Our guest today, John Rasmussen, is the Head of Wells Fargo’s Education Financial Services, America’s second largest private provider of student loans. Furthermore, John is the Head of personal lines and loans where he is responsible for sales, operations, compliance, and support functions. Listen to John as he shares his expertise in business with a focus on management and the development of strong self-awareness.
Bobby: What is the greatest moment in/from your professional career? Take us to that moment.
John Rasmussen: Sure. I don’t know if I have this one magical moment that is really cool. Here is what I would say, looking back at my career, I would say my first management job. Do you know why? It’s because this first management job is usually the hardest job to get. And this will probably be the case for most listeners.
Here’s how it happened for me. Why is it the hardest one to get? It is because someone else will have to trust you even though you have no prior experience managing others. Also, 9 times out of 10, the first management job you will get will be you managing your peers. That’s what happened to me. The team I was a part of was growing and we needed more managers. So, one day I’m working alongside other coworkers and the next day I’m their boss.
My mentor told me this: John, day 1 of an entry-level job you must think like the manager. Someday someone will make you a manager. And before that, this person will watch your performance. He or she will ask, how do you act with others and how do you support the company and its policies?
So for me I became a manager around the age of 25. Before that, I was very careful about conversations I would have with and about others. I wouldn’t go out to the bars with coworkers later than 6pm or 7pm because I knew that I didn’t want to take a chance of putting myself in a bad position. When it gets later and coworkers are drinking together, usually only bad things can happen. Behavior like this made my then boss give me a shot at managing. And after I got my first position managing, work became a lot easier and my career kind of took off on its own.
Bobby: What has been the hardest moment in your career?
John Rasmussen: I’m kind of fortunate. I don’t think I’ve really had too many low points. However, I will share a story with the audience. It was a decision I had to make about ten years into my professional career. I was married with three young kids. I had an opportunity to relocate from Minneapolis to Detroit. I had to ask myself whether or not I should switch companies.
I talked with my wife and we decided that I would take the position. So I remember getting on a plain by myself to Detroit, my family was going to stay in Minneapolis for three months before relocating with me. I remember laying in bed that first night and asking, “What did I do?” I couldn’t turn back at that point but I couldn’t figure out what I was doing in Detroit.
But that was some of my biggest learning. I was so uncomfortable. I was questioning whether or not I could even do this job. It was my first job of having the keys to the P&L. I had total responsibility for the business and the job was kind of a stretch for me. The message here is that the biggest growth comes from being uncomfortable. So, never let the apprehension hold you back. Whenever you are comfortable, not scared, go make yourself uncomfortable by moving around, taking on new responsibilities. You can figure it out. This is especially the case when you are young.
Bobby: That’s extremely helpful advice. Next question: if you could have a do-over in your early twenties what would it be?
John Rasmussen: Well one thing I wish I focused on more in my twenties is my self-awareness. I am huge on Gallup StrengthsFinder. I would suggest for young people to take the StrengthFinder test to become more self-aware. Those who are more self-aware have the best opportunity to realize their full potential.
This tool defines why you feel the way you feel, think the way you think, and act the way you act. It helps you keep yourself under control. There are things in life that you will not be able to control, but you have complete control of how you respond to those things.
I’ll share an example of how I use findings from the StrengthsFinder to be a better individual and leader. I have found that my number one strength is Maximizer. This means that I have, practically, a disease that makes me look at everything and think about how it could become better. Think about how annoying that could be, right?
So when I’m working, my team will bring projects to me and ask whether or not I like the work. Everything that has ever been brought to me, I can always find some way to make it better. But what I’ve learned over the years is that many things are just good enough. My criticisms will make it just marginally better and not add any more value. So I sometimes just need to say it looks great and let that person feel good about the project.
Sometimes, I will have to give suggestions. What I will do then is acknowledge the strengths of what was brought to me then let whoever know that this is a great start. I will share with them that I am poor at starting ideas on my own, so without their work, I would be unable to suggest enhancements in the first place. Me sharing this trait about myself allows that person to walk away from me feeling good and optimistic about their work.
So now those who have worked with me for a while in the past know me pretty well and why I act the way I do. Now they schedule “maximizing” meetings with me where I look over their work and try to suggest improvements. There is not a day that goes by without me thinking about my strengths and how they are playing out.
Bobby: Now, I probably shouldn’t even ask you this next question then, because you probably don’t have any regrets. If you died tomorrow, what would be your single biggest regret?
John Rasmussen: Yeah, I mean you’re kind of right. This might sound like I haven’t made any mistakes… but I have made plenty. However, I try to live in the moment and appreciate what I have at the time.
I talk to a lot of young people and I see people stressed about things that they wish they could’ve had or about the future. I tell them to think about today. Appreciate and value today. Another thing I suggest to people is to not let anything go unsaid. Never. Just address it. So if this were to end for John Rasmussen today, right during this podcast, would there be anything I wish I would’ve told somebody? And I think I’m pretty good, I’m square with the world.
Bobby: Okay, great. Then what is one action that listeners can focus on this week to improve as a person or become more successful? Give us a life-hack.
John Rasmussen: So I have two of them. One for those who are out of college working and one for those who are in college.
For those who are out, already working, invest and save money early. I truly believe the best invention ever created was compound interest. If you started saving $1,000/month starting at age 25 until you are 65, you would have about $3.5 million. If you waited until you are 35 to save this same amount per month, you would have only have $1.5 million. A $2 million difference for not saving those ten years. So start saving ASAP.
For those who are in college, here is my advice. I know this will just sound like me going off about college, but here it is. Watch the partying. You have to at least moderate it. There is limited upside to it. If you’re hitting it pretty hard, it will catchup to you at some point.
Bobby: Great advice. I couldn’t agree with those two life-hacks more. Well, we’ll let you get on your way. Thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure.
Some reminders from this podcast:
1. Even if you are at an entry-level position, always act and work like a manager. This will put your career on the fast-track.
2. As John mentioned, start to save and invest your money ASAP. Also, if you are in college, party in moderation. Have fun but don’t over do it, because it will have consequences.
3. THIS WEEK: John is a huge proponent of self-awareness. Take the StrengthsFinder (CliftonStrengths) test this week and think about how and why you act the way you do.