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In this interview series, we caught up with Sarah Johnston from Briefcase Coach, who shares her expertise and insights about a job search, career change, etc. in today’s marketplace.

Tell Us a Little Bit About Your Company

The Briefcase Coach helps high achievers land target jobs through strategic networking coaching, resume writing, and interview coaching.
Past clients have landed leadership opportunities at top companies like Google, Medtronic, Deloitte, and PepsiCo.

How Did You Get Started?

I started my career as a corporate recruiter. Then I got tired of seeing hard-working people get passed over for opportunities because they didn’t know how to position themselves during the job search.
I have also relocated 4x (Georgia to Missouri to Ohio to North Carolina) and know the struggles of job searching without a professional network. I landed jobs at top employers and have successfully coached clients to do the same.

Is This Something You Decided Early on in Your Career?

I recently found a paper that I wrote when I was a senior in college.
As part of our senior project in my business leadership class, we had an in-depth project on our future profession. I wrote that my dream was to, “help people find jobs where they will thrive”.
Almost 15-years later, that’s what I get to do every day.

What Is the Best Career Advice You’ve Ever Received?

Life is a marathon and not a sprint.

What Is the Most Exciting Part of Working in This Industry?

I still love getting the, “I GOT THE JOB” text messages.
They never get old. I love helping people land their dream jobs.

How Do to Stay Abreast of the Industry as an Expert?

I am committed to continuing my education.
Not only am I involved in the Career Thought Leaders and the Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches, but I also read an hour a day.
I love to learn and stay abreast of the latest trends.

What Are Some of the Things That You See Job Seekers Struggle with the Most?

One of the most common mistakes that I see job seekers make is that they are spending the majority of their time on job boards vs. networking.
I am a big advocate of the “hidden job market” and highly recommend informational interviews.

What Are the Common Mistakes That You See Them Do?

Outside of applying online, I often see job seekers not having a strategy. You would never take a road trip without directions.
Similarly, you should not start a job search without a “target list of companies” and a target job title/opportunity. It’s hard to land a job if you don’t know what/where you are trying to land.

How Should Job Seekers Approach Job Search Today?

Applicant tracking systems have made it EASIER for job seekers to access opportunity but extremely difficult to stand out. Job seekers who can humanize their search in this digital age will be memorable.

What Is the Biggest Trend(s) You See That Job Seeker Will Face in the Next 2-3 Years?

You will continue to see a rise in video interviews.
I’ve read reports that over 60% of recruiters are utilizing video interviews and that number will continue to rise.
This is great news for increasing talent access but presents a challenge for job seekers who are not native to this technology or who have limited access to the internet.

What Is One Advice You Would Give Someone Just Out of College Today?

Don’t be afraid of asking for ADVICE. Trust me, people love talking about themselves!
Ask people you admire open-ended questions like:
  • “What was your first job out of college” and
  • “How did you end up where you are now?”
  • “What do you wish you’d done differently?”

Job Search


What Is One Advice You Would Give Someone Who Is Switching Careers?

As a career changer, my best advice is to develop tough skin and to leverage your network.

How Should Job Seekers Get the Most out of LinkedIn?

Optimize your LinkedIn headline with keywords that a recruiter would search for if they were looking for someone with your skills or background.
I also use free online keyword analytic tools to pick the best keywords.
For example, for a while I was saying “job search strategist”, but after doing a keyword search found that more people search for “career coach”.
Since shifting my language, I’ve seen about a 30-40% increase in LinkedIn search appearances.

Unemployment Is at the Lowest Levels, Why Do You Think That Is?

The United States has had historically low unemployment over the last 10-years.
However, as someone who closely follows the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report, I think it’s safe to say that the economy is shifting and unfortunately job seekers should start preparing for less uncertain economic times.
If you are employed, I’d strongly recommend having an updated resume and an optimized LinkedIn page.

What Is the Biggest Trend(s) You See That Hiring Managers Will Face in the Next 2-3 Years?

Employer branding is only going to amplify over the next 2-3 years. Job seekers are going to need to become savvier about distinguishing marketing from reality.

What Are the Best Resources You Recommend to Job Seekers?

Best Blog: I put out a bi-weekly interview with industry experts on job search-related topics.
The articles are an absolute job search gold mine. 
I also have a monthly newsletter with some of the best job search articles on the web

Sarah, What Are You Currently Working on?

I am excited to share that in August, I am launching one of the FIRST job search Alexa Flash Briefings

What Is the Best Way for Our Audience to Reach You?

Sarah Johnston Email – Sarah@briefcasecoach.com

Connect with or Follow Sarah Johnston on Social Media

Sarah Johnston and Briefcase Coach have also been featured in our recent compilation of the most resourceful career experts and career blogs –  Top Career Advice Websites.    

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