How To Make A Career Pivot with Kim Tran

Money Files

On today’s episode, I am joined by former client and career coach , Kim Tran.  Kim is a hiring manager and owner of Your Work Inspired, a company with a mission to provide a holistic approach to closing the wage and wealth gap for women of color regardless of job titles and industry. 

In this episode, we  discuss the perceived challenges of pivoting in your career. It might feel familiar to maintain the status quo when it comes to your career but there is also power in pursuing new careers with curiosity.

As a hiring manager, Kim shares three key insights on:

  • Leveraging networking to build valuable relationships
  • Determining what you love vs. what you are good at
  • Knowing when to take the leap and make a career pivot

Tune in as Kim, and I share our personal stories and client experiences. We hope this episode inspires you to overcome feelings of fear and overwhelm to apply for new roles. 

In this episode, Kim and I discuss these points about career pivots:  deciding to pivot your career:

[06:00] Why you might want to pivot your career

[09:00] Figuring out how to network in a way that is comfortable to you

[19:15] How to identify where you go next in your career

[23:50] How to apply for a job that you don’t meet every requirement for

[34:54] The importance of constructive voices

[35:00] When to know it’s the time to pivot in your career

[39:57] Benefits of “dating around” in the job world

Listen to this episode of Money Files for an insightful discussion about pivoting your career and getting the salary you deserve.

Are you ready to start asking for help with your finances? Apply to work with me, and let’s start working towards your financial goals.


Transcript for “How To Make A Career Pivot with Kim Tran”

Keina: Hi and welcome to Money Files. I’m Keina Newell from Wealth Over Now. I work every day with professional women and solopreneurs to help them get out of financial overwhelm and  shame so they can experience more flexibility and ease with their finances. Are you ready to gain confidence and learn to manage your finances intentionally? Tune in and grab financial tips that will help you master the way you think about and manage your finances.

Keina: Hello and welcome back to another episode of Money Files. I’m excited, I’m actually here with a former client and we’ve done a podcast together where we talked about her journey in terms of personal finances and then we did another podcast about negotiating. And then recently I was talking to Kim and I was like, Kim, we need to talk about career pivots because she also does some coaching as well. So I think she’s a great resource, especially because we both work with women and I think we both have a similar goal to make sure that women are making money and also managing their money well. So hi Kim.

Kim: Hi Keina. Thank you so much for having me. Obviously, you know I loved my time being your client, you just transformed my life. But also now that we are also helping other women, it’s just an additional layer to our relationship as it evolves, so thank you for having me back.

Keina: Of course. I love being able to share knowledge with other women because I think it’s so important for women to have these types of conversations, the same ones that I have with other women on my podcast. So I always want people to think about how can you bring this into your own circle? Because you don’t have to have a podcast to also have this meaningful conversation. 

Kim: Yes, for sure.

Keina: We were supposed to record a podcast a couple weeks, months ago, whatever. I reached out to you because I was like, Ooh, can we talk about career pivots? I know a lot of my clients and I shouldn’t even say a lot, but I’m still going to say a lot. But they’re in positions, especially people that are in I feel like nonprofit spaces that could be higher ed, it could be a nonprofit organization, it could be within education, like secondary education. I see it also with my friends because I come from the education sector as well where I feel like people fear that they cannot leave their current profession and go to a new profession, whether it’s like, I can’t get hired, I’m not going to be able to make money, nobody’s going to look at my application. So I see a lot of what people are thinking about as very limiting beliefs and they don’t actually see the opportunity they have if they’re able to leave the market that they’re in.

Kim: Yeah, for sure. And this is, well one, this is very normal, it’s very natural for humans to hold on to what they know. It’s actually a phenomenon that is very well known, especially in the banking industry, people would rather hold onto like a hundred dollars or $10 that they already have rather than invest it for potential gains of like a thousand dollars more or whatever. It’s a loss aversion. I nerd out about consumer psychology because I major in psychology, but also I’ve worked in so many industries now and in marketing it’s all about psychology, which people never really think about. But limiting beliefs, they’re there to protect us. But at the same time, this is why you and I work so hard to help coach people because we have to be very explicit in replacing our limiting beliefs with something else to see the opportunities and that takes training and that takes a lot of mindful work to do that. So for me, I think a lot of the limiting beliefs that people have when they try to leave an industry is they seek out advice from naysayers. And that is also another psychological phenomenon where it’s almost like.

Keina: Like a self-fulfilling prophecy is what I hear. 

Kim: Yes. And you seek out things because you want to hear things that you’re already thinking about. So one thing that I’ve definitely learned as a woman of color, coming from an immigrant family, my parents went through a lot of trauma, but that’s not my story. I did not go through that trauma. I don’t have to hold on to the things that they held onto. So for them, early on in my career, my biggest lesson was not to go to my parents because their version of money and their beliefs about money and careers are just so outdated. For me to go to them just kept reinforcing the negative limiting beliefs that they had. Not just for myself but just in general about career and money. If I thought the way that my parents thought I would only be saving right now and I would never had started investing, I would never had left my old law firm.

I actually started off at a law firm thinking I want to become a lawyer. And this is such a very blanket stereotype, but my parents are very conservative, traditional Asian parents and we literally have like maybe four career paths for their children, like you’re either a doctor or a lawyer engineer or nurse or whatever. I graduated in 2008 and even lawyers, people who had graduated into the financial recession didn’t even have jobs. So the skills that 10 years, 20 years ago that made someone “successful or secure” in their career is no longer working. So really that mental fortitude, that mental creativity and being resourceful to think about your next path is so important. But also figuring out why exactly do you want to pivot so that you can start telling your story in interviews as well as your network.

People usually think about networking outside of their company, but they never think about what existing roles or opportunities are there within my current company. And that was my first step in pivoting into marketing. So I mentioned I started off in legal, this was in the middle of a recession and I knew right away that I didn’t want to become a lawyer. Everybody was so miserable at my firm but I started hosting client events. I started pitching into marketing proposals, LinkedIn, I’m totally dating myself now, but LinkedIn was just starting to be a thing. So I started to network by proposing to pitch in on LinkedIn profile write-ups for the different lawyers. So when two and a half years pass by always keeping yourself top of mind and your interest to pivot. So I actually, after two and a half years after pitching into client events, after contributing to marketing proposals, business development, etcetera, I was able to actually have experience building experience, building portfolios, building my network while I was already getting paid in my current job.

Kim: So thinking of ways to really validate your pivot is so important and gives you more ammo to then negotiate and leverage your next salary or your next compensation package. So my next pivot was jumping over to the client and because they had already known me, I jumped over to Discovery Channel, which actually got bought out by Warner Brothers now. So that pivot for me just happened so naturally, but it started with me knowing exactly what I wanted but also building towards that while I still had a job. It would be very irresponsible for me and I would never advocate that for anyone looking to pivot into career, to just get up and quit their jobs and finding their next jobs willy-nilly without actually figuring out if it’s actually something that you want. So yeah, so just kind of wanted to share that a bit.

Keina: I should say, because Kim and I talked about this before we started recording, Kim is a hiring manager now and she’s also done the career pivots herself. So as you’re listening, Kim is giving you her own personal experience, but then also has experience as a hiring manager. I’m curious for what you would say to the person because you’re telling people like network and figure out what do you want to do? Like being able to own and tell your story. But what do you say to the person that’s like, I don’t like networking?

Kim: Oh my gosh, this is so close to my heart because no one believes me that I’m an introvert, but I’m a huge introvert so networking for me is really about building relationships. For me it’s really figure out how you want to network. For me, I knew very early on that the “bro marketing networking vibe” is not for me. That energy is super salesy, it’s icky to me, it does not feel good. For me, I had a goal of just reaching out to someone, whether they were at my company or outside of my company, to just get to know them. And even when I was at Discovery, their corporate legal department initially, but I worked on so many different projects in digital marketing and analytics because I was able to just reach out to someone and say, hey, can we just grab coffee? I love coffee. And so for me it was just a very easy but also organic way to network. 

Also have some curiosity. Networking is all year round. It’s not just when you need a job. Actually it’s the worst time to start “networking” once you need a job because your energy is so different. You show up and you’re desperate and you’re needy and you just come from a very different place mentally and emotionally. And then also just give, even when someone reaches out about a role that isn’t quite a good fit for me, I will think of someone in my network who may or may be a better fit or who may or may not be looking for a role and I connect them and that to me, I don’t know if you’re spiritual or anything like that, but for me it’s just good karma. But also everything will come back, especially depending on the industry that you’re in. 

Certain industries are super niche people know the All-Stars, people know who are the people that are top talent. And for me as a hiring manager, I will reach out to my network first and already have the pipeline of good candidates before the role is even public. And that’s the same for me. I don’t think I’ve applied to a job probably in a couple years now and my current role was actually through a former coworker friend who put me in touch with her former boss because he was hiring for this current role. And I’ve been in my role for a year now and hiring for my fifth team member. So for people who don’t “like networking,” I totally get it but it’s really about thinking through what networking means to you, maybe it’s just making new friends, maybe it’s just getting new perspectives. Maybe it’s just connecting with people, human to human. 

Whatever it means to you, definitely try out a couple of different things. I don’t do well at big conferences for example, but I will seek out smaller sessions at a conference and network at those sessions rather than go into a room with a hundred people tags. That to me doesn’t feel good. So really figuring out what feels good to you and try to challenge yourself. I always try and connect with someone whether it’s an existing person or a brand new person once a week. And I leverage LinkedIn a lot because for me as an introvert it takes a lot of energy to meet with people in person. So I love having conversations even via dms, via Instagram. 

I recently met someone, we just connected over IG and we met in person recently and it was just like two soulmates and we found out we had a high school acquaintance in common. So we talk about finance, we talked about being divorced. So that’s another great tip as well for networking. Figure out three to five things that you’re interested in that you want to learn more about or that you want to talk about. And that way you can network based on your interest or your hobbies.

Keina: Yeah, I think a lot of people think networking is like icky because they think that they don’t want to seem like needy. And I love the fact that you frame it as relationship building. When I think about networking, I kind of think of it as a web, like you were saying, like the karma piece but thinking about it as a web. I know, like I consider myself a fairly good resource. Like somebody will ask me for something and I’m like, ooh, I may not know the exact person. But I feel like I’ve had a conversation with someone, hold on. Like one of my friends, she was joking, she’s like looking for a new job and she’s like, Keina, have you met anybody on the plane lately that like needs me? Like is hiring. And that’s because I have met people on the plane and become friends with them on LinkedIn and then we’ve like had conversations, but I consider them a part of my network if I were to need anything personally or if an opportunity came my way and I can think about people. 

As you were talking, I was trying to find this resource that my friend Ellen gave me because she’s a phenomenal networker and I feel like she has a go-to thing where she might send somebody a gift because she thought of them or sends someone an article because she thought of them but like that’s kind of my favorite way to network. You’re saying those opportunities where you can connect. Even you and I have a mutual acquaintance who you went to church camp with and I’m like, Kim, how do you know Michelle?

Kim: Yeah. So random.

Keina: But like you never know how all these little pieces fit together. And some of you may be listening and you’re like, yeah, Keina, but you’re a business owner. And so maybe you have to do that but no, that’s not true because even before I went into business for myself. I was still building relationships with people when I was a vice principal and it was like, I just never know when I may need someone or when I could help someone out. And so I think if you can think about networking as just like relationship building then it makes it a lot easier.

Kim: Then the other thing, especially for folks who may or may not feel comfortable networking yet too, is asking people if they can think of anyone that they could introduce them to or connect with. And that may or may not help someone to approach networking a little more authentically to them or in a more genuine way. So for me I always ask people, do you know anyone who might need my services? Or do you know anyone who you’re comfortable referring me to or whatever. And then that way the onus is not so much on you as a person to proactively network with each other, but also you’re putting yourself out there. This is something I really had to learn because I think growing up as a woman of color in my family, asking for help was seen as a weakness and that’s a limiting belief that I had to really decondition myself around. 

But when I got laid off in 2014, that was my first time getting laid off, I was super embarrassed and I felt all these emotions. But people wanted to pitch me, people wanted to help me find a job, people were so happy to refer me. And networking goes both ways too, so they wanted to get my resume, they wanted to help me network. So thinking it from that perspective as well will help folks network as well without feeling like they’re imposing or they’re being icky or they’re being [16:26 inaudible] about things or desperate or needy.

Keina: Yeah. I had to have this conversation with a client last week and I was like, if someone came to you and they wanted to ask you about your job, I was like, what would you do? And she’s like, I would totally help them. I was like, yeah, like you have to have the same thought about other people because I said I’m working with you in this capacity, but I can already know and I can already tell how you show up in your professional life and there are people that are waiting to help you. In fact, they’ve just been waiting for you to ask. So when we’re talking about limiting beliefs, I think the best question to ask yourself is like, is that true? If you’re like no one wants to help me ask yourself, is that true? And then answer the question. And another good question to ask is like what would you tell your best friend? Because usually the advice we would give to someone else is not the advice we give to ourselves.

Kim: Absolutely. Yeah.

Keina: There are reasons that we can’t network, but there’s another set of reasons that our friends should go out there and network.

Kim: Yeah, for sure. I’m caveat, I am not a professional licensed therapist or anything like that, but I use a lot of psychological theories in my coaching. And there is a theory called cognitive behavioral therapy, where people use a lot of visualization techniques. So a lot of my clients, I encourage them to visualize things or actually write it out or journal about it so that when you read it and you write it out, this could be your reality and this is actually something possible for you. Once your thoughts, whether it’s negative or positive, once it’s out on paper and it’s staring at you in black and white or blue or purple whatever color it is, I love my pens so it’s multicolored, but that’s besides the point. But once it’s staring at you in the face, you realize how much you’re making up all of these stories in your head. Like literally no one has said something, but you are probably just making it up in your head because your brain is trying to protect you from rejection or embarrassment or whatever it is because you may or may not have gone through that experience, but also because the body and the brain is so used to what’s familiar, it’s very hard to let go of what you know in lieu of something that you may or may not have experienced yet.

Keina: So you talked about going back to like your own transition. You were working in a law firm, you went to marketing. How did you, I guess, identify and figure out that you wanted to lean into marketing? So the question I know that people are going to have is like, how am I supposed to identify maybe where I want to go next? Like, I don’t know, like I was talking, going back to my clients because I’m doing everything in service of them. I gave one of my clients, I was like, look, there’s this project management role, like this is what you’re doing in your current job, even though your job title doesn’t say that you require APMP. But you clearly like the ops side of things, so maybe that’s something you want to lean into, but either from your own experience or just advice that you would give to people, how can you figure out the skills that you do want to pull out or the areas that you might want to try?

Kim: So I love this question because I always have to remind folks that you really need to distinguish between what you actually enjoy doing and what you’re good at because they may not be the same thing. It’s funny you mentioned project management because people think I’m really good at project management, I’m very deadline based. I do well when there are clear deadlines and dates. I don’t enjoy it. People have reached out to me about being a marketing project manager and I’m like, oh nope, not for me. So making sure that you personally know what you enjoy and are good at and that may or may not be two different things is really important so that you don’t get to the trap of just taking a job just for the sake of it and not enjoy it and not being fulfilled. So there are a lot of tools out there where you can get a skills inventory or assessment, gallup strengths.

Keina: Your strengths finder.

Kim: Yeah. Strengths finder, I have a personal bias towards that because it’s less about skills and more about strengths. That’s really important to me because skills can always be learned depending on your motivation but also your interest in it. So I mentioned earlier that if you have an interest in something, try it out at your current company. So I shared that I was watching the marketing team and LinkedIn was just coming up. Client events sounded super fun and cool and so I just started volunteering and I just started to pitch into different things in between my current projects at the time and then that very organic, genuine way to start actually validating my interests. The other piece too is there are so many online courses now out there and so taking a class, if that’s your type of learner and being a former teacher and being former educator, I think that’s really important too.

Making sure that you know your learning style and figuring out what you’re interested in and being curious about it and actually learning about it. The other piece too that I work with clients a lot is you might really hate your current role, but there are probably aspects of the role that you love. So we really work through the pros and the cons of their current role so that we can see which skills are transferable and transferable skills are so important for pivots because no matter what industry you’re in, no matter what your title is, there are some skills that are going to be very similar, especially in this new AI age, EQ, emotional intelligence, your emotional quotient, relationship building, conflict resolution, collaboration, critical thinking, all of those skills doesn’t sound like they are skills that are “valuable.” But these are skills that a robot can’t ever replace. AI is coding now. So skills that cannot be replaced by a robot is really important to hone in on and look at.

Keina: If I have, let’s say I figured out my skills, I figured out my strengths, dow do you help people? And I would love your perspective from like a hiring manager, if you’re switching from, we talked about actually that someone who wanted to go from, what did you say? She wanted to go from accounting, I think to maybe a marketing role.

Kim: Yes.

Keina: And anybody listening to this is like, okay, she wanted to go from numbers to billboards. And so I’ve seen job descriptions and when you look at the bulleted list of the skills that you need, they’re not talking about emotional intelligence, there’s something that’s a lot more concrete. And so how have you seen people sell themselves or how do you support people in selling themselves to the employer or the hiring manager when maybe they don’t feel like they’re capable of doing the things that are listed under like the job qualifications?

Kim: Yeah. And this is again very normal, especially for women. Harvard Business Review has had a long time study out there where women will not apply to a job unless and until they feel a hundred percent qualified for the role versus 60% of men who will just be like, oh, I got this. As a hiring manager and even as a candidate the first maybe three to five bullets are probably the most important bullets because those are the top of mind and then everything else are kind of nice to haves. And so if you look at, for example, another example I had a sales consultation call with someone recently who was a therapist and she wanted to pivot into tech. And so during the call she said, well I don’t know if there’s any similarities, being a therapist and going into tech and until she had the conversation with me, she didn’t know anybody who had made that pivot so it goes back to networking. 

It also goes back to having the conversation and reaching out to people who are actually in those roles to have these informational interviews. I know this might sound very foundational or elementary, but people forget these basics sometimes and they make up their own stories and they put in their own mental blocks and mental challenges. But I was able to introduce her to two other folks and actually she already knew someone. And so you never know who you’re connected to and you never know who actually has gone through the same journey or very similar journey until you reach out. 

And so this person who wanted to go from accounting to marketing, until she spoke to me and I said, actually, in my role as a marketing leader, I deal with a lot of budget and I deal with finance every single day, it’s very numbers driven until you have that conversation, you can’t know. So it goes back to reaching out to people. Super easy and tactical tip here, go on LinkedIn. If you want to pivot into customer success, for example, actually super timely because a former coworker friend of mine at Capital One who’s a recruiter just reached out for a customer success role and I haven’t responded to her yet, but what I will respond with as a practical example is, as a recruiter you deal with a lot of candidates and you’re focused on their success. So as a customer manager, the parallels or the similar skills that you can talk about in transfer is being able to build relationships with different customers and ensuring their success based on their skill levels, based on their interests, based on their goals as a starting point. And so just really looking at those similarities with very different roles or very different titles and you’ll start to see very similar wording or very similar language regardless of title or roles. 

Keina: So I want to give homework because I am in the education sector, is like, I feel like if you are in the middle of like, I want to make a career pivot, I feel like your homework is to get on LinkedIn and either you can do this without getting on LinkedIn, but write down five companies maybe that you think you’re interested in. And you’ll be surprised, like when you go on LinkedIn, maybe you have some connections. I think people don’t think about using LinkedIn in that way where they can just ask people for like a coffee chat. And then to your point of, if there’s a specific job title, you can also look at that job title and see if there’s anyone in your network to be like, okay, there are three people that I can reach out to and some people aren’t going to respond because that’s just what happens. And then you’re going to have people that do respond and now you’ve made connections. Like when I started my business, I literally just found random people on LinkedIn. And I was like, Hey, I’m a vice principal, I was a teacher and like I see that you’re in this finance space, would you mind like hopping on a call with me? I gave them a Zoom link and then you talked about earlier, like is there anybody else that I should connect with? And like that was my ask at the end.

I’ve continued to like remember these people and that was like five years ago now. But the same is true in looking for jobs and even before I started my business, I remember being like, well maybe I want to do consulting because I have a background in management and finance. I was like, yes, I think that’s what I want to do. So I reached out to people that worked at Deloitte that had also been in Teach for America, but I think it’s just like thinking about how to leverage your own experiences and getting over the fact that you feel uncomfortable. Like yeah, you’re uncomfortable where you are right now too. So do you want to be uncomfortable reaching out to people or do you want to be uncomfortable stuck in a role that you actually want, you desire some type of change?

Kim: People often forget, everybody has an existing network. If you are employed at a current company, that’s your network. So of course it depends on your current relationships with your coworkers and even your manager. Early on in my career, what helped with my pivot, actually there was this one example where I interviewed with the museum because I wanted to get into marketing. So I interviewed with the museum and when I opened up to one of the attorneys I worked with, he said, I have all these folks at the museum, I didn’t know you interviewed with them. Why didn’t you tell me? So that was a learning lesson for me because it was like, yeah, why didn’t I tell him or why didn’t I ask him? And people want to help. And then even when I was at Discovery, my current boss at the time knew that I wanted to pivot into marketing a lot of the directors I worked with so they introduced me to folks in digital marketing, in integrated campaigns, all across the company, all different networks, all different departments. And so obviously depending on the size of your company, you may or may not be able to network within your company, but chances are your coworkers, this is not going to be the first company they work for or the last. 

Keina: And they know other people. 

Kim: And they know other people. 

Keina: They have family members. 

Kim: Exactly. Oh my gosh. I can’t even tell you like where I’ve met the most random professional contacts. And even actually my first hire in my current role, she was a server. She worked at a restaurant that we hosted an event at and that’s where she met our chief revenue officer and our CO and now she has a sales role here because she was just on the ball with upselling food and her panel presentation to us was about beer because she knew her audience and she doesn’t have a college degree because you don’t need a four year degree to sell.

And so again, obviously not every candidate or every hiring manager will have that story, but really honing in to things that you enjoy, things that you want to explore more and really voicing those interests. I can’t tell you how many times where I found out that someone was interested in a role because they didn’t speak up to me about it. And I’ve also been guilty about this. Like early on in my career someone got promoted and I felt a little betrayed about it and I talked to my manager about it and she was like, I didn’t even know you wanted this role. And obviously, this is not to victim blame, but learning my lesson from that scenario. I need to tell people that I want X, Y, Z, I need to tell people that I don’t want A, B, C for example but that takes a lot of self-awareness. It takes a lot of work. But also knowing when you can do the work yourself and then when to engage a coach. 

Six, seven years ago I was coming up on my third year at my company. I had gone through like five managers because I had just grown so quickly in my role and I was just kind of at a loss about my next steps and engaging a career and executive coach was so instrumental for me to have that objective perspective rather than just talking to my spouse at the time, rather than just talk to my friends who did not work in my industry first of all. So I think we are so used to going to people within our personal families or friends who can’t give us objective perspectives or we listen to these stories that we’ve made up in our heads, just like as a self-validating or self-fulfilling prophecy. And it takes a lot of discomfort to get out of your comfort zone and at the end of the day, that’s what career pivots are all about, is to really challenge yourself outside of the comfort zone.

Keina: One of the things I wrote down and I like want to underscore it and it was like one of the first tips you mentioned, but I wrote down edit who’s on your list? Like who do you consult? Because I think that and I even know this for myself, like my mom, I talk to her multiple times a day and she gets to hear a lot of my life, but I don’t take everything to her, especially like business wise, because she is pro-Keina, but sometimes I’m like, no, I don’t need her mother perspective because she doesn’t know. Like she wants to keep me safe, I’m her daughter. I remember when I even went into business for myself and I was like, I’m going to quit my job. I remember her saying, yes, but you need a job so you can pay your bills.

And so had I listened to her, I wouldn’t be where I am now and so I just would challenge people, write down who those people are that you go to and ask for advice and you may use them for certain things but you can’t use them for everything. I had another client who’s in higher ed and she was like, yeah, I told somebody how much I was going to ask for in a role that I’m applying for and she said basically like, I was getting too big for my britches. And I was like, clearly we need to cut her off your list because she’s not the person that you need to be consulting about negotiating your pay. It’s like, this is what you’re going into. So I just think it’s really important that we all take a step back and look at yeah, who do we allow to influence us? And then knowing when do we need to engage someone who can be objective and who’s going to challenge our limiting beliefs.

Kim: Yeah, for sure. And the other thing too is, I don’t know how to frame this, but I think it’s also important to have constructive voices in your network so that you’re not constantly just surrounding yourself with yes people. Half of my “success is actually saying no and to prioritize but also half of my success is people who challenge me and give me constructive criticism because otherwise I would never grow or I would never challenge myself if I had only surrounded myself with people who wouldn’t encourage me to do the things that I want to do. But for sure if I had listened to my parents, I would still be stuck hating my life right now and have six figures of law school debt and paying that off rather than making a really good salary, six figures.

Keina: Yeah. With six figures of that and up really late at night and all the other things.

Kim: I think the turning point for me and someone asked me recently and people struggle with this, is like, when do I know that it’s time for a career pivot? When should I start pivoting and this will vary from person to person, from my own personal experience, just knowing that I had no control over my own life and seeing the partners and associates and attorneys I was working with, not having any control over their own lives was a turning point for me. I had an attorney friend who had a vacation planned to India for months and then one of our cases the judge just randomly pushed up a deadline meeting and he had to cancel the entire vacation. And that to me was like, oh hell no. I would, no, that’s not how I wanted to live my life and that was the turning point for me. 

The other turning point for a pivot recently to jump a back into a software slash tech industry rather than like a tech adjacent ed tech or any other one was really the culture, looking at company culture. It can be just as important joining a company day in day out. You can’t know for sure until you actually join the company, but if you join the company and three months in you realize this is the wrong culture for you. That’s a turning point for you to do a pivot. Even if you’re just unhappy, that’s strong enough of a reason for you to explore that more and figure out why you’re unhappy to make that pivot.

Keina: What if the culture’s good? And I think I could say this for myself. I worked with my [37:20 inaudible] boss for probably eight years and I feel like I was with, I had a phenomenal culture I didn’t work in a toxic environment. But the thing that pushed me to start looking outside of education because I never thought I was going to be in education for over a decade. That was not the plan. I’m supposed to be rich, supposed have an MBA, like all these things. I’m thinking like the reason I stayed for so long is I did enjoy my work and I enjoyed the people I worked with. So the only reason I moved is because my boss decided to take a different role and I was like, whoa, hold on. You are leaving. Like that means things will change for me.

But had that not happened, I would imagine myself staying in that like status quo. I’m not saying that that’s bad, but I know for myself what I realized is I had blinders on and I never thought about, like after a number of years because everything felt good to me. I didn’t think about what else was out there. So maybe people are listening to this and they’re like, yeah, I have a good culture. I feel like I’ve had a pretty good balance but are there any questions that you would tell people to explore for themselves just to continue to date around in the job world?

Kim: Absolutely. So there’s also been so many studies that after two years your moneymaking and earning potential really gets reduced if you stay at the same  . And there are different various reasons for this. Usually the status quo in raises is maybe two to 3%, even at big companies, maybe 4% as a performance based merit raise unless you negotiate for a bigger raise or you get a promotion.  And even then it’s maybe 10 to 12% as a bump. For me, I’m always interviewing, even if the role isn’t something that I’m a good fit for, one, as a candidate, it keeps me posted on my interviewing skills so that I keep practicing my interviewing and how I portray myself. But on the hiring side, I’m also doing a lot of intel from a hiring manager perspective because I want to be sure that I’m paying my team equitably and fairly, but it’s also throughout interviews as a candidate that I found out that I’m being underpaid as well.  

So not all titles, not all companies, not all roles are being created equally. I remember six years ago, I mentioned I was in financial services, gone through five different managers, the culture was fine. I was being paid very well. The benefits were actually like one of the best benefits ever but it was through an interview that I found out that I was underpaid just about 20 to $25,000. That’s not chump change. 

Keina: Your 401 K contribution.

Kim: That’s my 401 K contribution. That’s a pre-use B M W, whatever, like when you think about it that way, you’re like holy cow. And so even if you’re happy emotionally or psychologically, practically just remember that if you’ve been in your current role for more than two years, you need to put it on yourself to just ask around, see if your salary is on par. Even if you don’t want to leave, you can take that back to your current manager and your current HR team and say, hey, the market’s changed. I interviewed with a firm or whatever and you can use that as leverage to build out your case for more money. But the reality is jumping companies has been the primo strategy for me to get bumped 20 to 35, my last jump was just about 45% bump in salary and compensation. I would not have had been able to do that if I stayed with the same companies.

Keina: That’s one of the things I love about you is that you, the last time we recorded a podcast together and you were just talking about basically dating around in the job aspect. And I know that that’s something I didn’t do as I just said, like I got really comfortable. But it’s funny because I feel like in the beginning of my career I was like, I had that type of energy and then I became like, oh, like I want to get good at my job and I want, like I put these markers on myself to just be comfortable with where I was, but I never had that reflection while I was in the job. But I would say that’s like, if I had to go give advice to myself, it’s like definitely this aspect of dating around, even within education, which any of my friends and I hope they’re listening to this that are still in education, do not come to me and tell me that you are getting ready to accept less money or any of these things. Because even like, I think the thing that irks me so much is that educators undervalue what they’re worth.

Kim: Yeah.

Keina: And yes, you can say that you’re underpaid, but you are also underpaid because of how you think about how you’re paid. And you don’t ever consider teaching somewhere else or other roles that you may qualify for but I’m going to get off my soapbox.

Kim: Yeah. And this is where networking again, and not just networking, but interviewing as well, until you speak to someone, until you actually make that connection with someone either for your skills, for your skillset, your experience, you’re not going to know they’re also, I’m super extra about how much I get paid, not just from a candidate but also a hiring manager. But I run my salary compensation package to make sure where I fall in the market twice a year. So mid-year is so important because this is usually across companies, across industries, people look at the midyear budget, there may or may not be more money and then year end. So at least twice a year run your salary and your compensation package on like,, these are free reports and make sure that if you’re a high performer, that you fall under that range, that higher range for yourself.

Kim: And if you’re not, then that is a data point and a starting point for you to have that conversation with your current manager at your current company. And if there’s no room in the budget, if they truly cannot make anything happen for yourself, then you know your next step is to look outside of your company. I had a client who was a director at a huge, huge pharmaceutical company and she was really unhappy and she was interviewing and she was super close to negotiating a compensation package. And when we worked together, my question was, well what do you want? And really what she truly wanted was actually to stay at her company, but she had it in her head that her current manager was not going to give her the raise or the number that she wanted. And so we pivoted on the entire strategy, but because she had leverage and because she had interviewed and all of that, we were able to make a really compelling proposal.

And her manager came back and gave her everything she wanted. And she told me that what he told her was, you made it so easy for me because I knew that you wanted to stay. But again, until she had that conversation with her manager, she made up this whole limiting belief that the only reason why she could make this money or whatever was to go outside. And so again, there aren’t any fast and hard rules. To me it all comes back to what you want. Of course this is one story out of many different stories. And so there might not always be budget at the current company, she was at a huge company and so they had the resources. If you are at a smaller company, again, your best approach to making more money is probably to skip out and jump ship. But again, really working through that in a methodical way rather than just making up these stories in our heads is so important.

Keina: Well, as you were talking about that, one of the things that I’ve been talking about, if you follow me on Instagram and on my podcast is like, budgeting is about being able to lean into expansion. And I think as like I hear you talking about being able to shop around for jobs and talk about your salary, one of the things that I see holding people back from doing this is that they aren’t financially confident or secure. And so I would say like if you’re listening and you do not have a budget, like that’s something you should put into place because when you know that you have like a nest egg, an emergency fund or a rainy day fund, whatever you want to call it, and you’re managing your money well as a high income earner, it also gives you a different amount of confidence to be like, okay, if you don’t want to pay this that I’m asking you for, then I’m definitely going to accept this other role. I understand that’s very hard to say when you look at your bank account and you’re like, I have $500. And so just knowing how managing your finances well can also support you and making more money because you’re not going to be thinking about like, I don’t have any room to say no here because I need the money.

Kim: Yeah. That’s so important for sure. And this is also why it goes back to like always be networking. Always be negotiating, always be interviewing because the best time to find a job is when you don’t need it. And you have the luxury and you have options. You have the luxury to say no if an option doesn’t quite fit you, rather than if you did not have a job and you needed to pay the bills or whatever it is. And that’s okay too, I actually interviewed someone recently and he was just at a job, previous job for three months. And I asked him, why did you leave after just three months? And he was very frank and transparent in that he just took that job because he really needed it. And that’s okay too.

But it takes so much energy when you are in that space. And so for me, for sure, especially with Covid for example, when I went through my divorce as well the last few years, just being able to have the luxury of knowing that not only am I okay, but my kid will be okay, was the product of working with you. And this is why I’m so grateful that we still have a relationship and a partnership and we talk constantly because of that. And also for myself, I’m not just thinking about making more money, also all of these things that I want in my next role. My current role, I was still employed at my last company and I was very, very unfulfilled. But because I told my network that I was looking and I was open to opportunities and different options, my old coworker friend reached out and said, hey, my former boss is hiring, the job isn’t public yet but I think you’d be perfect for it and that was my in. 

Not only am I making more money now, I also have a bigger scope, a larger responsibilities, things like that, that people don’t always think about that will make them happy or fulfilled is really important as well. And then negotiating for equity or negotiating for stocks or negotiating for different things that will, in the long term mean more to you than just a base salary is also important. These are things that I just never thought about early on in my career because my parents didn’t go through that. I didn’t know anybody in that. I have friends who have never had experience negotiating equity or anything like that. But seeking out people who have done it or who have been in the same role or industry is really part of that networking.

I recently made a play to absorb a new team and I reached out to a former boss’s boss to learn how he did it three companies ago and he was super open to it. We still have a really great relationship. One year he stopped by and gifted me, like him and his family stopped by my little apartment and gifted me like half a dozen champagne because we had talked about loving champagne and how I said that I keep at least two bottles of champagne in my fridge at all times because you never know what you’re going to celebrate, whether it’s a small win, a personal win, professional win. So celebrating yourself, pivots are not easy. There are so many variables and factors outside of your control, like the economy, budget, whatever. And so making sure that you are kind to yourself when things are moving slow or you’re not getting the results you want to really celebrate something good that happened that week or that month or whatever as you work towards your pivot.

This is so important so that you stay motivated and you stay positive and constructive. And even if you “get rejected,” what was the lesson that you learned from that? That’s something that I had to teach myself and coach myself through and work with other coaches for myself, for my own blind spots because I grew up, and again, this is very human nature is to think black and white. You either succeed or you fail. But for me it’s like you win or you learn, it’s not “failure,” it’s a lesson. I know it sounds super cliche, but with my entire team as well, what did we learn from it? What worked and what didn’t work so that we know how to tweak things. A lot of the big discoveries in the world or society happened because something had failed or an experiment gone wrong and you just kept tweaking and tweaking and tweaking, like all the big research and medical discoveries or whatever, people didn’t just like succeed off the bat, they just kept refining and I think people need to remember that, that your pivot is not going to happen overnight and I will cheer you on, but making sure that you know what’s ahead and you celebrate yourself and just even celebrating for making a pivot to begin with because this is going against your comfort zone. And that’s something everyone should definitely be proud of themselves for

Keina: And be like, I love that you’re talking about, just be comfortable with the messy action.

Kim: Yeah.

Keina: Well, Kim, is there anything that we should have talked about that we didn’t talk about?

Kim: I don’t know, I just feel like every time we talk Keina, we could go into million directions, but I think for me, as a woman of color, we have been brought up to think about everybody else, their comfort, their interest, their feelings. And so myself as the oldest sister in an immigrant family, I always put others ahead of myself, even as a working mom and as a solo working mom. And I think we both serve primarily women and especially people of color, I think and deconditioning our limiting beliefs and what we grew up with, I think is so important. And one of the things that really helped me was definitely journaling and meditating on limiting beliefs that do not serve me anymore, but also making sure that I actually apply the things that I want and actually receiving them and visualizing what’s possible for me by seeing other people who are already doing it.

I mean, I grew up with a hundred thousand as like the guiding light for me. And then I saw people making a hundred fifty, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred and now I’m like, holy cow, this is possible for me. And I started writing out those numbers for myself and looking at those numbers every single day, but also practicing saying those numbers out loud. And that’s where I encourage folks to network and take interviews, whether it’s informational interviews or actual formal interviews. Because the more practice you have in saying those numbers and seeing those numbers out loud, the more you’re comfortable with embracing and actually applying those numbers to your life so that you are ready to receive that number when it comes to you.

Keina: I love it. So we’ll end on that note. I think there are so many little nuggets and gems, if people want to connect with you, Kim, where can they find you?

Kim: Yeah, so I love Instagram and my Instagram is a little veering towards a personal now because my professional and personal life is becoming so integrated, but you can reach out to me on Instagram at Your Work Inspires and that’s really the best way to find me. I’m super active. I love Instagram, LinkedIn as well, Kim Tran. And yeah, those are the primary ways. We also have a company page. Your work inspires on LinkedIn and so there are different ways to connect.

Keina: Alright well we’ll put those in the show notes and thank you so much.

Kim: Thank you, Keina.

Keina: Thank you so much for listening to Money Files. If you’re ready to take the next step to reach your financial goals, head to and let’s get started.

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