Save on College and Get an Apprenticeship with Praxis CEO Isaac Morehouse

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

Are you looking to launch an exciting career without a mountain of debt? A paid apprenticeship could be perfect for you, and in this interview with Isaac Morehouse, you’ll learn how you can find incredible opportunities at amazing companies. 

After the Interview

 

About Isaac Morehouse

Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash.co and the CEO and founder of Praxis. He is the author of 8 books including Crash Your Career and 11 Lessons from Bootstrapping a Non-Tech Startup.

Read the Transcript

Who Is Isaac Morehouse?

Allison: Good afternoon. This is Allison Dunn. I am your executive business coach and owner at Deliberate Directions.

Today. I have the pleasure of speaking with Isaac Morehouse. Isaac is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. I am a New Hampshire girl – live free or die – so I love that. When he is not with his wife and kids or building his company, he can be found smoking cigars, playing guitars, reading, writing, getting angry watching sports teams from his home state of Michigan, and enjoying the beach. Thank you for writing that great intro. That was kind of fun to read. So, you’re a cigar and guitar guy.

Isaac: Yes, absolutely, if I get some time to relax.

Allison: Oh, good deal. Fantastic. Well, I just want to also quickly highlight as far as I can tell at this point, you have authored eight books. Is that correct?

Isaac: Authored or co-authored, yes. I don’t get all the credit.

Allison: Fair enough. I’m hoping we can dive into some of the details that you’ve co-authored or authored in those. You are the founder of a couple of organizations, and I guess the first one I’d ask you about is tell us a little bit about Praxis.

How Students Can Apprentice at a Growing Business

Isaac: Yeah. Praxis is an apprenticeship program that we created about … well, it’s been almost 6 years since we first got Praxis going. And the idea was for young people who want to start their or careers going and sitting in a classroom for 4 or 5, 6 years doesn’t really get you much closer to knowing the things you need to know to get that first job. It gives you this piece of paper, but you really don’t come in with very many skills and increasingly no one is hiring you based on that piece of paper. I had worked with all these college students and seen them graduate and seen them struggle to find work or to put their skills to use, and business owners are always telling me, hey, I’m always looking to hire good people, but nobody has the right skills.

And so, I thought, what if we could create something that was in the shortest amount of time possible actually delivering the skills that are relevant for professional careers. The idea of apprenticeship is very old, but somehow, it’s been relegated. The only industries that still use that model are either the skilled trades -plumbing, electrical, et cetera – or things like medicine, for example, which has a lot of schooling you have to do first, but then you do the apprenticeship. Anyone will tell you it’s that apprenticeship component where you really learn. It’s the on-the-job learning.

So, we put together this program where there’s a 6-month professional bootcamp, which is all done remotely. It’s all done online, which is really just to get people the basic things that you need to function in professional roles and the roles we’re mostly dealing with are at growing companies. They tend to be tech startups, but they’re non-technical roles. Roles like sales, marketing, customer success. Basic skills like how to use basic software tools that are used in the workplace, calendar scheduling and the mindsets of delivering value to customers. In the second 6 months of the program, we place people with startups and they are apprenticing fulltime in those roles. At the end of the program, 95% of our grads are getting hired full time.

Allison: What a neat model!

How Praxis (the College Alternative) Got Started

Allison: Did you go about it to design it for those who are going to be the apprentice, or did you go about designing it for those who needed? Where did it start?

Isaac: Yeah, I know. That is such a good question. We designed it from day 1 for the job seeker, for the young person trying to start their career. And that’s been a big distinguishing factor because I think a lot of the things out there, especially in the find a job arena, whether it’s jobs boards or services trying to help people prepare their resumes and things like that. They tend to start with the needs of the companies and say, okay, what do companies need? How can we get people to look like that? And that’s not a bad business, but we felt like there’s this huge void.

There’s hardly anyone asking what do the young people who are entering the market need? And really before they can jump through all these hoops that companies want, they need to know what they’re looking for and have a bit of a discovery process to even identify roles that are interesting to them. If you’re 19, 20, 22, and you go scan a jobs board, most of those roles don’t mean anything. Business development representative – what does that mean? So trying to have more of a process of helping people say, Hey, given your interest in this and your skill at this, you might want to look at this and look at this, and if you want that role, here are some skills you’re going to have to show and some things you’re going to have to do to get it. Here, why don’t you take a chance?

Take a 6-month apprenticeship there. Treat it experimentally so it was definitely geared towards first and foremost, the pain point felt by young people who are looking to start their career. And then as a secondary fact, it increases the quality of talent that companies are able to get.

Allison: Interesting. So you’ve created this 6-month, 2-semester type bootcamp program, where half the time they’re in learning mode and are they inside an organization for the entire 12 months?

Isaac: Yes. The first 6 months, they are not. They can be anywhere and they’re engaging in everything online and they’re building up a profile of skills. And in the second 6 months they are living and working wherever their business partner is located, where we find them an apprenticeship and they go through a process of interviewing with several different businesses and learning to pitch themselves and sell themselves until they get 1 or more offers from companies in our network to apprentice with them. We either have to find a company in where you already live, or as is usually the case, you’re moving somewhere across the country for those 6 months and you’re living and working right there on site at the company.

Allison: So, you’re working with apprentices who are anywhere in the US? What’s the proper term for that?

Isaac: Yeah, apprentices.

What Students Are Applying for Praxis Apprenticeships

Allison: Who right now is applying? And are you finding that it’s equally of interest to go through this type of bootcamp, even if you’ve already been to college?

Isaac: Yeah, that’s a great question as well. I would say of our application pool, it splits roughly into 3 segments. They are more or less equal segments.

  • A third of people are coming out of high school and they already know, “I don’t want to do college. I think that sounds like a lot of time and money that I don’t need to spend. I want to jump into my career now.”
  • A third of applicants are saying, “I’ve done a little bit of college. I’m not sure this is really helping me that much. I’m undecided. Maybe I’ll take a year break or a gap year. Or maybe I’m going to just stop going to college altogether and see if I can get something going with a different approach.”
  • And then, a third of applicants are college graduates who are saying, “Hey, I’ve got a degree, but that doesn’t by itself get me a job… Firstly, I don’t really know where to go if I have a degree in something like business or liberal arts.”

College doesn’t really give you a ton of direction. You don’t really know what skills you have or can apply to different jobs. And so a good third of our participants are coming out of college and still need to figure out a way to get started in their career.

Allison: Fantastic! So are you working to hire for organizations?

Isaac: Typically, it’s not like a company will come to us and say, “Hey, I need this many people in this role” and we go and find them. It’s usually the other way around.

This is what we’re trying to do: Flip the career process on its head, and make it more individual centric versus company centric.

We find people who are hungry and eager and willing to launch their career – people who have the right raw attributes. You don’t need a lot of skills or experience ahead of time. But you need to have the drive and work ethic. You need to be committed. Just like a fitness trainer would want you to be committed to the process even if you come in and you’re not really fit to start with.

We help those seekers figure out what they’re best at, how to do some projects and learnings that best showcase those skills. Then we go out to companies (and we have a lot of them in our network that have worked with us before and are interested in more).

We also visit new companies. We’re always going out and getting and saying, “Given that you’re looking for this, take a look at this person.” And we try to show them people who are too good to ignore.

We have participants put together projects and pitches for them because they know if they’ve been in contact with Praxis, they know that we’re going to be sending them some people to take a look at. But it’s really us pushing people that we think are a good fit to the right opportunities. It’s more of that than companies coming to us and saying, here’s what I need and then us going out and trying to find it.

How Working in Cohorts Facilitates Learning

Allison: Interesting. So, from the standpoint of your people who are going through the bootcamp, how many do they go through as a cluster, or a cohort or is it synergists stick in that way? Collaborative?

Isaac: Yes, they launch in monthly cohorts, so every month there’s 10 and 15 – just depends on the month – new participants starting and they’re going through these monthly modules to build their skills and their profile and then to get into that apprenticeship. They have got 1-on-1 coaching sessions twice a month with Praxis advisors. They have a weekly skills workshop. Some of those are just for their cohort. Some of them are broader where Praxis participants and alumni from all various ranges will come together, and they’re continuing to get that ongoing support as they go through. But they have that group of peers, that cohort that they’re with each month tends to be very tight, and then people in other cohorts and even alumni from years past are also heavily engaged in the community, which is pretty cool to see how they help and support each other.

How Praxis Pays Apprentices

Allison: From the standpoint, is the organization co-sponsoring the apprenticeship?

Isaac: Yes. The way it works is once we place you in the apprenticeship, you are getting paid as an employee of the company a minimum of $15 an hour, so that during those 6 months, you’re earning about $14 – $15,000, but you are still a participant in the program.

How that works is we don’t want to make this like fake work like an internship where you’re just sitting around getting coffee, so you’re a real employee and doing a real role and you’re responsible to the person that you report to, your boss there.

But we also are in contact with your supervisor on a regular basis, getting feedback from them on how it’s going and then we’re getting feedback from you on how it’s going, and so we’re able to be a voice outside of the company, especially if this is your first professional role for people to say, “Hey, I’m really struggling with this” or, “I don’t understand this thing about workplace culture” and to provide support there. And then vice versa for the company. If they’re like, this person is just really struggling with this thing, we have the ability to help work with them and help them improve in those areas, in a way that sometimes you just may not have the resources for on staff within the company. So it’s a partnership where you’re an employee there, but you still have this ongoing 6 months of training and support throughout that time.

Allison: Fantastic. Do you have a team of people around you, or are you working with these candidates 1-on-1?

Isaac: We have a team. There’s about 12 full time team members for Praxis and then we have a network of advisors that contract with us. These are people that are usually mid-career, not early career, but not super senior that are, hey, I was in your shoes 2, 3, 5 years ago and they love working with us just on the side in addition to their full-time role. These are working professionals and they have a group of participants that they’re mentoring and they have 1-on-1 sessions with them. That makes it really cool because it goes beyond just Praxis employees and they get to have that mentorship with somebody again, who’s more advanced than they are, but not so far beyond that it’s hard to relate. and that network of advisors is a really strong part of the program.

How to Ditch Company Gatekeepers

Allison: That’s fantastic. So did you just finish your newest book, Crash Your Career?

Isaac: Yes. It came out just a few months ago and it’s a very slim little book. We call it a pocket book so that nobody orders it and says wait a minute, I thought it was going to be a book.

Allison: It’s 69 pages.

Isaac: It’s very thin, but absolutely. It’s a new spin on the way that people approach getting their careers started.

Allison: Okay. So who did you write Crash Your Career for?

Isaac: Yeah, so we realized through the years working with people in Praxis, which is an incredibly intense, very selective, very elite program. Again, the criteria are more that you’re able and willing to put in the work for that year, that very intense long year. If you do, it pays dividends.

It’s absolutely an amazing, incredibly successful program.

But we found working with that, we get thousands of people that apply and we can only work with so many of them that there’s some bigger, broader trends.

We often found that things that we were blogging about or things we were telling people who were applying to Praxis who do didn’t end up doing it for whatever reason, that there’s a lot of value in just giving away. If you were to do it on your own, here’s the playbook. Here’s what you should do, because we’re not interested in being some kind of … we only tell you the secrets if you get into the program.

Again, I think the fitness analogy is really similar. If you can work with a top fitness trainer and you’re committed and you know that if they’ll work with you, you’re going to get results, by all means, go for that. But not everybody’s in a position where they can do that. So, the next best thing is to say, maybe that fitness trainer is blogging or making YouTube videos, telling you how they do what they do, and you can try to do your own DIY at home.

The idea – and this is what the new company Crash is all about and this book kicks it off – is what are the most basic things that we have learned working with Praxis participants that we can go tell to the broader world and say, look, if you want to launch your career, even if you can’t do something like Praxis, you can still make this happen.

And so it’s for anyone who’s really trying to get started and find their first professional job. Whether they’re coming out of college or high school or grad school, whether they’ve been working for a few years at a coffee shop or someplace that they don’t see as a real career, but it’s just where they are now and you’re ready to start on a job that’s a stepping stone to a career and you’re really not sure. Where to start, how to get started, how to compete with hundreds and thousands of people that apply for every job. You’re just tweaking your resume and sending it out and applying over and over and nothing is happening. There is a better way to go about that process and this book is for the people who are looking for that.

Job Search Statistics

Allison: You’ve led right into my next question. When you are 1 out of 100 applicants going after a job, what do you teach them to get noticed?

Isaac: Yeah, absolutely. The first thing is to step back and say, “Let’s not take for granted all the existing apparatus” –this idea of you sitting through the education process and get your various certifications and degrees.

You add bullet points to your resume, and now your resume is ready and complete, and you make sure it’s formatted, and then you go on to jobs boards, and you submit it to all these different applications and it’s just a numbers game, and you wait for somebody to call you back.

Allison: And it’s so painful.

Isaac: And it’s so painful. We say scrap that whole thing. The average person applies to 150 jobs before they get an offer.

Allison: Wow!

Isaac: Most jobs are not filled.

70 to 80% of jobs are not filled with people who come through the application anyway. It’s usually word of mouth referrals or some side door.

It takes people on average 92 days of job hunting to get that interview or that first offer. The average job gets 250 resumes for the 1 person that gets the job.

So, when you hear some of this stuff, it’s like, “Man, this is not really an exciting way to go about it!” So, we say, let’s start from the beginning.

How to Narrow Your Job Search

First, identify just a couple roles that are probably going to be a good fit for you, or at least won’t be a bad fit. It’s a lot of pressure when you’re young to figure out what your calling is. “How do I put that into a job title? What do these job titles even mean?”

We try to put things in larger buckets.

If you know that you hate working with data and you’re not a data person, then you don’t want to do things like that. But if it’s not something that you’re going to hate, then it’s probably fair game. So there are probably a lot of jobs you could look at.

You could look at roles like customer success or sales or marketing – entry level roles that are a good starting point.

In your first job opportunity, you’re really looking  to find something that you don’t hate that you can learn from. You’re looking for something that has the potential to be a stepping stone to something different. You don’t need a job you’re going to do for the rest of your life, so relieve that pressure.

Once you identify a job that’s interesting to you, figure out a few of the broadest skills and software tools that are useful in that role.

Let’s say it’s an entry level sales role where you’re going to be going out and trying to find a lot of individuals or businesses that could be good customers. You’re going to use tools like LinkedIn to research people. You’re going to use various email tools – Excel spreadsheets probably – to track lists of people.

Get familiar with some of the basic skills necessary – good communication skills, good research skills, persistence, competitiveness, optimism.

Those are some things that are going to be key in a role like that. Then you find a way to demonstrate that you have those skills.

That goes beyond a resume. Just listing on a resume “good communication” – what does that mean?

Even just listing “BA in Marketing” – what does that mean?

If you can show me something – “I have a YouTube channel with 5 videos. They’re all 2 minutes long and each of them is me walking through ‘how to write a good email’ or whatever.” … Even if it’s not that good, the fact that you took the time to do that shows that you’re learning. You’re following the principle to “learn out loud.”

Or “I’m reading through this book called How to Sell or How to Win Friends & Influence People, and I’m going to write a quick summary of every chapter and what I learned and post it to my blog.” That’s a very interesting project that showcases a lot of your traits.

An employer will say, “Oh, that’s interesting. This is someone who’s learning. They’re humble. They can write well. They’re thinking about how to apply these skills.”

Those are rare traits. And if you did something that simple, it would stand out.

So, find some ways to show your skills and then pick a handful of companies that you are interested in. Research a little bit about them and send them a tailored pitch. Send something to them directly. See if you can find anyone you’re connected to who works there. But if you’re not connected to someone, you can send a cold email.

You are going to have better results if you send 5 tailored pitches than if you blast out 50 or 100 resumes.

If you send an email directly to someone that says, “I love your company. I see you’re hiring for this role. I’m really interested. Here’s a few things that I’ve created. … By the way, I made this PDF for you that describes what I think your customers love about your product. Let me know if we can talk.”

Doing something like that makes it really hard for somebody to say no to you. They’re going to be like this person took the time to make this for me. I guess I should at least give them an interview.

We use the dating analogy a lot. If you’re trying to get a date with someone, you don’t walk up and hand a list of bullets and say, these are the 10 reasons I’m highly dateable. Give me a call. Instead, you walk up and you say, wow! You are interesting to me. Tell me about you. I’m very interested in you. I like these qualities about you. I would love to get to know you more. You talk about them and companies are the same. People tend to approach it and say, here are the things that make me a good candidate, please hire me and it’s very generic. It feels like you’re blasting this to everybody, because most people are, versus if you come and say, wow, Isaac. I heard you on this podcast interview. I’m really interested in your company. I took the time to look at your website and learn these things about it and I made this for you. I would love to talk more. Now I’m going to have a really hard time not at least giving that person a chance. And so just seeing the process in that way, that’s the basic formula that’s outlined in this book and that we’re trying to help people with.

Allison: That’s awesome. I have to admit that I think every position I’ve ever gotten has been through a tailored pitch of some way. I’ve never actually sent my resume anywhere, and my resume’s really bad actually, if I had to say.

Isaac: I went to find mine. I can’t remember. It’s been probably 15 years since I ever updated one or used it, and I don’t think I have ever gotten a job from submitting a resume. It’s always been, somebody told me this job is really I know somebody. They’re looking; you might be a good fit. And then I ask them to tell me more about it. What do they want to see? And then I try to pitch them something. Yeah, absolutely.

Recent High School Graduates 

Allison: The statistic is 3.6 million students will be graduating this month from high school. What would you suggest that they do coming into the workforce?

Isaac: I think the first thing is try to get out into the world and get some experiences of any kind, some professional experiences, because that’s the way you’re going to start to learn where your interest and abilities intersect with opportunities in the market. It’s really hard to sit in a classroom or look through a course catalog and try to decide what are going to be some good professional opportunities.

Whether you’re going to go to college or not to have an idea of where you might want to look for your first steps, and again, this isn’t talking about what you’re going to do in 20 years. That probably doesn’t exist yet. It’s really what is your first career step? What might be a good place to start? And the best way is to go and try things.

It’s amazing to me and frankly tragic how many people I meet who might do something very, very high cost like say law school. They go to college, they go to law school and they come out and with law school in particular, you’re going to have like a quarter million dollars debt most of the time, and they start working that first law job and only then do they realize they hate it.

Allison: Oh no!

Isaac: They’re like, maybe this was a mistake, but now there’s no other way to pay back that debt. And so, if you could, before you make all those steps, go volunteer at a law firm to intern, to job shadow, to apprentice for a summer, for a year, and then you can find out, oh, I actually don’t like this.

Well, what might I like? Now try something else to get some of that experience so you have context for these things and so that you also know what is valued on the market, because it’s very different from what’s in the schooling system and the sooner you can realize that, the better. Otherwise, if you come out and you’re like, I got my shiny degree, I got good grades. What? Nobody wants to pay me for that? It can be very hard and it’s a lot of disillusionment.

So, get as much experience in the market as you can, and today that’s really easy. You can even go on a freelancing website like Fiverr and say, oh, I think I like designing graphics for people. Let me just post and say, I’m willing to do this for 50 bucks and let’s see. Maybe nobody responds. Let me test out some different things. Maybe somebody does respond and I realize it’s not fun designing graphics for people, or maybe people are paying me tons of money for it and I realize I can go all in on this.

Have a more experimental, exploratory mindset rather than this pressure to look at books and majors and pick your future.

Allison: For sure. One of the common things that I realize when I work with a lot of business owners and not all of them have … certainly most of them don’t actually have college or university experience and even going through the process, you’re going to learn some way. You’re going to learn by doing, or you’re going to learn by paying the education side and much of this. If you want to buy a restaurant or launch a restaurant, you should have worked in restaurants first. Learn from someone else, for sure. From the standpoint of internships and apprentices, I know that there are a ton of college students who work for free on internships. They run and get coffee and don’t have a lot of descriptions, so I love the shift of that to an apprenticeship. How accepted has that been in the market?

Isaac: That’s interesting because in practice, the companies that we place people with, they love this and they’re absolutely loving it and they’re finding a lot of success with it in terms of the way that they experience it. Now, the label apprenticeship, which is what we use and we use that to define the structure like, this is somebody who is not just an intern.

Apprentices are not just here for a summer and gone, and maybe they get some real work, maybe they don’t. With Praxis, there’s accountability. Apprentices have a deliberate intention to try to turn this into a full-time role if they find they’re a fit and they’re doing well. The employer sees this as an opportunity to onboard someone to stay at the company long term.

But during this phase, this 6-month apprenticeship phase, we understand that they’re going to have a higher learning curve. We’re going to be getting a lot of feedback and trying to make that work. When we structure it that way, it’s very, very successful and companies are responding very well. Now that hasn’t really translated much into a broader market awareness of the term “apprenticeship”. If you use that term, almost everybody’s going to think you’re talking about welding or plumbing or something.

Allison: Exactly. Absolutely.

Isaac: Exactly. So, we’re trying to bring that out mainstream and to try to get more people thinking that way, but what you find is a lot of entry level jobs basically are apprenticeships because people know that you don’t really know much coming in unfortunately and that you’re going to have to be ramped up. It’s just that there hasn’t been a lot of explicitly labeling and treating them that way and we’re trying to move things that direction with mixed success.

Take Control of Your Career

Allison: Fantastic. We’re coming near the end so I have one more element to the other business that that you’re the CEO of. I went online this morning, so I went on to crash.co I think is what it is and I took your online assessment and I was shocked at the outcome of it. Is that a free tool to anyone who goes on, and is there a detailed report that comes with it? I got the summary level of it before we hopped onto this interview.

Isaac: Yes. So crash.co  is where you want to go. There’s no m on it.

Allison: Okay.

Isaac: crash.co. We have this free career discovery tool and it’s really to help what I talked about there. Narrow down, given your personality, here are some big buckets that we can put a lot of roles into that you might want to look at. We’ve worked on this over months to try to create something is similar to some personality tests and big 5 traits, but it’s got a unique flavor because it’s specifically focused on those early career opportunities. We found largely it’s been pretty accurate for people, pretty useful, but I’m curious. Maybe it told you something that was off base.

Allison: I wasn’t suggesting it. I was just surprised, and what’s interesting is I have not retained the actual archetype name as it was, but it was suggesting software engineer, which makes me laugh.

Isaac: Hey, you never know.

Allison: You never know.

Isaac: We try to break it down into … and again, I think the further you are in your career, probably the less useful it is, because you already have more specific information about how your skills can be applied. But the earlier you are, the more that I think something like this can help you, at least hopefully eliminate a few things that are probably not a really good fit.

Allison: For sure.

Isaac: If you’re really, really introverted, really detail oriented there are certain things like sales, for example, that probably won’t be that good of a fit, or you’re going to need to work really hard to make them a fit. If you’re very outgoing and competitive, you like to talk and communicate a lot, you work fast – it’s my MO – then sales might be a good place. It’s a fun tool. I encourage everybody to go to go check it out at crash.co and that’s just the first exploratory component of this.

Then we have a skills profile that we’re continuing to work on and refine and find better ways to help people use it. But essentially instead of a resume, if you can create something tangible that has a little bit of you just describing who you are in a video so people can see and hear you showcasing some of the things you’ve done, whether it’s blog posts or book reviews or some software tools that you know, and then the ability to actually create tailored pitches for individual companies on top of that, you can do all of that for free at crash.co.

Allison: That’s fantastic. Those are some fantastic tips, especially for our graduates that are coming into the marketplace. Isaac, thank you so much for your time this afternoon. I definitely want to make sure that we include a link that you would like our listeners to check you out at. What would that be?

Isaac: They can go to crash.co. The blog is there, as well as career guides. There’s a link to the book, some podcast resources. My personal website, I blog there every day, but it’s not always related to this stuff. So, if you’re really curious, you can go to isaacmorehouse.com, but I would probably just say go to crash.co. It’d be the most relevant.

Allison: Okay, fantastic. Well, I again appreciate your time today and I am excited to see your future growth.

Isaac: Thank you so much.

Allison: Thank you.

I'm Allison Dunn,

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