416: Work You Love: From Hobby To Ideal Career

Chris Bene loves helping friends shop for cars, and decided to turn that hobby into his ideal career.



Chris Bene, Consultant for AAA Oregon AutoSource

Chris Bene transitioned from a business development role in the corporate travel industry to a consulting job with AAA Oregon.

on this episode

If you’ve listened to the podcast for a while, you’ve probably heard me say more than once, that knowing what you want is the key to making a successful career change. But, for most of us, figuring out what we want can be difficult. We spend so much of our professional lives doing what we NEED to do, that we often lose sight of what we WANT to do. Or, just as often, we know what we want to do, but we don’t think we can do it for a living, so we don’t even bother to ask. We assume that if we enjoy something too much, it must not be possible to do it for a living. Not true!

This week on the podcast, I chat with Chris Bene, a true HTYC success story. Chris loves cars and loves helping people. So, combining these two interests, he loves to help people decide what car to buy. Compact, midsize or SUV? Front wheel drive or all wheel drive? Internal combustion, hybrid or electric? Chris loves to talk about this stuff. And when he participated in the HTYC Career Change Boot Camp, and really drilled down on what he wanted to do, the answer was clear. He wanted a job helping people find their ideal car. But he couldn’t do that for a living… or could he??

What you’ll learn

  • How you can identify what you truly want from your career.
  • Why it’s important to focus on what you want, in order to land your ideal role.
  • How you can turn a hobby into a career that you love.

Success Stories

The role is meeting my expectations… totally owning the marketing function. And luckily the founder/president is always forward-looking – he just presented us a huge strategy doc for the next year. So there will be an opportunity for us to grow beyond our initial audience, which is great. I applied (against conventional wisdom!) and went through a lengthy interview process. I did use the resume/cover letter chapter quite a bit to customize what I used to respond to the ad. I also found that using the Interview chapter was super helpful in formulating “SBO” oriented responses, and I even used some of them in the interview. Having those “case study” type responses was really helpful and I believe cemented my candidacy. BTW – they hired me completely over Skype and phone! I never met anyone from my company (in person) until last week at a conference.

Erica Fourrette, Marketing Director

The way you guys have it laid out it just, it makes it easier to move through the process, because the steps are laid out such a way that it's clear. It's that extra support to help you move through the process that helps you move through the program.

Kristy Wenz, Chief Communications Officer, United States/Canada

I've completed Figure Out What Fits, and wanted to express my appreciation for you for putting the course together and sharing so many valuable thoughts and concepts through it. I feel that I have gotten value from the money invested, and am so glad that I happened upon HTYC!

Anne-Marie Raymond, Functional Health Coach, Australia

Chris Bene 00:03

When senior leadership internally has a different avenue to go than the salespeople, who does the development, people that are actually trying to make things happen. That's not a good scenario.

Introduction 00:20

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what it does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Chris Bene 00:44

Basically I've been doing this for free Scott, since I've been in high school.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:49

That's Chris Bene. He lives in Vancouver, Washington, which if you don't know is across the river from Portland, Oregon. For a long time, he was involved in business development in the corporate travel industry. However, he had this hobby he called car consulting.

Chris Bene 01:05

And it just started off that, people would say, well I'm thinking about this type of car and I would start to talk to them and do that. But I really always hesitated from going into the car industry because I'm just going to say it outright and very track sleazy industry that people they've been through the strategy of spending five to eight hours in a dealership just fishing drag through the mud on buying a car it shouldn't be that hard and it's actually a strategy of theirs that they're trying to use to wear you down to where is your conscience buy this car from them.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:10

Now I want you to fast forward here for 10 months after Chris had been working on his career change, here he is again.

Chris Bene 01:50

What I'm going to do is I’m going to be a consultant for AAA Oregon, and they have this services they called “AutoSource” and it's a car buying service. and what's great about it Scott is that they’re able to talk to me and I’m not a dealer. They'll be able to talk to me as a consultant just to talk him through the types of cars that they're looking for or possibly, like I said selling and just to give them some great insight information on that. This is something I would, it would not be a job. And this is what you talked about Scott, it's really not a job that I'm going to, it's just something that I've liked to help people with. And I feel I'm pretty effective with that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:32

Okay, let's break down. What led up to this change and how this hobby that he now gets to do for a career actually happened? Here's Chris, with where he started out in his career.

Chris Bene 02:44

And it just started off that, you know people would say, well I'm thinking about this type of car and I would start to talk to them and do that. But I really always hesitated from going into the car industry because I'm just going to say it outright and very track sleazy industry that people they've been through the strategy of spending five to eight hours in a dealership just fishing drag through the mud on buying a car it shouldn't be that hard and it's actually a strategy of theirs that they're trying to use to wear you down to where is your conscience buy this car from them. And I think this is such an option through this AAA service that you don't have to do that. Even if you want to test drive the car. I can bring the cars to our building and you can come there you don't have a dealer or a salesperson right in your back while you're checking out these vehicles. So its gives a great option for people that are just... a lot of them, very adverse to going to an automobile dealership to purchase a car.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:48

You know what I think it's so cool here though is that, as you're talking about that like anybody who's listening to this right now can hear that is something that you're excited about and that is an industry and an area where it badly needs people that are really legitimately excited about that, versus as you said there and using different type of tactics to drag people through the mud and that's no good and I don't think anybody really wants that at the end of the day and that's very much an industry that needs more people that are aligned with what they want and need in excited about it in ways that other people aren't. So congratulations first of all, that's awesome.

Chris Bene 04:24

Thank you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:25

So here's my question though. Obvioulsy, haven't always been in this role or are just going to start here pretty quickly and prior to that when you first came to us, we first got to have a conversation and encounter you and get to know you a little bit then you're in a totally different situation. So I'm curious what led up to you wanting to make a change in the first place. What happened throughout your career that led you to here?

Chris Bene 04:51

Well, my career is pretty much a lot of aspects of business travel and people don't know what that is, but you know there's leisure travel of course when you're going on cruises and doing a lot of adventure travel things like that, but what I did was work with corporations. And typically senior management in corporations and putting together programs for their travelers, for their sales, folks for their engineers, for their technology people that would be traveling and then so there's programs out there Scott that the corporations need like here locally of course the ones that come to mind are the large ones like Nike, Adidas, Freightliner all those huge companies have a lot of people traveling. And they want to save money on that right? They don't want to spend top dollar on everything from an airline ticket to a hotel, to their car and so there's a lot of programs that we can put together for them even driven now more by safety more than price to make sure that we know, you know Scott Barlow was today at this time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:00

Oh, interesting.

Chris Bene 06:00

You know, on a trip. Yeah. Are you in Boston? Are you in New York? And were you asked specifically. So it's not big brother tracking you but it's really the safety of you if there would be something that would happen in Boston, that we'd need to track you down pretty quickly, and we would have that information out today. So I was on the business development side for that for many years. I've sold software to that program so I'm very familiar with B2B software typically the old days it was called SAS software-as-a-service. And so I have a lot of, I'm very comfortable in putting together of value package for an item and on my hobby side, it was automobiles and on my professional side, it was software and professional services for business travel.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:50

So you did those for quite a number of years. What was the impetus for no longer wanting to be in that area?

Chris Bene 06:57

It's called change of leadership. And I know many of our listeners today have gone through, or can see change of leadership, and that's what my impetus was for signing up for the career change bootcamp because, I thought leadership coming through and they were on a different plane than I was and I'm not talking about an airplane I’m talking about a plane of thought and I was a senior director of business development for the company and so when senior leadership internally as a different avenue to go than the salespeople, who does the development, people that are actually trying to make things happen. That's not a good scenario. So, I saw this coming took your 9 week class very informative and really help me to work together a plan on what was going to happen and actually did happen at the end of January. I was let go from the company and then so I was already on a head start just because of your class Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:59

Interesting. I don't think I quite realize the timing of that as all of that was happening. So what prompted you as you recognize, okay, there is a different set of leadership, different set of values. Obviously, there's no longer alignment, you have that realization and the foresight to recognize that meant, you better do something about it, which is awesome. A lot of us have a tendency to, including myself delay on that, I have been in the situation where that has occurred and I'm like "Nah, maybe, maybe it'll be okay" and I stay too long in some ways, but you recognize this you saw it coming and you decided that you wanted to do something about it. So why did you feel at that point in time that you needed a plan? What was lacking or what did you feel like you needed in order to in order to really make this change effective for you in ways that you wanted?

Chris Bene 08:51

Scott great question. And when think back to it. It's that I really did want to do something different because I had been in this industry for a while. And yes, we still tell you I have strong network, but most of the network was in the industry was in the business travel industry and especially talking with Lisa Lewis my career coach. I was able to get some thoughts going along some other lines of business that which turned out to be one of these is the car consulting, the automobile consulting. Really had me starting to think about that and so my network that I had built up. I mean, I'll be honest with you Scott. I've told four people know that are in the business travel industry during this journey. Because it just has you know with so many people talking in so many different Industries. It just doesn't it's not right anymore. I set my daughters to private school the whole way through there, they both graduated. So that was kind of done and we just had reached some many milestones and my wife gave me a green light that I could get out of business travel and that was a big one.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:02

That is important one, the part of green light.

Chris Bene 10:06

I thought about it. That's once you get the green line that I'm going okay, we're going to move here. And so, the rest of the story is kind of along the lines of during career change bootcamp, one of the weeks was focusing on hobbies and interest that you could possibly turn into a business and so when I was talking to Lisa about that she goes "Right and you sound very knowledgeable about that" Well, I've been doing it awhile, and I've been having a lot of fun at it and she said "Well what’s really key? I mean we talked about a lot of things but really high integrity." Like I said, I didn't want to be quote a used car salesman. I didn't want to do that. And so when I started looking this AAA showed up and they even advertise a 99.3 completely satisfied with their client’s figure. 99.3!?

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:00


Chris Bene 11:00

And actually, they're the highest rated service from AAA Oregon and there's a lot of services of course in underneath that umbrella. So that impressed me. Once I was able to talk to the general manager and I actually had two conversations with him. The first one was kind of interrupted and so I actually had two telephone conversations that were set up as informational interviews. Which I started out right away going. I do not want a job. I just want to talk to you about how you do these things. And like I said, we had two great conversations and we just kind of wrapped it up and he's actually giving me the feedback that he goes "Chris, I've talked to a lot of people about these informational interviews because I've never had anybody with the depth of questions that you're asking me about our operation." And I said, "Okay. Well, thank you." And like I said it went away until almost a year later from me taking that class that I went back and I thought, this is something I would... it would not be a job. And this is what you talked about Scott. It's really not a job that I'm going to. It's just something that I like to help people with and I feel I'm pretty effective with that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:13

It's a whole different feeling. And until you are there it is difficult to describe because it doesn't mean that like you're going to get into that role in it doesn't mean like all your problems are going to be solved or anything like that by any means that's not what we're talking about. But it is a completely different feeling going and spending much more of your time in those areas that either really are leveraging your strengths and interests. Or they are much more in alignment with what you want and need. And what I'm hearing from you is that this is much more of both of those.

Chris Bene 12:53

Absolutely, and I know with our listeners especially people are in roles. And Scott this is why you probably made this whole Happen to Your Career is that you're in there. You're getting the paycheck, you have bills to pay, everybody has bills to pay, and you're thinking "I'm never going to leave this place. I mean it's terrible, but I'm just going to stay here." That's where I really appreciated. You know that class that I took, the career change bootcamp really helped me throughout the whole curriculum. Realize there are other things I can do and let's start going down that path.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:28

I very much appreciate you saying that. I'm curious and I think some of our HTYC listeners might be very curious as well. You know, you talked about what we call test drive conversations and they're little in some ways, there a little bit more advanced version of an informational interview and clearly that was the impression that this person had in a variety of different ways and it's for a different purpose for example. So one of the things that you said, I'd love to go back to that for just a minute, cause I think that can be really helpful as people are thinking about those are finding themselves in this exact same place and want to do things a bit differently. As they're trying to determine what really is right for them and get to the same type of situation that you are. So for you, why did you say earlier that you declared up front that this was, you weren't necessarily looking for a job and I heard you mention that just a couple of minutes ago when you were there and you were talking to that person in AAA.

Chris Bene 14:21

I think I just like to be a person that's direct. So I like to put that up front going. I'm not going to ask you for a job at the end of this talk. I mean I put it right up front because that way it puts finding out. I sent an email to him beforehand that I just wanted an informational interview, but I think that's clear once they hear you. That's not my goal right now. I'm just trying to find out information. So that's why me, Chris Bene just sends it out ahead of time. When I did go through informational interviews, and it did put people at ease and then once I started in this particular case, once I started asking questions, and you are wasn't a drive-by job interviewer that I had really worked at a pretty significant level not a professional level but significant level with working with automobiles.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:12

For everyone listening a lot of times the next thing people want to know is "What questions did you ask?", and I want to ask you that question too, and I want to preface that just a little bit, because I know from interacting with you that you have a genuine interest in this area, and it comes off very clearly and part of the reason why this is one approach to learn more about a particular area or industry or role, or whatever it might be. And one of the reasons why it can work in building relationships is because you can't really fake that genuine interest part of it. So that almost is a prerequisite but with that in mind, what types of questions did you ask, help people understand a little bit about how this flows in this particular occasion since we already mentioned it.

Chris Bene 15:59

I don't know if you'd call it a flows Scott, but there were questions. I'm going to go back to the one that I just remember in my mind so much and I just said, "Mr. General Manager, you know, how do you achieve 99.3 percent," I said "I’m doing a lot of customer service, you know type of rules. I've done this a lot." And I said "That is one of the highest levels I've ever heard of" "Well Chris" he said "70-75% of our clientele is either referrals or repeats." and I go "Oh? So they were happy with you the first time and they're coming back third, fourth ,fifth time, to have you consult with them to help them purchase a vehicle" and he said yes, and so that opened up a lot of doors and then from there I just kept on asking about how they do things different. So if you see about a flow I wanted to know how they were different than Joe's dealership for Ford or Chevy or Jaguar, or whoever. How were they different because I kept on drooling, my main goal was I wanted to feel good about the integrity of that company when I walked out that was that was my goal. Yeah, you got to make money and we could talk about salary and we did later on but at this time for informatio, my key go was ways that they showed integrity.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:28

And I know that you and Lisa, your coach had spent a lot of time talking about how to make sure that your next role was really within that integrity. So it's not a surprise to me that that was one of the things that you were searching for. Overall in even in those types of conversations and questions as well. I am also curious. Why do you think that, that conversation where you were going in trying to learn more about what it is that they actually offered and how they were doing some of these things and expressing that legitimate interest, why do you think that that left such an impression on them because obviously they like almost a year later they ended up hiring you and you never once asked them for a job for all intents and purposes at the beginning stage. So, why do you think that that was such a big deal or why do you think it made such a big deal?

Chris Bene 18:23

A lot of prayers Scott, a lot of prayer not from me not only me but a lot of my friends and a lot of my network. I just really clicked with the General Manager and people know that I mean you and I click but there's sometimes you just go in there and in fact I had this back-up plan with Julie my wife and I had told her "Julie my appointments on Friday at 9:30," and I said "If I call you up by 10 o'clock, I'm saying this is gone. This is another no or another no good and I'm just walking out." Well, this is the one that's recent, not the one a year ago. One recent, two hours later, I gave her a call and she said "I bet you went pretty well." I said yes it is, and I actually had job offer which really shocked her also, and it could have gone three hours Scott. It was that comfort level because I'm always me. At this point, I'm always me. I'm not the right out of college trying to figure out what the whole business world's about. I've been in it for a while and I’m just me because I know that that's the best way to be and I know you have a lot of strategies with interview questions, which is awesome because it's helped me out a lot, especially responses. But as far as just being you when you're in there, there's no better way to be and I knew with this general manager who would be my manager that I can work with him. He did have integrity, he's proven integrity from being in the industry for quite a while to me that this was going to work like just unbelievably great.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:00

I suspect that both in the initial conversation as well as more recent conversations. You being able to go in and ask about and express what you feel is important to you and for all intents and purposes. I don't think I probably felt like this at the moment, but for all intents and purposes, taking a stand on that is one way to think about it and in doing so being you then I expect that helped it along for them being interested in you too. I could be wrong, but I suspect that them being able to see that that was you and it was obviously genuine and you are legitimately interested in that way that probably moved it along in terms of their desire to have you on their team. Do you think I'm way off base? Feel free to say no.

Chris Bene 20:56

So well, I was just like I said, I was just myself and I felt very comfortable and I feel that we clicked as people and once again, that's my belief on that matter. I'm sure just like I saw things in the General Manager that I liked that we did talk about also. So...

Scott Anthony Barlow 21:16

It’s funny how looking back a lot of this stuff can feels organic people come to us all the time when they're looking for the tips and tricks and techniques and everything else along those lines, but honestly , a lot of what we teach is just how to make those things much more organic and get to real relationships or real value or real situations that feel good to all parties and are good for all parties and I love how you what you have done here, has been a great example of that. But here's another question though Chris, because not everything always went well. This took longer than what you had wanted it too, I think. Is that fair to say?

Chris Bene 21:56

Oh, absolutely.

Scott Anthony Barlow 21:59

What was harder about going through this type of change for yourself? What was more difficult than what you anticipated?

Chris Bene 22:09

I think being totally human. I think it was the time factor, because it took me 12 months from taking your class , Scott, but from being let go it was a seven-month journey. And some people might say "Man, I've been out a year." Some people might not be out longer than that because of circumstances, but I didn't think it was going to take that long. I mean, of course, I'm very confident, I’m a business development guy and I’m like you, I have a very positive view, that’s one of my strengths. Of course my wife, the realist said it’s going to take longer and you know why because and I’m not open up to kimono here a little bit, I am on older worker and I've been through some of those games already to where I told him. No, I think I told you this already and maybe I did on this interview. I told four different companies “No” that I was offered positions because I knew they weren't the position I was looking for. I knew that and I'd say three out of the four were in the field that I am a veteran, that I have experience in, that I've worked for a number of people with including American Express, pretty big names, but it wasn't right. But the ending is a happy ending and I hope to be able to come back in number of months and tell you how much even better it is than I thought it was going to be.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:38

I am anxiously awaiting that update, Chris, I mean what we talked just a little bit before and you might be able to give me some of that update because we briefly talked about. I think I'm going to be in your area so we'll hopefully get the opportunity to meet up, have coffee everything like that, you can fill me in on what it is like as you're into month one and two. I'm anxiously looking for to that.

Chris Bene 23:59

That'd be great Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:00

Yes, absolutely. I very much looking forward to that. And let me ask you one final question here. For people that find themselves in that same situation, where they recognize for one reason or another that they want to make a change and that there is potentially a much better situation as you pointed out for them out there and something that is a better fit well in a variety of different ways. What advice would you give them? What advice would you give them after making your own journey?

Chris Bene 24:30

Well, and they're not being cliché about it, that really more faith than fear because Scott you know what the people you talk to and work with and your whole team, fear is huge. It's fear of not finding something, that fear of changing, fear of change is huge. And that's what I would tell people is that it's going to be a little bit scary, the journey, but it's worth it. Like I said, I am thinking a year ago, I'd be saying this but you know, I'm a success story, not only your class that's just the journey.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:08

That is amazing and I think that sometimes it's really hard to understand that fully until you've seen all sides of it. But I very much appreciate that advice and it is so true. It really is so true. It just absolutely fear, I think is one of the biggest things that has a tendency to cause us not to realize or have things happen for us that we actually want or may want or suspect we might want. And you've just done a really nice job looking that fear in the face, and being able to move beyond any ways, even though it's hard. So congratulations again, sir.

Chris Bene 25:48

Cool. Well, thank you, Scott. And I appreciate you and Lisa and the whole team there and offering the class that did have one key component that that booted me out and kept me going. So, thank you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:03

If this is not your first episode of the Happen To Your Career podcast, you've probably heard somebody on here that their first step to work that they absolutely love, that fits their strengths, and they're excited about, was going through our free eight day mini course to figure out what fits you. And we've had now well over 30,000 people have that as their beginning step to identifying what they want in their lives. And you can do the exact same thing. And if you're interested in that, it has some really amazing questions to get you started in becoming clear on what you want and what you need in your career. And it's a great way to kick it off and determine what is most important for you, moving forward. You can learn what you're great at. So you can stop wasting time in your job, and start working in your career, even identify some of the internal blockages that are keeping you from fulfilling work, and wealth and career success. And begin narrowing down what you should be doing for work that's fulfilling to you. All you have to do is go to figureitout.co that's figureitout.co and get started today, enter your email and voila will send you the very first lesson. Head on over there, figureitout.co or you can text HAPPEN to 44222 that's HAPPEN to 44222.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:39

How do you know when you've made the right decision about your career? Because honestly, sometimes it's pretty difficult. What if you think you know what you want, only to make the change, and then it doesn't work out. I got to talk to someone that has done that, they've been there, they've done that, they've got the teaser.

Louise McNee 27:59

So I'm a commercial manager. I just started working for a great company. It's actually a radio station here in Australia. So it's a completely different industry than I've worked in before.

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:11

Louise is a Brit who relocated to Australia, and now she has a job she loves. But before, it was not great for years, in fact, well, I mean, she had a ton of success in her career. But the only problem was that it wasn't the success she wanted. So she changed jobs. And then did it again. Turns out it didn't work. But all that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically, even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week. Adios. I'm out.

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