Episode 30: Resilience and mentoring with Phil Strazzulla


February 25th, 2020

36 mins 51 secs

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About this Episode

This week we welcome Phil Strazzulla. Phil has an interesting journey as a startup CEO, speaker, educator, mentor, and investor. Phil always knew he wanted to go into business and be a CEO, but what happens when that career vision seems stalled out before you really get started?

Phil started in college interning at a start-up, and always wanted to be an entrepreneur. He went into investment banking after school -- but that career goal seemed far away when he got laid off in 2008. At that point, what do you do? Phil was able to do some internships and anything else he could volunteer for to get experience. He blogged and worked on his personal brand in tech and investing. Later, he got a job with a venture capital firm, went to business school, taught himself to code, and now is on his second successful start-up, Select Software Reviews, which helps HR departments navigate the landscape of technology solutions.

Phil’s a planner, but we wanted to know what he was able to plan, and where he had to change and adapt. While he predicted as a kid that he’d go to Harvard for his MBA and be a CEO, he felt like he followed what he was drawn to, and kept an open mind when his original plan (investment banking, investing, start-up) was derailed by getting laid off early in his career.

Kat asked about the gifts of being laid off. It turns out that Phil didn't like his banking job, where he was working 24/7. In fact, he was relieved to find what he really wanted -- by not having a smoothly-paved path through the world of finance and business -- as compared to the "ideal" path that younger Phil had laid out.

Phil was out of work for a year. It was emotionally challenging. He watched his peers who were working, while he felt left behind. He took unpaid internships, lived on unemployment, and found mentors that helped rebuild his confidence. This allowed him to build skills, network and get job offers.

Phil actually turned down some jobs until he got what he really wanted: a job he interviewed for for months. The experience helped Phil access his own creativity and resilience.

Now Phil is a mentor to others.

Phil talks about looking his experience looking a job, and treating that search like a job! Going to “work,” dressing for work, improving your skills, keeping a spreadsheet of all the jobs you’re looking at. Treating it like sales process, and making sure you “hit your numbers” and keep tricking yourself into knowing that there is a job and a mentor out there for you.

We ask who good mentees are for Phil and how he finds them. One example is a client who asked him to read business essays. Phil makes sure the people he mentors are open to feedback to be a good fit for him to work with.

He talks about differentiating what you do: write, make videos, go to events, blog, and develop a personal brand to stand out from your resume, especially if you have a gap on your resume.

For junior folks, pick something you think is interesting to you and try it out. Do the best you can, meet people, get referrals and get to know yourself. Try things and see what you think, and the reflect and be aware as you go through the experience.

When you are job searching, although it's hard, you build so many communication skills: you get tougher, you learn how to approach people, how to connect, and how to follow up. All these are great entrepreneurial skills.

“There’s always a silver lining, and if you keep focusing on that, you’re going to enjoy it more, learn more and have better outcomes.”

For the last 6 years, Phil has been in the world of HR software. He finds HR to be the intersection of people, careers and business and sees how buying the right HR software can help your career or hurt it.

Phil also keeps things interesting by investing and following up with other hobbies. You can find him at www.selectsoftwarereviews.com, www.philstrazzulla.com and on Linkedin and Twitter.