Have you ever had a tricky work question you can’t stop agonizing about or a professional decision that needs to be made now, with little regard for your 9-to-5 work hours? Work things can have a big impact on your personal happiness and that’s where the lines between self-care and professional development can start to blur. That’s why we created the GNI Water Cooler as a place to talk about just this type of thing.

For the second installment of the GNI Water Cooler series, we asked Alex Daly and Ally Bruschi to answer your questions about goal-setting and financial management.

Alex is the founder of Daly, a PR, crowdfunding, and events agency. She also happens to be the Crowdsourceress, having helped several Kickstarter campaigns gain massive success in the past few years, raising a total of over $20M from 100,000 people worldwide. She's also a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 class of 2016 — nbd.

Ally is the PR Manager at Daly, where she takes pride in creating powerful, well-crafted messages for the companies, products, and people that inspire her. Before joining Daly, she worked as a book publicist, but now she works to secure features for her clients in everything from The New York Times and The Atlantic to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and national NPR shows.


Q: My question for Alex is how to ask for/make the case for equity at a small company.

Alex: This is a nuanced question, because it really varies per industry (services vs. product-based companies), and timing is an important factor too. Whether you propose a case for equity in the negotiation process before contracting, or down the line when you have spent your time with the company. Ultimately, when you’re asking for equity, you have to have a compelling case to dilute the equity pool. My best advice is to do your research and be prepared.

Equity is the deepest sign of commitment in a small company, so a founder is going to need to know you’re in it for the long haul. Get curious and remember, everything is negotiable––and a good negotiator always understands the underlying interests of everyone involved. If you know what’s most important to your employer when it comes to sharing equity, you will understand their most pressing needs when it comes to building their long term vision. And this will allow you to build your case as a vital asset to making that long-term vision a reality.

Q: My work is very customer service driven but not related to sales quotas. Do you have tips on how to write performance objectives or goals? I would ideally like to set up a spreadsheet to track accomplishments throughout the year. Any tips for what details should be captured to make reporting more impactful? Or any tips on how to ensure your reporting can help when applying for promotions or new jobs?

Alex: The most important thing about goals is that we can measure them because, without measurement, we’re never really sure if we truly achieved them! When you work in a role like customer service, which maybe doesn’t look quantifiable on the surface, it gives you a great opportunity to get creative and identify your own opportunities for measuring your success.

Without being aware of the industry you are in, here are some things to consider: First off, how many people who contact customer service become repeat customers––especially if they reach out with a problem? Can you document any positive feedback you get from customers when you’re handling them, and use a spreadsheet to identify the most common customer service requests? You can then take that research to other departments to improve any systems creating happier customers!

Tracking your work, and then also improving systems based on that work, help you become a better employer, team member, and potential attractive talent to hire.

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Q: When you’re in a “show don’t tell” career field (portfolio over how you appear on paper), is it worth it to take a pay + title cut to hone your craft in a more junior position?

Ally: In my experience, it only makes sense to take a title & pay cut if you’ll be moving from a company or role with minimal growth opportunities into one where the circumstances for growth, learning, and institutional support are more favorable. It can also sometimes be necessary to move laterally or accept a lower position if you’re switching industries altogether, and plan to prove that your skill set is transferable from one type of role to the next.

In general, every step that you make in your career should be moving you forward—whether or not that means your title and pay are growing with every shift. If you’re thinking of accepting a new job that’s below where you currently are, you should be able to answer the question: how will this new position be moving my career and my skill set forward? How will this new role help me grow? If you can’t answer both of those questions, you probably shouldn’t take the job.

Q: Do I really need a five year plan? I feel like I’m maybe losing potential or opportunities by not having one.

Ally: While I always think it’s wise to keep on your future goals, I personally don’t subscribe to the idea of creating and sticking to a 5-year-plan. The whole notion behind a five-year plan relies on the idea that your professional plans and aspirations are fixed, when in reality, they’re constantly evolving as new creative ventures open and passions are discovered.

What I like to do instead, is to focus on a shorter term roadmap: the one-year plan. Come up with a list of goals that you’d like to achieve in the next 12 months, and then challenge yourself to list the tangible building blocks that you must achieve in order to reach those goals. The more concrete you can make your goals, the better.

This will help break down the anxiety around creating and sticking to a five year plan, and instead help you create a more realistic, achievable set of goals that will keep you grounded in the present while thinking towards the future.

Got any work + self-care questions you’d like us to answer in the next GNI Water Cooler? Ask them in the comments below. 👇✨

Images by Pheobe Cheong.