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Ex-Twitter CEO: This simple mental shift can help you land your next job

Catherine Clifford

When you are ready for a professional change, figuring out what to do next can be confusing. Dick Costolo was in that position after stepping down as the CEO of Twitter in July 2015, and he got some great advice, which he says carried him through the process: Be a "fisher," not a "catcher."

In other words, go after what you are curious and passionate about, don't wait around to see what comes your way.

He learned this lesson from Peter Guber, the founder of the video and television company Mandalay Entertainment Group and former CEO of Sony Pictures.

"Peter and I sat down to dinner and he said, 'Listen, when I left Sony Entertainment in the '90s, I had all these offers of things to go do next," Costolo recalls.

Initially, Guber assumed he should accept one of those offers. But then he realized that would be too passive: "You're catching things, and those things that are coming at you are based on what you did before," Gruber explained to Costolo. Instead, Gruber wanted to actively chart his own course.

And that's exactly what he recommended Costolo do. "He said, 'Don't be a catcher, be a fisher,'" Costolo tells CNBC Make It .

"I thought that was great advice, and precisely the advice I took," he says. Costolo launched fitness start-up Chorus in January 2016.

As he sees it, "You're freed from the sort of the shackles of your previous roles that have defined you and free to move on to what you want to do next."

Not that he has had a linear career.

Costolo graduated in 1985 from the University of Michigan with a major in computer science. He turned down job offers to work as a computer programmer after college to move to Chicago and try his hand at improv. His goal was to appear on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

He didn't make it as a comedian.

Eventually, after slogging through a run of low-paying jobs, Costolo turned to building websites and went on to found a couple of tech businesses. In 2003, he launched FeedBurner, which helped publishers monetize RSS feeds. In June 2007, Google bought the company for a reported $100 million.

Though he didn't succeed in the world of comedy, the experience served him well when he became a manager in the corporate world, Costolo says, because it taught him how to communicate.


In improv, you learn to always respond a fellow cast member's line with "yes, and," explains Costolo. This is "basically accepting whatever they initiate and then taking the ball and running with it." Improv scenes fail, says Costolo, when you ignore what your teammate has just said and barge ahead with your own agenda.

"It's no surprise that turns out to be a great way of thinking about business too. When you're a manager or a leader, one of the most important things you can do is listen and gather feedback when you're trying to make decisions," says Costolo. "If you don't listen you can't communicate."

"Fishing" and taking risks has served Costolo well, and he advises others to do the same.

"I gave the commencement speech at the University Michigan in 2013," says Costolo. "I specifically told them, 'Don't do that — don't do what you think you're supposed to do. Instead, take risks.'"

See also:

Ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to start new company

After CEO exit, Twitter says no strategy change

Ex-Twitter CEO: 'I completely, 100 percent agree' Donald Trump should stay on Twitter

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— Video by Andrea Kramar