Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meet Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Resume writer Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, owner of Career Trend, will be interviewed on Meet LeadChange today (Aug. 12, 2010). The show will air at 3 p.m. EST. Use this link to listen live or to a replay at your convenience.

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Here are some excerpts from today's chat between Jacqui and Mike Henry, Sr.:


Mike Henry Sr.: Tell us a little bit about you and how you got where you are:
Jacqui: The most important things to know about me is that primarily that my passion and my value to the audience I serve is strategic writing and strategic careers writing. Writing and positioning individuals in the careers marketplace. Serving leaders who are at a point in their career where they want to position themselves in such a way that they stand apart uniquely. They’re not just espousing their leadership, but painting a picture that is colorful and shows the nuances of how they solve problems.

And people who, in their careers, are not at that place but, but want to break through. How can they create tracks in their careers and in their career messaging. Helping them understand: What type of leader am I individually? (Integrity-wise, ethically?) Companies are interested in the bottom line, so how do we knit that all together?

It’s a real challenge to understand for yourself how to do that very well. We don’t judge ourselves as objectively as we’d like to think.

You write for a lot of different websites. That’s a large community of folks that do what you do, right? Folks in the career business who are helping with resumes?

Yes, absolutely. What’s happened for me in the last, probably fewer than 3 years, is an explosion of communication throughout the Internet because of social media. I’ve created my own blog on CareerTrend.net that I enjoy and that is driving more of my communication. However, a large part of these affiliations (Career Collective, Resume Chicks, Careerrealism, JobHunt.org, and TalentCulture)… these are all talent/career/jobhunt/resume focused areas that many resume writers and careerists and recruiters and job hunt experts and career coaches aligned together to build a stronger voice that we couldn’t have alone. I appreciate the more than I ever did. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, but the last 3 or so years have driven the point home how important it is to drive the point home. Within the community, you need leaders. There is an interesting dynamic going on.

I see this in the leadership world, relative to leadership design, too. There are issues around talent management and defining yourself. Then social media took off and the economy bottomed out. I’m looking at a lot of those places and trying to turn the LeadChange group into this type of thing. I do leadership consulting and coaching. I’m trying to separate my business and the group. I want to create a community of leadership professionals who are doing what you are talking about, in the talent space.

We do that too as a collective as a group in these different initiatives. Each of them have their own unique goals and missions. Some of them I’m in a leadership role, and others I’m just contributing. They each seem to have their own mission style and goal. And the participants have their own entrepreneurial ventures to promote.

There’s another group where it’s her business, but she’s integrated in a community blog. In my case, CareerTrend is separate from the organization, but it obviously becomes aligned with these organizations and they feed each other.

Being in the career management/talent management around leadership space, how do you see career management and leadership overlapping? How do they fit together? Or do you? You want to see some results and you’re trying to help people put the results of what they’ve done in their resume and their information about themselves that they release to the world. Where I was going with this original question was: I think a big part of career management, to me, is actually having done what you wish everybody thought you did. Having the results to show for those kinds of things.

I recently had 3 clients, back-to-back, come to the table ready for what I call “the interview.” As part of my process with executives, I have my clients go through a rigorous process that involves a lot of heavy lifting on their part. Once they’re done with that, we go over their high-level, over-arching accomplishments as leaders and try to break them out into stories that aren’t so heavy that the reader gets lost. We think about what it is about their leadership style that sets them apart. I’m thinking in particular about a client who was aspiring towards companies that have a double-profit-margin focus – it’s where the company considers both financial and social consequences for their arriving at their business decisions. You don’t want to dilute the resume with social causes, but you want to blend that in a way to attract the kind of leadership opportunities that they desire. And then pull in their past record to show that they’ve been there, done that. Most people are proud of their stories but they’re so close to them, they forget the level and breadth of what they’ve done because they’ve moved onto the next strategic initiative.

Do you see any changes in what people are looking for in a job, or in a candidate, or how they present themselves?

I am. I am seeing more people come to me who say, “I really want to make a difference.” There is a lot of hard reality talk involved. Sometimes they’re in the midst of career coaching and they’re fighting that battle: Can I make a difference and make a living? Are they willing to make the sacrifice? There is a lot of internal struggle. There is no easy answer to that, for most people. Also, companies, I see, in the position descriptions, looking for a certain sort of person – mentioning ethics and integrity. I see more of that message.

When I was first Twittering last spring and summer, I was following people who were talking about leadership, and then invited them to join the LinkedIn group. We seem to have found a group of people who are passionate about making a positive difference, and not just talking about leadership. We are all challenged by the same thing: Not just doing this to make a buck.

I’m hearing that more. I’m hearing more people coming to me, this year than last, who are saying, I’m not in fear of my job ending, but they’re just really tired and it’s as simple as not being thanked or appreciated. I’m hearing it more than I ever have in my 13 years, and it’s not just about the money. The people I work with, the leaders, the ones I really learn from, speak to that. And they speak with such conviction about what has helped them rise to where they are. They want their teams, or the people that report to them, or they collaborate with, to feel that they are the heart of the company; that they’re not just being dictated to.

Most recently, I was surprised to hear one of my clients describe one or two opportunities that she passed up on, or even left a role, where she was asked to go against her own value system. And I think that’s a good example. I’m still learning from her “how to be” when push comes to shove.

One thing I’m noticing, in my own perspective, is that a lot of us see the emptiness of just pursuing money all the time, or just pursuing trying to be one of the people who hit the home run when the company makes its mint, or whatever. As the group of people who don’t get to hit the home run gets larger, we just get tired of that, so we start saying, “What do I really want to do?” I think built into all of us is a desire is to make a dent bigger than we are. Like Steve Jobs’ quote about making a ding, or a dent in the universe. I think we’d like the impression, when our pebble hits the metal, I’d like the dent that it leaves to be bigger than it was.

That’s a good analogy. Another gentleman I’ve been working with has a long career in HR. We wrote his biography recently, which usually gives me a sense beyond their resume of their personal side. He and several others I’ve written for in that way, has been a common thread of being brought up in a situation where they didn’t have a lot, and worked hard, and had a customer service ethic, and achieved this – but they wanted to leave a mark, and make something better than when they came in. It’s hopeful to hear that with some of the bad that surrounds us, if we focus on the good, and those people, then there is a lot of pebbles gathering together to make a difference.

How did you get involved in this, from the beginning?
I had been in corporate America for 10-12 years and I had a writing degree (a bachelor’s degree, with a  journalism emphasis). I liked the written word, and I had been in a  PR role with a company. When I separated from my last company, one of the partners actually left (the one I directly worked for) and rather than taking another position, I had this little niggling goal to start my own gig, using my own writing. I wrote a restaurant menu as one of my first freelancing jobs. I continued to do stuff like that, but I advertised to do resume writing. This was back in 1997. I had a little ad in the local Kansas City newspaper that someone at a career management firm saw. They asked me to come and consult for them – but I wasn’t looking for a job. I had a financial severance package to last me for six months. I did start to work with them. I enjoyed it, and did pretty good with it, and one of the partners of that company was the original owner of CareerTrend and she mentored me. Here I was in my 30s, and I hadn’t had much mentorship, but I felt this person doing this for me, so it was a good example for me, and as well for my clients. They offered to sell me a spin-off, CareerTrend, from their company. I liked it enough to narrow my niche and the more I narrowed it, and the more I got involved, I started absolving myself of other types of writing, because it was too distracting. Then I started focusing on the conferences, and training, and the development to be the best I could be. I’m more strategic and gaining the credentials I felt would serve my clients, and serve my business. And that’s kind of how that happened. It was brick-and-mortar when I started, and now it’s totally Internet-based.

Was is a difficult transition to go from brick-and-mortar to Internet-based?
It was difficult, but yet it was organic. Paying for the overhead – and really, I was in a very high profile business district in Overland Park, Kansas– gave me a lot of confidence, but it became onerous after a while. It was like another mortgage. As the Internet became more integral, I had a website developed, and I did a lot of things that made that happen. I also went through a divorce, which made it a lot harder. But it worked out. You just keep making adjustments. If this isn’t working, how can I contain costs and build revenue? It’s great how creative your mind gets under the pressure of desire. I had a great desire to make it work. I brought it into my home for a while. The partnerships, like ExecuNet. There are so many partnerships, like Career Management Alliance. They’ve given back to me 10-fold. I meet people all over the country, sometimes the world and suddenly you’re lifting each other’s businesses concurrently. Like you’re doing with LeadChange; it’s such a rising tide. There are times when it’s stormy, but if you can not let that make you be afraid to do what you need to do. If you can keep your focus on what you want to do. That’s what happened for me.

You reference not being afraid. I think doing courageous things are the least scary. What we call courage in hindsight is the least fearful option.
I couldn’t agree with you more.

I ask this question to everybody. Jim Holland asked me this question several weeks ago. When we talk about character-based leadership, it’s less about the character traits, and more about the character. It’s about leading about from who you are. That makes everyone a leader. We are all self leaders. When did you first begin to realize you had some leadership ability?

I was trying to think about this and I already used part of my response, which was: Where my business has gone. That introduced me to more leaders, and made my need for understanding leadership more necessary. I sometimes think I’m in leadership roles, and sometimes I don’t. I have a board role, for example, in Career Management Alliance, which requires leadership in a particular area (the credentialing), which is good for me. There seems to be a morph from when I was following — and I know you don’t like that word, “following” – but I was doing my own thing; I never liked to be told what to do. But I wasn’t in a leadership position, per se. I was just trying to grow and be the best I could be. You aspire to be like the people in the industry who are the named leaders. I’ve had a couple of people comment on me being a leader, but I think it’s just more a comment on my activities.

LeadChange is very visible on Twitter; it’s very real-time and visible. This has allowed me to lead and be led by so many people. I enjoy that back-and-forth. I understand that ultimately in business, you have to have someone making the decisions, and I get that. Sometimes I’m making the decisions, and sometimes I’m seeding the leader with some ideas. I had a couple of people in my industry I work really closely with projects, and one of us takes over the ultimate leadership role. I don’t see myself as a leader in general, but functionally, and in certain instances. I have to lead my business.

That’s the challenge. There’s a dichotomy between the position-based activity and the internally-inspired activity. Position-based followership is what we always talk about. No one want to grow up to be a follower.

For me, it’s just been transformative. My business has just changed so much, the texture of it, the past several years. People I may never have met – I hopefully would have – so many people I communicate with daily, I didn’t even know. I may have heard of them, but even then it was a blip on the screen. We have so many opportunities; it can be overwhelming, but if we keep our center about us.

Is there one message or one idea you’d like to give people?
You sound like a question I’d ask my clients, because that’s a big question. I think there’s so much to be hopeful for, and groups like LeadChange contribute to that. Be involved and get involved and we can’t be involved in every group, but step into areas of discomfort and start exploring and you’ll find that your life, and career, and business will improve. Don’t ever get stuck in the same-old, same-old, and you’ll find opportunities to grow, and that can grow you. Just keep moving.

You can’t steer a parked car.
Exactly.

If you are looking forward to doing something different with your career messaging, especially in a leadership role, get in contact with Jacqui. You can reach her @ValueintoWords on Twitter.
I love to converse, rather than just tweeting and retweeting.

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