual takes. And they do these comics that are really interesting about marketing." Or, "This candidate has a podcast where they talk about something that they're really passionate about," whether it's marketing or something totally unrelated. I would really expand the definition of personal branding from, you need to be a thought leader in your specific niche to, just show up in one place where you think you can do something really great. 
Len Markidan (11:28): 
And, outside of kind of certain obvious limitations, it doesn't have to be about your job. It doesn't have to be about your line of work. Just be interesting, because whatever you find interesting, if you are passionate about it and you can express it in a way that shows your passion, people will find that interesting. And, I'm constantly fascinated by people's hobbies, by the things that people are interested in outside of their work. And that's one of the questions that we always ask in our job applications is, what are the hobbies that light you up? What makes you happy? And to be honest, and I don't think I've ever shared this outside of internal channels at Podia, that's really one of the two questions outside of that, and what caught your eye about this job in Podia, that are my first filters for any candidate. And almost always, when we make a hire, they've really nailed those two questions in the application. 
Tyler Sellhorn (12:21): 
Really cool. I just, I'm thinking back over my own experience, sorry, selfishly. Hopefully, you all listening are doing the same, as you're listening to Len talk. But I think that, that's really, really key to listen to Len say, right? Pick your spot where you are best, and show up every day. I think your suggestion to be blogging, or writing a newsletter, or podcasting, or posting on LinkedIn, or writing Twitter threads, or making friends on Twitter, or whatever it is that is a version. You mentioned an interesting visual Instagram, that expresses a point of view. I think it's really, really clear that now that there is zero friction between you, yourself, inside of your in real life space, and the digital world, how much of yourself do you want to display on the world? The only way that people are going to know, is if we tell them. 
Len Markidan (13:25): 
That's right. Yeah. The only way people will know, and we've hired people because, well, this isn't the only reason we hired them, but we've certainly had conversations with candidates where our interest in them started because yes, they check all of the boxes for this particular role. They have the skills, they have the experience, but unlike most of the other applicants, they have this really, really interesting place on the internet where they're putting themselves, right? Whether that is a podcast about a programming language, and whether that's a blog about their career and about building a career, whether that's a travel blog. 
Len Markidan (14:06): 
Those are all real examples from the Podia team, where we just found these things really, really interesting. And if you are really, really interested in something, I think people will find it interesting, if you pour that passion into content, into showing up as a creator somewhere. And, I think that really, really sets people apart. And I don't think you have to put so much pressure on yourself to be the biggest thought leader in sales, or in email marketing, or in design, or in whatever it is that you're trying to get hired in. I think people probably over-index on that. And I think that it's just far, far, far more important to just show up somewhere and be interesting, period. 
Tyler Sellhorn (14:37): 
Be interesting, period. Okay. We touched on this earlier, where you were talking about the competition between applicants and companies. I want to zoom in on the company aspect of competition, and you referenced the idea that remote isn't enough anymore, and that the stakes have been raised for companies that are competing in the remote hiring space. I'm curious to learn more about your thoughts, as it relates to those differences that you ... You mentioned some really large international conglomerates that spend a lot of money on employer branding, candidate marketing. What are you seeing as the primary things that is not available to a much smaller brand? 
Tyler Sellhorn (15:26): 
Because, let's just be clear. The Remote Show is definitely well listened to, relative to other podcasts, but I don't think the folks at Meta are going to be taking hints from us, Len. I'm curious to hear what you have to say to those employer brands, the candidate, marketers that are on a much smaller scale. What are the frameworks that we can use to be clear that, "You know what? We know that remote isn't enough." What are the things that we can do to be lean, as it were, when we think about employer brand, and when we think about candidate marketing. How can we win in this competition, for the people that we're trying to attract to our jobs? 
Len Markidan (16:10): 
I think you can approach it very much like a marketer. And if I were a marketer, marketing my company to candidates rather than to creators, I think one of the first questions that I would ask and this isn't hypothetical. I mean, we've literally done this is, what do we have that the competition can't offer? And, what do we have that makes us special for the right kind of person to come here? The right kind of customer, where in this case, the customer is actually the employee. And I think that, almost every small business and I would actually argue that every single small business, every single small to medium business, every single business, listening to this, that's not Meta or Shopify, or Apple or whomever, I would argue that every single one of them have something that none of those companies can offer. 
Len Markidan (16:56): 
And, it's really a matter of figuring out what that is for you. And I think a lot of that can come, much like it would in marketing, from talking to your existing customers. Talking to the people that are already on your team and asking them, "Hey, what is it that you actually love about working here?" Sure, you can pull that from your Glassdoor reviews, or you can try to source it in some other asynchronous way. But I think those are really, really valuable conversations to have internal is, "Hey, if you were pitching this company to your best friend as a place to work, how would you do that? What would you say you love? What gets you up in the morning to come into work?" And so, for some companies, it may be the fact that, "Hey, we are solving an unbelievably complicated technical challenge, that you would never have the chance to work on in such a hands-on way at some of these large companies. And that makes us really special. "And, for the right kind of candidate, that's going to be a huge selling point, right? 
Len Markidan (17:50): 
For us at Podia, there are a couple things, but I would say one of the things we lean into really, really heavily, because that's such a core part of what we do, is the mission. It's the fact that every single day, somebody earns their first dollar ever as an entrepreneur, because of the work that we're doing. And sure, we can have competitive comp. Sure, we can have competitive benefits. Sure, we can have great work life balance, but ultimately that lights people up here, and people talk about it internally. We hear reports like that from the support queue. That is a really, really amazing part of working here, that you can't replicate in many, many, many other places. And it doesn't matter if you have exactly that, or you don't have exactly that at your company, every company has something that makes them special. And I think you really just need to figure out what that is for you. 
Tyler Sellhorn (18:42): 
I'm hearing you rhyming with the likes of Seth Godin, right? Find your people, right? Get those thousand true fans, right? This is for the creators that are using Podia. This is for Podia as a candidate marketer, as an employer brand. Find the things that make your company special. And, we're also saying, you individually that are seeking a job. Right? Think about what makes you special. What is the dimensions of your job search, right? What is the stack rank for you? Because we are no longer constrained as knowledge workers by our geography, finding the job, the one, right? Find the top one company. They have a job. They're begging for you to find them, right? We're trying to match one another up. And now that geography is no longer a constraint on us being able to find that one, that one candidate, that one company, we can find one another, and become employees, and hire that person. That is possible in 2022. 
Tyler Sellhorn (20:01): 
You've had a moment here. Pardon me for just segueing right off of that. You just said it straight up. I wanted to repeat it with some of the things that we've been saying all along. I want to invite you to circle back. You kind of did this on a light way, but one of my very favorite questions right now is, to do that compare and contrast of these, I'm sorry for using a $10 word here, but we've got these epochs, right. These periods of time of remote work. There's this 2019 and before, this is the era of 20th century telework, right? And then, there was these digital entrepreneurs of the early two thousands. And then, there's been this broad shift towards remote work, as a phrase at all. And then it was kind of forced upon us during the pandemic. 
Tyler Sellhorn (20:53): 
And then, there's going to be this thing that's going to happen in 2023 and beyond. You already time stamped our show here, being recorded end of March 2022. But how do you see those different periods of time? The 2019 and before, and we declared it in the introduction, that you're a 2019 remoter as I call the folks that have been doing this before the pandemic. But tell us about that time period, compare and contrast it to the pandemic time, and then what's coming after. 
Len Markidan (21:25): 
Yeah. So I've had this discussion with a couple of friends, where I pitched this idea of there having been three ages of modern remote work so far. And there's what I've called the stone age, which is kind of from 1998-ish to 2002. And that's when we had some pretty primitive tools like IRC and landline phones, and some pretty crude email clients. I don't know who remembers. If anybody listening to this is old enough to remember Lotus notes, those were ... 
Tyler Sellhorn (21:55): 
I built X86 computers in the basement with my dad. So, yeah, yeah. 
Len Markidan (22:01): 
Yeah. Perfect. 
Tyler Sellhorn (22:03): 
I have listened to the 12.6K-Baud modems, dialing up to your BBS. Yes, so. 
Len Markidan (22:09): 
Yes. And the people who lived through that, the people who lived through that stone age of remote work, they still get a little twitchy when they hear that dial up modem, right. They still have a little bit of that trauma where, it was very hard to get work done, but I think there were some clearly, some early believers and people who were interested in exploring this idea, but it was far, far, far from mainstream. And then, we have what we're calling the bronze age, which I would say is around 2003 or so, to 2019. The earlier part of that is when Skype was invented. And we had HipChat, which was such a mind blowing experience when that first launched, and really, the early predecessor to Slack. There was this group of resistance crusaders who read the 37 Signals book and just wanted to follow that. 
Len Markidan (22:54): 
And, it was all very kind of the early creation of tribes in remote work. And people were still very much ... All of our parents, and this is around, I started remote work in around 2011. All of our parents at that point, were all wondering when we were going to get real jobs, right? This was not a really accepted way among the entrenched to make a living, to run a company, to have an effective team. But I think you were really starting to see some believers come out of it. And obviously, there were some schools of thought that pushed that forward, which was awesome. And then, as you alluded to, we had the pandemic that came in 2020, and this was really the massive, massive catalyst for everything that we have today with regards to remote work. 
Len Markidan (23:39): 
And I think the one sentence summary I would give of this era is, FANG has entered the game, right? FANG being Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. There are remote related SaaS apps that are launching, what seems like every single day. We're learning time zone calculations, the way that we used to learn multiplication tables. Most of us have never met our teammates in person, especially over the last couple years, when it's been kind of impossible to have a retreat. I think we're starting to recover from that a little bit. And I think all of us are kind of experiencing this chaotic explosion of remote work, and I think a lot of companies are really having to figure out a lot of things on the fly. And, I think that what we're going to see in this next era is some of that chaos start to dissipate. 
Len Markidan (24:28): 
And, what I would hope would be kind of a normally, an accepted few ways for remote companies to run themselves. And you can kind of categorize them in different ways and that can help you in your job search. You can kind of know if you want to work for a company that's hybrid. Or, you can kind of know if you want to work for a company that's remote and primarily asynchronous, or remote, but synchronous, or remote and on video all the time, or remote and sticking to Slack. Those are all dramatically different experiences, dramatically different ways to run companies. But today, they're kind of all lumped into like, "Hey, these are the remote teams." And I think that what we're seeing that's going to drive that evolution, is the fact that candidates are getting savvy to it. Candidates are asking questions now that they weren't asking us three, four years ago. 
Len Markidan (25:16): 
Three, four years ago, it was, "Wow. So I can work from anywhere, and you just trust me to do my job." And, "That's fantastic. This is great. I love remote work." Now candidates are getting a lot more sophisticated about these different kinds of remote approaches. Candidates are asking, "Where is the nexus of decision making in the company? Does it happen on Slack? Does it happen on video calls? How do you actually, practically work from day to day?" And I think as candidates continue asking those questions, companies are going to be forced to pick sides, to find those things more and more. I think some of this chaos, and back and forth on what companies actually believe about remote work is going to settle. And I think it's going to be a much more, hopefully clean and structured age for remote work. 
Tyler Sellhorn (26:01): 
I'm going to say this back to us as a way to conclude, and the stone age of remote work was when we dialed in on our 12K-Baud modems. The bronze age was when our parents were asking, "When are you going to get a real job?" And now the iron age, I'm going to say the iron age. You didn't say the word iron age, but I'm going to declare to the iron age, because I do hope that we have some progress from right now to the future. But the iron age is when, time zone tables became as ubiquitous as times tables. 
Len Markidan (26:36): 
That's right. I love that. Yeah. That would put us in what, the medieval period next, I think? 
Tyler Sellhorn (26:41): 
Well, fingers crossed that we can keep learning, and shout out to all the Renaissance people that are out there in Podia land, monetizing their passions. We really appreciate you coming on and learning out loud with us, Len. Blessings. 
Len Markidan (26:56): 
Thank you very much for having me. This was a pleasure. 
Tyler Sellhorn (26:58): 
Talk to you soon. 
Tyler Sellhorn (27:00): 
Thanks so much again for listening to the show and be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. And if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at [email protected]. That's [email protected]. Thanks so much for listening, and we'll talk to you next time. 

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