‘I wish I had called you sooner’ is a common comment Sarah Johnston hears from her clients. As a former corporate recruiter, Sarah got tired of seeing great people get passed over for opportunities because they didn’t interview to the best of their ability. She launched her business, BriefcaseCoach.com in 2016 to partner with high achievers to help them reach their career goals and full potential. Sarah works with all career levels – from C-suite to new graduates. Her past clients include SVP of Innovation, VP of Business Development, Corporate Asset Managers, and MDs for multi-billion dollar companies as well as Pharmacists and many more. In this exclusive interview with Manning Global, Sarah discusses her success stories, plus offers some essential networking advice for candidates who are looking to take the next step in their career!
Please could you give our readers a quick recap of how and why you started BriefcaseCoach.com
I was working as a corporate recruiter – I loved the work I did. It was mission-focused, I had a great boss and I was good at it. But I got tired of seeing talented high-achievers get passed over for opportunities because they did not have the right marketing documents.
How is BriefcaseCoach.com unique and what makes your company so successful?
Any job seeker can Google ‘job search tips’ and find great information online for free. What I offer is a personalised, white glove approach to the job search. I work with people one-on-one to identify their strengths, goals and what makes them unique so that they can better position for smart opportunities and present the best version of themselves when they get the chance to interview for their dream job.
Please could you name the three most inspiring people you’ve met…
I really admire Maureen McCann, Virginia Franco and Adrienne Tom. I think that they are smart, approachable women in my industry who give generously, and do quality work. One thing that Adrienne shared with me early on that I’ve adopted as a personal mantra is to have a ‘slow burn’. She says, ‘Some goals take days and some take years, and that is okay. What is right is what works for each individual. We each define our own success, shaping it as we grow’. I remind myself of these words often when being self-employed feels overwhelming.
Founder, Career Coach, Blogger, Writer… that’s a lot of roles and skills, which are your favourites and why?
The creativity of being a founder drives me to work long hours (sometimes unpaid!). I love being able to solve problems and roll out new solutions. Being a career coach keeps me coming back to this hard job day after day. Getting an email from a client saying, ‘I landed my dream job. You were instrumental in my success and I can’t thank you enough’, NEVER gets old!
Do you have any success stories from your coaching that you’d like to share?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people over the past few years. Every week I feel like I get a new favourite client. This month I’ve been working with a non-native citizen interviewing for a big role at Google. I’ve seen him transform over the past few sessions together as he’s gotten more confident. He’s now leveraging stories in his interview and is more comfortable sharing his results (which are powerful!). He has his fifth interview with the company this week and I am confident he is going to nail it!
How can candidates stand out from the crowd when it comes to job applications?
Get on LinkedIn! However, don’t just create a profile and expect things to come to you. Learn how to fully utilise the search feature and find people in your target industry.
You have a service especially for ‘Executives’, please could you tell us more about this…
I recently heard William Arruda speak at a Career Thought Leaders International conference. He shared that in this digital age, it’s ‘digital first’. This means that first impressions are now formed online before they are formed in person. I help executives tailor their personal branding documents online (LinkedIn page & resumes) so that they not only stand out, but that they position themselves for the right opportunities. Because I am a former corporate recruiter, I know how to navigate the job search process. I help executive job seekers think about their own personal network and how to strategically network.
What would you say are the most innovative talent acquisition strategies for executives in 2021?
The future of work – as every economist and career thought leader predicts – is automation. You will continue to see the rise of artificial intelligence in the job search process. On the flip side, I think that there is going to be an increased need for ‘old school skills’, like networking. If you want to be relevant in 2030, I think a little old book written in 1936 by Dale Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People is still going to be one of the most influential books in the future!
Why should BriefcaseCoach.com be every candidate’s go-to resource?
I produce high quality content. My article series, Curated Career Conversations, includes interviews with world experts on job search related topics. I have a page on my site with a list of job search work teams across the US. This is a gold mine for a job seeker because research shows that people in job teams find work 20% faster than people searching alone. I archive all of my LinkedIn posts on my website representing thousands of viewpoints and rich content.
What was your dream job as a child?
I wanted to be Katie Couric. I grew up in a small town in Georgia, USA, and Katie’s segment on the Today Show was my window into the world. However, I don’t think my 12 year old self would be disappointed with my career trajectory. Like her, I have the opportunity to interview amazing people and help them tell their story to the world!
Finally, enough about work, let’s hear more about the real Sarah… If you could listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m going to overshare here and tell you that people (almost 15 years later) tell me that they still think of me when they hear Cascada’s Every time We Touch. Not because of the lyrics but because this song was my anthem. If you’ve never heard it before, it’s a weird Eurodance song. In some ways, this song represents me. I am typically a very positive person and am confident beating to my own drum!
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