My first interview for 2016 is with the excellent Karalyn Brown. Karalyn and I talked (and talked and talked) last week, and I came to like her enormously. Personally, I related to her regard for people, all people, no matter who they are, what they do or where they come from Professionally, I respect that when the time came to move on from corporate, she did a quick evaluation of her marketable skills, built a website and then just made it happen. Ten years on, she continues to make it happen by doing good work, aligning herself with great people and continually playing with ideas.
What’s your job exactly?
I founded Interview IQ ten years ago. We provide a range of career marketing services essentially helping people find jobs.
A significant part of our offering is running group workshops, on topics around helping people find jobs. Last year I worked with RMIT helping their graduates develop an online brand and market themselves to find roles. I have also recently delivered group workshops to AMES Skillmax helping overseas migrants use LinkedIn to find a job.
We consult to corporates and assist teams and individuals within organisations build their online brands. So, for example, I work with HR recruitment teams who want to attract people to their organisation; and with Business Development professionals to help build their profile and generate leads. That’s the “delivery” part of this business.
As Chief, I do a lot of business building activities; product development, networking and supporting other similar businesses, social media marketing PR and media.
Why do you love your work?
I love that I’m completely and utterly accountable and that success or failure of my business is largely up to me. In the corporate world, there are lots of places to hide, but it can also be difficult to get new ideas up. I feel that can be a bit of a zombie-like existence; at least, it was for me.
Having my own business has been like doing a professional and personal MBA. It’s been a good way to discover my true strengths and weaknesses. I'm constantly navigating through that and have had a degree of success. Knowing how resilient I am has given me a lot of confidence.
I love experimenting and testing ideas based on my values and intuition. For example, I was one of the first people in the career space to embrace social media and blogging as career marketing tools. That’s paid huge dividends.
I always enjoy being a support to my clients and network, encouraging them to try new ideas, watching them succeed and develop more confidence. It’s a great thing to be able to do.
Where did you previously work?
I worked in various roles at AAMI, starting in Recruitment and HR, then various business improvement projects and finally in market research.
How did you come to set up Interview IQ?
I never felt that I quite fitted in at AAMI, or anywhere else. I couldn’t see any opportunities for myself and began to feel lost. I wanted to do something where I had more accountability and realised that it wasn't going to happen for me in the corporate world.
I did a one-day ‘setting up a website’ course. I created a website and advertised resume services, using Google Adwords. My name and marketing were built around attracting mid to senior tier professionals looking for their next step up the ladder, but my first client was actually a train driver who wanted to work in the mines. He was completely different from who I'd envisioned would be my first client, but I could someone who I could really help.
My train driver client was a wonderful client and working with him, I realised something important, being that regardless of job or position, the most powerful motive for people to take action in their career is to move away from some sort of pain that they’re experiencing. What I also learned was that most people need help making that change.
Ironically the way I launched my business (and this is by default, not design) is the “minimum viable product launch method. Try something and see whether people purchase it. If it's embraced, then it is something to pursue.
What was your first ever job?
Weirdly I studied land surveying at Uni. I did it, as I wanted to challenge myself. I graduated in top 10% but had to work so hard at it. My first professional job was as a land surveyor in Albury-Wodonga. I did it for 2-years and hated it. I decided to take a career break, went overseas and picked grapes in Greece, worked in aged care and waitressed.
I then came back to Australia and worked in customer service recruiting customer service professionals. That became the starting point for what I do now.
Can you remember what you wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?
I literally had no idea! A lot of schools now invest in career guidance, which is a good thing. Study and career choice has been too focused on student results rather than their values or strengths. I support experimentation to figure out what you want to do, but I think that’s frowned on a bit as it can still be seen as “having no direction.”
Have you done formal studies?
Beyond university, I’ve done a direct marketing course, but most of my post-university education has been self-taught. For example, when I was looking at moving out of the corporate world I started doing freelance journalism out of curiosity, to improve my writing skills and as a way of building up my brand online. I wrote for The Australian, Management Today, Recruitment Extra, CareerOne and Human Resources Magazine, plus a couple of pieces for the Sydney Morning Herald.
The reason I did this ten years ago was I had no brand as such. I assumed that people who wanted to find more about me could Google me. And that my name would be associated with someone who was interested in ideas around work and wanted to contribute to a discussion that might help people.
What makes you choose to attend specific courses or conferences?
It’s about solving whatever problem I have at the time. For example, the web course I mentioned earlier – I needed to learn how to build a web page. Other courses I’ve done have been around entrepreneurship, app development and using social media.
Have you got future career/business plans?
The last year has been really exciting for me because after talking about it for 6-years on my Interview IQ blog, a number of corporates have approached me to help them with their LinkedIn profiles and professional branding. I’m keen to grow far beyond personal delivery so I’m currently exploring different business models.
What does your work-week look like?
Pretty flexible. I take advantage of the fact that I can work from anywhere, cafes, library and offices. A favourite place of mine to work from is the Melbourne City Library.
My week includes consulting conversations with clients interested in working with me, writing projects, marketing and business development via blogging and social media, networking among my industry, making referrals to my network of related professionals for interview skills coaching and career counselling.
What is your standout proudest career moment?
I’m really very proud of my business. I’m proud that as an individual with a laptop, I created a brand that attracts clients from across the globe and a global network. I have been asked to contribute to sites such as Mashable and BBC Capital.
I’m proud that people at all levels trust me and want my advice.
I am really happy that my blog has helped people in ways that I couldn’t have imagined; giving them insights into the job hunting process and helping them find jobs. Often I forget this when I am in the middle of everything, but the work that I do and my colleagues have done actually change lives, giving people a new way of looking at themselves, marketing themselves or changing the way they view their work.
If you had the possibility to go back and change anything in your career, would you?
Yes, I have a tendency to get stuck without realising I am stuck and getting help. It’s a pattern that has repeated for me that I am working on. For example, I stayed at AAMI way too long. I stayed in surveying too long. I knew at the on year mark it wasn’t right for me. Now I am gaining new confidence in trusting that if it does not “feel right” then something is amiss.
Is there anyone whose career you really admire?
There are a few people I really admire. Deborah Barit from Impressive Interviews is an amazing inspiration. She’s kind and caring and direct. She challenges my assumptions on how I interact with people. I trust her and get fantastic advice. I refer all my interview-coaching clients to her, as she is the best in the business.
I always get something interesting from reading Seth Godin’s daily blogs. His values around marketing and business resonate with me.
I have absorbed ideas from different people along the way. For example I love the brand that Emma Issacs has built with Business Chicks. I read an interview where she said to start a business you don’t need all the answers, you just need to take the first step. I love that as I think many people get stuck.
Do you have a mentor?
Not really, but with my work I’ve met a lot of fantastic people who I can bounce ideas off.
How do you unwind?
I go for a swim – it’s how I like to start my day. I also like to get out bush, far enough out where there’s no energy from the city, where there’s just the energy of nature
What do you want to do next in your career/business?
To have a business that can exist without me. I’d like to be more of the true CEO and hand things over and mentor people to do what I do, only much better than me.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing your current work?
I'd really like to drown in the world of ideas and develop more as a writer. I've written hundreds of things in the career space, but if I could let go of this, I’d probably move into the social justice/journalistic mode.
What do you want more of in your career right now?
Creative freedom, time and space to take my business into its next phase. I’d like to have other people coming into my business so that I can step back and they can contribute as well as get what they want from it.
And less of?
What do you think the biggest fail a person can have running their company?
Associating your commercial value with how you see yourself rather than the value of what you deliver. It’s a lesson I have always struggled with.
If you knew me really well, you’d know …
I value honesty and fairness, people who are open and able to be vulnerable enough to have a genuine conversation.
What kind of impact do you think you have on the people you work with?
As much as I value self-awareness, I find it hard to truly understand myself so this I am sure is more of an aspiration! I hope I give people ideas and confidence. I think I have a level of empathy and non-judgment that helps people to open up and gain confidence, ideas and optimism.
What are you like at work when you’re stressed?
I shut down and become introspective and thoughtful. If I'm having issues with individuals I run around trying to work out ways to make what I do perfect rather than directly addressing the issues.
What are you like at work when you’re relaxed?
Full of ideas, fun to be around, acting on intuition and going with the flow. More communicative
What’s important to you?
Truth, being open and honest. Acknowledging when something’s not right. The truth can be hard, but there’s freedom dealing with facts, not trying to second-guess.
Outside of work, what do you love about your life right now?
I love where I live. Two years ago I moved to an apartment in Melbourne’s CBD with a great view. It’s a place where people like to stay when they’re visiting. I was amazed to discover how important it is to live in the right place, and how it impacts my sense of wellbeing.
And finally, a quick pop quiz!
Favourite song? I love Johnny Cash, his story songs and how he sings Jackson
Favourite book? Brene Brown's Daring Greatly - I feel like it changed my life.
Favourite outlook? Looking at the sea, Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne
Favourite place? Brigalong in Gippsland Victoria. In Sydney, it’s Maroubra Beach Pool.
All images provided by Karalyn Brown
If you enjoyed reading about Karalyn's career, here's the link for interviews I've done with more people who love their work.