Case Study: How Fraz completely changed careers in only a few months (and kept his 6-figure income)

Ramit Sethi

This site isn’t for everyone.

When I launched it 7 years ago, I was a student at Stanford. I wrote it for my friends and me, many of whom went to colleges like Stanford, Harvard, etc. As the site grew, the people I wrote for didn’t necessarily have to go to those colleges, but they were educated, likely to make above-average incomes, and not interested in saving pennies.

In fact, I refused to do short blog posts or video clips because I didn’t want stupid people on my site. Life is too short to spend all day fending off attacks from ignorant people who are “outraged” by someone spending a few hundred dollars a month eating out.

Is that condescending? Cocky? Maybe. But that decision — to write for smart people and not pander to them — set the tone for the quality of readers even years later.

I’m proud to say that even today, I would be proud to have any of my very smart friends read my site and know that my material would not only apply to them — it would challenge them. Compare this to sites that write articles like “5 tips to save on your holiday sweaters,” also known as people you and I would not want to hang around with.

That’s why I laugh when I occasionally get an email from a high-powered corporate attorney or investment banker, wondering if my material would apply to them. (It’s a legitimate question, since they are relatively rare and therefore virtually zero self-development material is written for them.)

I usually tell them that, yes, I have highly successful people earning multiple 6-figure incomes who have still benefited from my material.

Today, I’d like to share the story of a research pediatric cardiologist who used my Earn1K course to make a career change.

I’m not afraid to tell you that I expect more from you. I don’t simply want to show you 50 new “tips” and “hacks” to let them wash over you and make you feel good. I expect you to make significantly more. I expect you to live a richer life by hanging out with friends and family more. And I expect you to demand more of yourself.

Today’s story is a good example that by focusing on top-performing people — including a cardiologist who earns 6 figures — you know that you can use the very same techniques for your career.

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The Naysayers

How many of you have heard people say things like, “If you want a safe job, work for the government”?

Or: “Corporations are evil, soul-sucking places for sell-outs.”

Or: “Online courses are a scam. If you want to learn something, you need to go to school.”

Part of the reason these beliefs are so dangerous isn’t just because they’re wrong. Maybe they are, maybe not.

It’s because most people don’t even think about testing them.

We hear something a few times and just assume it’s true without digging around to find out for sure. Hence people who genuinely believe that paying for material, like my Earn1K course, is scammy because they “could always find the same info for free online.” (Yes, but will they?)

And when we do test them, people around us get scared and tell us how wrong we are. Most people would rather be consistent than happy or right.

Today, a story about one of my students, Fraz, who tested his assumptions. He was a well-paid university researcher frustrated by a system that seemed to hinder all of the goals it claimed to support.

Was academia really the best place to work?

Was he selling out by going to the private sector?

Could he even make the jump?

Read on to find out how Fraz did it.

“You’ve gone to the dark side.”

That’s what Fraz’s friends and coworkers in academia said when Fraz told them he was leaving his research position as pediatric cardiologist at a major university for a private sector job at a pharmaceutical company. He had sold out.

Fraz shrugged it off. He knew the truth. The private sector was the best place for him to continue his work of facilitating research.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions out there,” Fraz noted. “People on the academic side think the streets in the private sector are paved with gold and that everyone is rolling in money. That’s not true. I’m making about the same now as I was at the university. Six figures.”

“Research is heavily funded and controlled by the federal government,” Fraz explained. “That means when the government is under pressure to cut costs, it impacts our work.”

Fraz noted the common belief that business is selfish and secretive while academia is generous and open. That seemed false, too.

“In pharmaceuticals, everything has to be done in a team. The work is very complicated and takes a lot of people. That’s versus academics where you’re in it for yourself. There’s not a lot of support. Grants are a zero-sum game. We’re not all in it together.”

Fraz challenged one other assumption: that you can’t hustle your way into a great new career.

2011: The Year of the Hustle

“I’m definitely not entrepreneurial, but I do read a few personal finance blogs. That’s how I found I Will Teach You To Be Rich. It’s refreshing because you don’t pull any punches.”

One of those examples was my 30 days of all-new material about creating disproportionate results by hustling. Fraz tackled the challenge head-on. Instead of just thinking about informational interviewing, he started making calls to friends and acquaintances in the private sector.

The first few calls didn’t go anywhere, but it quickly turned around. Fraz shattered many of his misconceptions about the private sector and discovered there were many opportunities available if you just knew how to look.

When he heard about Earn1K, he was convinced it could help him make the switch to the private sector.

“Anytime you spend big bucks, you have to think twice. But based on the stuff you’d done already — the blog, the emails — the likelihood of Earn1K being a dud was pretty low. Your free stuff is good quality, so there’s got to be great stuff on the back end.”

Fraz signed up.

“Hearing real stories about real people is so valuable.”

“My goal with Earn1K was to really focus on how to interview. How to present myself to a potential employer in a way that looks good to them.”

Fraz loaded up his iPod with over 30 downloadable case studies from the course and listened to them on his daily commute.

“Hearing the stories of real people is way more compelling than just reading about a list of techniques. People don’t understand that. What counts are the stories that illustrate the points, make it actionable. That show how to approach the process. That was my favorite part of Earn1K. All the stories of entrepreneurs and negotiations and what lessons they learned from them.”

Fraz particularly liked hearing about mistakes people made. “You hear about successful people and don’t think they make mistakes, but they do. And I’m going to make mistakes. I love hearing about how you spent an afternoon watching reality TV and blew your whole day. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be a superhero to make it.”

Putting Earn1K into action

To begin, Fraz expanded his informational interviewing. To make the switch to the private sector, he needed to really get into the heads of people on that side.

“I called up people I knew. Friends of friends. I said, ‘Look, what I want to know is where you are, what you do, and how you’re doing it.’ And one of them actually mentioned a position I might be a good candidate for.”

Fraz knew from Earn1K that you can’t just walk into a client meeting or an interview and wing it, but it took a couple failed interviews for the lesson to sink in. When another opportunity arose, Fraz vowed to be prepared this time.

He reviewed a 35-minute Earn1K video on how to identify the benefits your clients really want. He tapped his growing network and found someone who had been a close confidante of the hiring manager. From that contact he learned about the hiring manager’s personality, history and pet projects. Fraz also talked to people inside the company to uncover their real needs.

Then he set up several mock interviews with contacts from other companies. “Going through the mock interview process is important. You can think about it sitting on your sofa, but there’s a big difference in actually moving your lips and doing it.”

Altogether, Fraz spent one to two hours a day over a couple months preparing for the interview. All this on top of his normal workload as a pediatric cardiologist researcher. “I didn’t realize how much work has to go into the preparation process. But it was totally worth it.”

The final result?

The hiring manager, a relatively senior vice president, was so fascinated by everything Fraz had to say that he was taking notes during the interview.

Fraz laughed. “How often does that happen?”

He got the job.

Earn1K is not just for entrepreneurs.

As Fraz settles into his new career helping a pharmaceutical company collaborate and streamline its processes, he’s still challenging his assumptions.

“I just had a meeting with marketing. We were talking about the motivations of our patients. Before I would have thought the marketers were coming from outer space, but now I could appreciate it and participate.”

He also still digs into Earn1K for guidance.

“I’m not entrepreneurial by nature. The industry I’m in and came from is not entrepreneurial. Nonetheless, I still found a lot of value in Earn1K. The stuff you talk about is valuable to a lot more people than just twenty-somethings in Silicon Valley.”

Get an excerpt of my Earn1K lesson on customer research

Fraz dominated not by simply diving into the new career search, but by methodically RESEARCHING (so he would impress his interviewers.) This lesson applies to us all – identifying what really matters to your clients & customers is often makes the difference between success and failure.

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  1. Kristal

    Seriously awesome: “This lesson applies to us all – identifying what really matters to your clients & customers is often makes the difference between success and failure.”

    I’ve never thought of treating the job hunting process as a business, but it is. Selling myself is like selling a product. It’s a totally new way of thinking for me.

    I usually focus on selling myself in terms of expounding on the features & benefits of “me” & how I can be of value in a general way, without first thinking about how I can fit what I have into with the other person really NEEDS. Finding out their needs & what keeps them up at night ,and then fill those needs & solve their problems. Seems like such an obvious thing.

  2. Erin

    This is a great example of someone using the E1K material to do something other than freelance. When I listen to Earn1K I think about freelance ideas and projects I’m working on (at my day job, volunteer work, personal life), but I also think about stuff like applying the strategies to admissions councils and professors (I’m interested in studying psychology).

    My point: The E1K material is versatile.

    Like Fraz, I felt I wasn’t entrepreneurial because I didnt want to launch a company or something. But I realized I am very entrepreneurial in my own way. For example, I’d see discarded items everywhere in my neighborhood (college area with high rental turnover), and I’d take them home and put them on Craigslist. But not just any items–you have to know what sells, what people look for, and what people will realistically pay. Otherwise you’re just collecting junk. How do saleable items end up on the side of the road? Some reasons: 1. The person doesnt want/have time to sell it 2. They don’t know how/where to sell it 3. They tried to sell it and were insulted by lowball offers (“I paid so much for this, I can’t let someone else have it for $5”) so they’d rather just trash it. And on and on…

    If someone wants to buy a broken coat rack from me, that I found while walking my dog and then put on Craigslist as a “great project for someone looking to refinish”-why not? I’m always thinking about ways to turn things (including trash) into small businesses and the E1K material helps me think through my ideas more quickly, and implement them more effectively. Including selling second hand items on Craigslist and getting into the heads of Craigslist consumers.

  3. FM


    Wow. Great stuff as usual. Seems like your articles lately are leaning more towards using Earn1K to launch a new non-freelance career. Sounds like a sweet transition to a new product/course?

    Best of luck!

  4. Maria


    Earn1k is awesome. No doubt. I am curious to see what you are cooking for 2012..!

  5. Carmen

    You’ve really sold me on the quality of your posts and I’ve sent this to two freelancers I know. I’m looking forward to your upcoming “Getting Your Dream Job” plans.

  6. rackgen

    Ramit, I shamelessly used your briefcase and your delicious links to ace 2 interviews.. and now waiting for both offers. A happy problem of plenty indeed. Thanks a ton!

    PS: Happy Earn1K subscriber!!

  7. Justin Loutsch

    Hey Ramit,
    So as I read this I immediately applied it to my new position (same company, just a new position).

    I realized I need to treat my boss as my customer, and really look at what it is she needs from me: everything to be done correctly, with no missing parts, and all jobs completed in a timely fashion.

    She also asked me to make the process more efficient, but I had to take a step back and look at the parts there were causing problems, slowing me down, and just get rid of them to make sure I can be as accurate as possible.

    There’s still a lot I don’t know in my new position, a hindrance since I replaced the only person who did the job, but I’m going to keep learning and studying the templates he left behind for me as well as contacting our database admins who can help me identify the best way to solve problems I encounter.
    Thanks for the eye opener!

  8. Dave

    I really like this article. Even if you work for a big company, your always in business for yourself. If you’re not an asset to them, they’ll let you go. So make yourself an asset.

    Good stuff!

  9. Angie

    Wow, this guy is like me! I am not entrepreneurial either so I can really relate to this case study. Thanks for sharing!