How to Fast-Track Your Career, and an Exciting Opportunity with Dave Kerpen

Please share this episode with a college student in your life!!

Listen to the Zev Audio Zone podcast episode here:

They say you’ll shine brighter if you get closer to the sun. This saying is very true when it comes to advancing your career.

Spending some time working as an executive assistant to the person you admire most, or to a leader who is in a position where you aspire to be someday yourself is one way you can jump-start your professional life and gain experience, which you can ultimately leverage to become a star performer in your field, climb the corporate ladder, or start your own thing in the future.

Taking an internship or a job where you’ll be reporting directly under someone who can serve as a mentor, or a role model can be an amazing learning experience.

Today we’re going to be talking with serial entrepreneur and business influencer, Dave Kerpen, about mentorship, leadership, and how to make your business and yourself more likable.

Dave Kerpen is the founder and CEO of New York based social media marketing agency, Likeable Media. He’s a New York times bestselling author of such books as, Likeable Social Media, Likeable Business, and The Art of People, The 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want. And he’s a renowned keynote speaker. He has recently launched a new venture,, a platform that connects entrepreneurs who are looking for a driven executive assistant committed to professional growth, with smart and motivated college students who are looking for real world experience and mentorship.

Read the full transcipt here:

Zev Gotkin:

Dave, thank you so much for being here with us today. I have long been a fan of your work. This is truly an honor.

Dave Kerpen:

Well thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. And it’s too bad we can’t ride a cab together like our last interview.


Yeah, that would be great, wouldn’t it? So tell us a little more about Choose Apprentice. How did this idea come about?


Yeah, it’s really, it’s a wonderful story. As you mentioned, I’ve been a serial entrepreneur for a while, and in my last two companies, over the last 10 to 12 years, I’ve been very fortunate to hire a whole bunch of college students, while they were in school, who have worked for me as my executive assistant, and many of them have gone on to work for me full time after they’ve graduated from school.

Michelle was my first EA while she was at Syracuse, and she ended up working for me at Likeable Media for over five years, and she is now running social media for a Fortune 50 company. And then Megan worked for me while she was at St. John’s, and then she became a Product Manager, and my first employee, at Likeable Local, my second company, a software company. And Meg worked for me for over five years after she started as my EA, she was my Chief of Staff at Likeable Local. Theresa worked for me for over seven years after she was my EA. She ended up co-authoring my second book, Likeable Business. All these guys were super, super valuable. My last EA, was named Rob, and he worked for me for over two years, while he was at Hamilton. He co-authored the third edition of Likeable Social Media, he worked on $1 million project for a major brand client, for Likeable, and he ran numerous personal projects for me.

Well, Rob came to me about seven months ago, and he said, “You know, Dave, you’ve been very valuable in teaching me quite a bit while I’m in school. I’ve learned more from you than I learned in three years of college, and I think I’ve done some valuable work for you as well. I think we really should scale this and provide the same sort of relationship for others.” And I thought it was quite a brilliant idea of his, so Rob went, literally, from being my executive assistant college student to being my business partner on this latest venture, which is called Apprentice. And Rob and I launched it just a few weeks ago and we’re up and running with our first cohort right now.


Amazing. Sounds like Rob’s a real take charge go-getter. It sounds like a lot of the other students who’ve been in this program are that type as well, and that’s really amazing. You notice that there’s a trend now of a lot of young people starting businesses right out of college. There also seems to be a growing trend of kid entrepreneurs who start businesses at very young ages. Do you think that all young entrepreneurs should first spend time working for someone else before starting their own businesses? Do you think maybe, before they run and do their own thing, they should train under someone else?


Well, I think there are pros and cons to both methods. But here’s what I’ll say. I’ll say that I believe that higher education is in the process of a major, major disruption. It’s an area that has had very little disruption over the last century, and it’s really problematic because the costs of college have gotten more and more expensive, and yet, if you think about it, the value of a college education hasn’t gotten that much better. If anything, it’s gotten worse, relative to the job market. So, if you want to be a lawyer, you need to go to college. And if you want to be a doctor, you need to go to college. And if you want to be an engineer, you need to go to college. But if you want to go into business, I think more valuable, and maybe this will be controversial, but I think more valuable than a four year education is working directly in a business.

Many children, like my children, for instance, are fortunate in that their parents are entrepreneurs or small business owners, and if your parents are entrepreneurs or small business owners then you can probably get a taste of what it’s like to work in a business at a very young age. But if you aren’t as fortunate, my strong recommendation is, in lieu of, or if you want to be more comfortable, in addition to a four year education, that you strongly consider reaching out to and doing a program like Apprentice, or reaching out to an entrepreneur, a small business person, somebody you admire and saying, hey, is there an opportunity for me to come help out?


Amazing. I totally agree with that. I think definitely the value has decreased, but if they’re doing this instead, or in addition to college, I think they’ll definitely be prepared for the real business world.

What characteristics do the college kids who apply to join Choose Apprentice need in order to qualify? Do they need to be in college and what kind of traits are you looking for?


Yeah, great question. So, we have a very, very big vision for this. We want to connect at least a million entrepreneurs with college students. And the good news for us is that they’re both very, very large markets. In the future, we might be open to people that are not in school or people that have graduated, but for now we are focused on people that are enrolled in school. It doesn’t have to be a four year school. It certainly doesn’t have to be any particular kind of school. But people that are currently enrolled in school. They have to be entrepreneurial. They have to be driven. They have to be ambitious. They have to be self-starters. And we look at… we have a pretty hard application process, to be honest. But one thing that I… that’s the most important to me is writing ability.

I think that the biggest driver of success in my previous apprentices is their ability to write. I think that somebody that can write well can think well and can communicate well, and these are essential qualities in business. So, if you are not a good writer, I strongly recommend that you work on that skill. You practice until you become a better writer because writing is a skill that will absolutely benefit you and differentiate you from others. Whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not, writing is just a really valuable skill. As, obviously, you know.


Yes, and maybe I’m biased because I’m a copywriter, but our mutual friend, who’s going to be the guest on the next episode, Jeffrey Gitomer, once said, “Writing leads to wealth,” and I couldn’t agree more with that.


I had not heard that quote, but I do love it myself as well.


Yes, it’s great.

This brings me to my next question. I guess it’s a little bit similar, but, when you’re looking for an executive assistant, even outside Choose Apprentice, if you have an executive assistant or anyone who’s helping a CEO or a leader, what do you think is the most important trait? I mean, besides, I guess, good writing ability, what do you think is the most important thing they need to remember or keep in mind?


I think responsiveness is really, really important. I live a very fast paced life and I think most of the CEOs and entrepreneurs I know live similarly fast paced lives. This means that if I need something done, I need it done right away. And if it can’t be done right away, that’s okay, but then I still need to know, right away, that it can’t be done right away.

So what we do with Apprentice is we teach our kids, look, there are… apprentices rather. If you’re in class, that’s fine, but you still have to respond, right away, saying you’re in class and you’ll get to it in two hours or three hours, or whatever it is. I think responsiveness is a really, really important trait. If I want to keep going, just, like I said before, independence.

Oh, here’s another really good one! Resourcefulness. It shocks me how few people are resourceful. And the difference between somebody who’s resourceful and somebody who’s not. I’ll give you an example. Rob. Rob, I had a project, I had a client that needed a website, so I said, “Hey Rob, can you figure out… have you ever built a website before?” And so Rob said, “Well, I’ve never built a website before, but I’ll figure it out.” And he Googled it and he figured out how to build a website. It’s the kind of thing where most people probably would be like, no, I don’t know how to build a website, who can we hire? Whereas, if you are truly resourceful, you can… and smart, you can figure out how to do just about anything. That’s the beauty of the internet and Google and YouTube. You can figure it out.

So the kinds of people that I look for, not only as executive assistants, but, for that matter, any of my employees at any of my companies, I’m looking for people that are self-starters and are responsive and are quite resourceful.


Excellent. Yeah, I’ve seen in my own experience with managing people, those qualities are essential.

So, how can leaders bring out the best in their employees and teams? How can we cultivate that environment? How can we bring out the best in them?


Well, that’s a great set of questions, and I answer that a lot in my second book, Likeable Business, that unfortunately, while being my best reviewed book, is my worst performing book. Nobody buys it, which is a bummer. But, oh well.

But, for the purposes of this interview, in a nutshell, I would say that we need to be transparent and vulnerable, and we need to give a little bit of ourselves in order to… I ask lot of my people, but I give of myself and I think that helps differentiate me from some that don’t take that extra time to teach and to mentor and to give of themselves. I think that when leaders take that extra time and that extra vulnerability and authenticity, their people really respond to it.


Excellent. I will admit I’m guilty as charged. The only book of yours I haven’t read yet is Likeable Business.


(laughing) I’m telling you, nobody’s read it. It’s hysterical to me, but it’s okay. I can live with this, but it is sort of funny.


Well, I will be placing an order on Amazon right after this interview, and I encourage everyone listening here, not only to buy that book, but the other two books that I mentioned before as well. They’re all great.


Well, thank you. It’s kind of a funny situation, and I don’t want to get too into it, but bottom line is, ironically, because I’ll probably never earn out of that advance, and I’ve already earned out of the others. I actually make money on the other books, and I’ll probably never make money on Likeable Business. But it is, technically, my best reviewed book, Zev, which means, technically, it probably is my best, even though nobody’s read it. It has a very bad cover, and one thing I’ve learned through the years is that, in fact, everybody does judge a book by its cover.


That’s important to remember.

Alright, so last question, Dave.

How can businesses who value creating great cultures and wish to cultivate an enviable work environment best use that to their advantage when they’re promoting themselves on social media? How do they make it an attractive place to work? You know a thing or two about social media, how do you convey, hey, this is a great place to work, on your social platforms like Instagram and Facebook and what have you? LinkedIn.


Well, great question, but it’s really a two part-er, because the first thing and most important part of that question is to create a great place to work in the first place. You see, if you don’t take the time and energy, and frankly, money, to create a great place to work, then, when you try to promote it, it’s going to come across as inauthentic and it’s not going to resonate. So the first and most important step here is to go out of your way to create a great place to work.

So what do I mean by that? Well, the first thing is, be intentional about creating a culture, and spend money on it. A lot of folks will say, hey, we want to have a great place to work, but then they won’t actually spend money on it. What I am proudest of in all of my business accomplishments is winning Crain’s Best Places To Work in New York for five straight years. Because what that means is, we’ve been able to build companies where people are happy to go to work every day.

So this means spending money on employees, doing retreats. We just took our whole Likeable team on a two day camping retreat, which was an amazing… it was so much fun. Spend money on Christmas bonuses. Spend money on company outings. Really invest in your people.

And then, after you’ve done that, the second part of the question is, sharing it. I think Instagram is probably the best tool, but I think you can really use any of the social platforms and take video and pictures that help to demonstrate the kind of culture that you’ve built, and share that out with the world.


Absolutely. It’s interesting you say Instagram. I would think LinkedIn also, because a lot of people put their resumes there. Do you think that’s also a good platform, or would you do it differently on LinkedIn versus Instagram?

I’m hugely bullish on LinkedIn, and I think I would point specifically to LinkedIn Live as a tool that is going to see increased use, and folks will be able to use LinkedIn Live to showcase their company culture. I think that today, in September of 2019, it’s probably still Instagram over LinkedIn, just because that’s where people expect to see slices of life, even in workplaces. But I do think that’s changing pretty quickly and I am very, very bullish on LinkedIn continuing to be, and even evolving to be, an even better place to showcase your company culture.


Excellent. Well, thank you so much Dave. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview, and it was really valuable insights that you shared with us today, and thank you so much.


It’s my great pleasure. And you know, I talked about responsiveness earlier in my EAs and in my employees and I like to practice what I preach, so one of my personal core values is responsiveness. So if anyone’s listening to this interview and has a question or a comment, you can hit me up on any social network and I promise to respond to you. No matter how many inquiries I get every week I do work hard to respond to everybody.


I can vouch for this. He really is very responsive! You often respond to my tweets and emails, and it’s pretty impressive because I know you’re a busy guy.


It’s my pleasure and thank you for the shout-out.


3 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Get a Job

Recently, I was asked what a person can do on LinkedIn to better their chances of getting hired.
I’m more experienced with using LinkedIn to prospect, get sales, and market brands. It’s been over two years since I looked for a job.
Applying what I know about LinkedIn marketing for brands and businesses, the following are 3 tips I shared with her for improving her LinkedIn presence and using it as a tool to network into finding the right career. It comes down three important ingredients, which I call the three P’s: People, Post, and Profile
Besides, applying for jobs:

1. People  

DM all of your connections. We all make connections here, but how many of them do you actually reach out and talk to?

In her case, she has nearly 1,000 connections. Message them and offer them value before asking for anything. See if there are ways you can help them. You’ve all heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. So true, in today’s age. Establishing relationships with people is a key part of making progress in any career.

2. Post

Post content every day or at least every week. People get super annoyed at this one. “But I’m so busy!” you wail. But, in a competitive job market, you can’t afford NOT to put yourself out there, share things of value, and differentiate yourself.

Sharing valuable content — even if it’s just your take on a piece of content someone else made — makes you a resource for people, demonstrates expertise, establishes credibility and initiates conversation.

Post short written LinkedIn updates, LinkedIn videos, and LinkedIn articles (i.e. your blog). In a competitive job market, you must get used to doing this work. Otherwise, risk losing the job to someone else who is willing to do it. We must all become personal brands and thought leaders to some extent, even if we rather remain anonymous.

3. Profile

Last, but not least, optimize your LinkedIn profile. For a job seeker, this is most important.

Make sure your bio is sterling and captivating. Include the most up-to-date, relevant info in your resume. I’d even recommend hiring a resume coach. Have a good photo (Literally Google ways to optimize LinkedIn profile and photo).

And, most importantly, feature examples and case studies of your work. As an employer, I’m more interested in seeing what you can do for me right now than reading your resume listing past accomplishments.

So, network with people, post content, and optimize your profile.
Is there anything I left out here that you would advise someone using LinkedIn to get a job? Granted, it’s not something I have as much experience with, so any and all tips are welcome and appreciated. I’ll even include them and give you credit!

Going from Night Owl to Morning Person

How did the biggest night owl turn into a morning lark?

I’ve had problems going to sleep for as long as I can remember.

It was hard to turn my ADHD brain off at night. Between endless amounts of thoughts and my need for constant stimulation — TV, computer, smartphone, it was very hard to settle down.

Of course, I’d always have to pay the price in the morning. Naturally, the morning wasn’t something I enjoyed. I was anything but a morning person. I wore night owl proudly as part of my identity.

Becoming a freelance content writer did not help to change those habits. Rather, it legitimatized them. “Some people just aren’t morning people!” I’d say.

Most days, I’d wake up when I wanted to and work until late, eating whatever and exercising practically never. Sometimes I stayed in pjs & crocs.

I think everybody has to find what works for them. This is not to denigrate anyone’s choices.

But my old ways were not healthy for me physically.

For the past few weeks, I’ve forced myself to stick to a tight routine waking up around 6am, going to the gym, and starting my calls and meetings around 8:30. I work until around 7pm and then I force myself to unwind with a book or a show.

While the adjustment was hard, I’ve grown to love it. After changing my habits and developing a routine, I feel that I am far more equipped to build the marketing agency of my dreams.

And, I still write, but now I usually write in the morning. I relish my morning “me” time. I look forward to it. The quiet and the solitude. The joy of knowing I have a whole day ahead of me. It’s when I do my best writing and my ideas pour out like water. Never in a hundred years did I think I’d say that, but it’s true.

I have finally become…*gulp* a morning person, and I couldn’t be happier.

How to Get on My Bad Side: My Personal List of Traits and Behaviors that Annoy Me

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In business and in life, we have to deal with all types of people like it or not.

I think one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur is that I am forced on a daily basis to grow, improve my EQ, suck it up, eat s***, and break past my personal limitations.

I am constantly trying to expand my threshold of what I can tolerate while simultaneously learning to drop or avoid people or situations that can negatively impact me or my business.

Learning to walk that tightrope of figuring out what you need to learn to deal with and what you need to stop putting up with is, perhaps, the greatest challenge of all.

I thought it would be a fun little exercise to draw up a list of traits and behaviors I can’t stand.

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I’m not sure yet what constructive purpose this exercise serves, but it does help me identify the things that trigger me negatively and it felt good to get it all out on paper.

This list might also help me learn to watch out for these traits or become more patient and accepting when people display them. Maybe it will help me become more tolerant of people who exhibit these traits and learn who or what to avoid as well (in a business partner, romantic partner, client, friend etc.)

There is a belief that if something annoys you, you might have a little bit of that trait within yourself. Sometimes, that’s precisely the reason why it bothers you so much. If anything, this list can work as a mirror on myself help keep me in check so I can steer clear of being guilty of these behaviors.

It can also help me get a bird’s eye view on what annoys me so that I can grow as a person and learn to work with people who exhibit these traits. Some of these things are negotiable in some situations, but not in others.

In life and in business you have no choice but to deal with the good, the bad, the ugly, and the boring. While one thing might be intolerable in a friendship, you just might have to eat it in a business situation. And sometimes you need to know where to draw the line — even with clients and customers.

Without further adieu, if you really want to get under my skin in a bad way, here’s how to do it:

  • Know-it-alls
  • Pushiness
  • Unsolicited advice
  • Dismissiveness
  • Double standards
  • Not owning up or taking responsibility for one’s actions
  • Holier-than-thou attitudes
  • Whining and excessive complaining (kvetching)
  • Hypocrisy
  • Self-righteousness
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Boasting
  • Life-coaches with no real life experience or who are horrible at managing their own lives or business coaches who haven’t built a real business
  • Judging unfavorably
  • Manipulation
  • Attempts to control or silence me
  • Sticklers about petty or insignificant rules or other matters
  • Putting ideology or religion before fellow human beings
  • Social media complaining
  • People who talk over others
  • Being judged as bad because you curse or pepper your everyday speech with a little profanity here and there
  • Empty talk (e.g. talks of plans or things you’re going to do or things we are going to do together with no real effort to carry them out)
  • Asking for something without establishing a rapport or relationship first e.g. “Hi, nice to meet you. Are you interested in buying x?”
  • Interruptive advertising or solicitation
  • People who get angry at you when you’re under 3 minutes late (3-minute rule?)
  • People who get upset with you when you can’t talk to them the at moment they want to talk to you
  • Long, boring talks and speeches
  • Unscheduled phone calls from anyone who isn’t family or a close friend
  • Not allowing me to make my point or counterargument after you just went off on me
  • Unjustified self aggrandizement
  • Ad hominem attacks which attack character rather than ideas
  • Arguments where the speaker/writer mistakes their own subjective opinion for fact when they are factually incorrect
  • Being judged by an unfair standard or one that the other person doesn’t hold for themselves
  • Defensiveness
  • Hot-headedness
  • Bullying
  • Gaslighting
  • Grandstanding
  • Taking advantage of others
  • People who will inevitably judge me in an unfavorable light for posting this list or call me out even though we all have a “list” and we are all guilty of judging others negatively at times, sometimes for behaviors we ourselves are guilty of, but most of us aren’t bold enough to talk about it or share it with the world

There are probably more and they may range from the comical slight annoyance to the intolerable, non-negotiable.

Do any of the things above annoy you too? Are you working on changing that and becoming more flexible on any of them? Do you exhibit any of these tendencies yourself?

What traits and behaviors are on your personal list of things that annoy you? Is your list too long? If your list is short, are you truly being honest with yourself? Are you guilty of some of the very things that you don’t like and how are you going to work on that?

Are any of the things on your list negotiable or would you put up with them if the situation calls for it?

Feel free to let me know in the comments!

Ideas for Content Are All Around Us

Ideas are all around us if we pay attention.

So often, people who want to build an online presence or develop a personal brand get stymied about what kind of content to create. The same goes for companies. They become trapped in what I’d call “Creator’s Block.”

The truth is content creation is not reinventing the wheel. Not every piece of content has to be totally original to stand out or add to the conversation. One might even argue that true originality doesn’t even exist. For example, you can do roundups of opinions from industry leaders. You can also curate content from around the web and provide your own spin or unique point of view alongside it.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Schaeffer, a sought-after marketing consultant, blogger, and keynote speaker. In his latest book, Known The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age, Schaeffer says the best way to keep your content fresh is to “view your daily life through the lens of possible new content…My catalog of new ideas isn’t coming from a flash of personal insight or alien intelligence beaming into my head. It’s maintained through an awareness of my environment and developing a nose for news.”


Don’t break your head thinking about what sort of content to create. Accustom yourself to pay greater attention to the world around you.  Everything from current events to daily occurrences in your personal and professional life contains ideas for your next blog post, article, video, or voice note.

Observe your surroundings with an eye and ear toward content opportunities. Keep a notepad handy or use the Notes app on your phone. If you don’t like write, make an audio recording. Jot down questions your clients or customers ask you. Play around with Google’s search bar and answer questions people frequently search. Take note of interesting things you read or hear. Catalog interesting or funny things that happen to you throughout your day. And, remember, things you might think are obvious might be new and interesting to others.

Pretty soon, you’ll probably store enough content ideas to fill up an entire month or two on your content calendar. Learn to find the story angles in your everyday life and tell those stories in a way that only you can tell them.

Why I Don’t Need to Go Anywhere or Do Anything

In an earlier post, I wrote about the benefits of travel for a freelancer. Now, I’m going to completely contradict myself.

While I do think it’s healthy to get out of one’s environment now and then, I spend the vast majority of time at home sitting in front of my laptop banging out blog posts and other pieces of written content like this one. Sure, it’s great to get up, go out for some fresh air, and recharge the batteries. But, if you’re happy where you are and doing what you’re doing, who says you need to travel to some far off destination?

The following Facebook status from legendary copywriter and author of The Copywriter’s Handbook, Bob Bly, made me laugh because I related to it so much:

“”The writer’s volume of accomplishment depends precisely on the ability to sit alone in a room,” said Susan Sontag. It’s yet another reason why I view travel as an unwholesome chore to be avoided at all costs, do not go to meetings, and infrequently leave my house. And I’m as happy as a clam.”

People tell me all the time that they cannot understand how I possibly stay in my apartment all day in front of my computer and maintain my sanity (arguable whether or not it’s been maintained). They have no comprehension how I can be happy doing that. And, yet I’m totally content.

This is probably why I never really understood the “digital nomad” lifestyle that so many writers and other freelance creatives romanticize. Sure, it’s cool to be able to work from anywhere and I relish that privilege, but I’ve traveled while working. It kind of sucks!

You have to constantly worry about where to get wifi, time zone differences can make deadlines and client communication problematic, and you have to pray you don’t suffer a technical issue in a country where they don’t speak your .native tongue. Plus, if you’re really working, you don’t have much time for sight-seeing and then you feel bad that you’re not taking advantage of what your destination has to offer. I’m fine just writing and working from home. There’s nothing “out there” I need to do right now.

I keep in-person meetings to a minimum, stay inside my apartment most of the day, and rarely travel despite its potential benefits.

Other people tell me they’d go crazy. I guess we writers are a weird breed of human and I’m alright with that.

My Interview with Jeffrey Gitomer – King of Sales

If you ever worked in sales, you’ve likely heard of Jeffrey Gitomer or come across one of his many color-coded books. An acclaimed public speaker, business trainer, and prolific writer, the self-proclaimed “King of Sales,” has authored over 25 books about sales, customer loyalty, and personal development, including The New York Times best-sellers, The Sales BibleThe Little Red Book of SellingThe Little Black Book of Connections, and The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude.

Gitomer also has an extensive library of audio, video, and written content available online and delivers over 100 keynote speeches and seminars a year. He has served major corporate customers, such as Coca-Cola, D.R. Horton, Caterpillar, BMW, BNC Mortgage, Time Warner Cable, The Sports Authority, and Carlsberg beer. I contacted Jeffrey Gitomer to ask him for tips, tricks, and secrets to having success in sales and business.

Read the Interview Here