Finding your dream job may not be what most people expect. For some, their dreams are only realized after life has thrown an unexpected curve ball. They find that they are on to a different path than what they had planned. Keynote speaker Jennifer Hill says its okay. She shares her own personal experience when she took a different route that later on led her to become a successful president of a recruitment company. Jennifer gives some great tips on how to go about pursuing your dream job and getting hired. She also gives entrepreneurs advice on going public and taking that step to selling their companies, stressing the importance of perspectives, integrity, and the value of storytelling.
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Stop Hoping: Start Hunting with Jennifer Hill
I have Jennifer Hill who is the President and also a Speaker of a company called JHill’s Staffing Services. She began recruiting back in 2003 and she’s recruited for top-tier law offices and she’s appeared on all kinds of major news outlets. She opened her own staffing company and it was recently sold in 2018. She remains on as the President. She hosts a weekly radio show on LA Talk Radio called Get Yourself the Job with over 30,000 listeners a month where she interviews experts and authors about landing your dream job. Jennifer, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, John.
I always like to ask my guest to take us back to their story of origin. When did you start to say, “I want to help people get their dream job,” or did you see other people, maybe your parents not having one? How did it all get started?
My parents were inspirational. My mom has been a nurse for 35 years and my dad was a captain at the Fire Department for over 30 years in North County, San Diego where I grew up. My origin story was probably more along the lines of when I graduated high school, I took the GED to go straight to college when I was sixteen. I get bored easily. I have Squirrel Syndrome, which means I like to have a lot of balls in the air and a lot of things going on. I went to college and I graduated college early. The few years, a year and a half or so that I was in high school, all I took was advanced placement classes. I’ve got a phone call from my college after I’d walked and graduated.
It was about two or three months after graduation and I was planning to go to law school. I was studying for the LSATs and this phone call comes in, “Is this Jennifer Hill?” “Yes. What can I do for you?” “This is Susan in admissions over at UC Irvine. We wanted to let you know that you didn’t graduate. You’re missing a class from high school, US History 101.” I cannot even make this up. I had reoccurring nightmares about this for about ten years afterwards. It turned out because I had taken advanced placement European History in lieu of US History 101 in the brief time I was at high school that that didn’t count.
The lovely admissions or counselor, whoever it was, called and said, “Jennifer, we’re going to give you two options. Option number one is that you come back to school for a semester, take the class and pass it. Option number two is that you take a thousand-page book on US History 101. Memorize as much as you can, and take a two-hour oral exam with the Dean of Social Sciences. Pass or fail.” I opted for the latter. I was fortunate that I did pass the two-hour oral exam, but because of rollover applications for law firms, I could not apply to law school that year. It was the best gift that ever happened to me.
I do a lot of motivational speaking. I did a talk with a lot of interns at a company yesterday. One of the things I tell them is sometimes in your career you think you’re going to go left. The universe is like, “No, you’re going to go right. Make a U-turn. Go backward.” You circumvent the direction you thought you were going to go, but it was the best gift that ever happened to me. In lieu of going to law school that year, I posted my resume on Monster and I got three job offers. One of which was to become a recruiter, which I didn’t even know what that was. Lo and behold, here I am running my own company for ten years, having sold it and having worked for some of the top corporations and law firms around the world. I feel fortunate to do what I do.To land your dream job, one has to feel that there’s a purpose besides making money. Click To Tweet
Both of your parents are in the service caregiver/EMT world. You grow up in this environment of when you have a career, your career should be saving lives in one form or another. That seems to be the theme.
I never put two and two together on that. That’s a good observation.
I’m looking at your early influences of making a difference in your career, especially under the theme of landing your dream job. One has to feel that there’s a purpose besides just making money. You certainly had that modeled for you. The other irony in your story is here you are thinking you’re going to law school. The most core fundamental issue of US History and knowing the Constitution was something that somehow slipped between the cracks. If you were going to go do anything else besides a lawyer, of all the things to not have, that’s the prerequisite.
In all the years I’ve told those stories, I don’t think anybody has ever keyed in on either of those points.
The other part that’s fascinating for me is if we can have people who are reading realize that you’re in the situation, in my case, I got laid off after being at Condé Nast for fifteen years. In your case, you didn’t get to go to law school when you thought you were going to. All those things that we think are bad news with some perspective in your rearview mirror, you can see, “That was the right thing for me.” When the next thing that happens to us is something that we don’t think we want or like, maybe we can, while we’re in the moment, not hit the panic button so much.
There’s a talk that I do that’s popular on empowerment and perspective that I do around the country. One of the topics that we discuss is when we’re dealing with the subject of perspective. If you’ve ever studied neuro-linguistic programming or if you’re familiar at all with neuroscience, the way the human brain works and our perception works is moment by moment, we are bombarded with billions of bits of information, sights, colors, sounds, smells, touch and etc. However, our brain at any given moment is only paying attention to a couple thousand of those bits of information. What does this mean? It means what do we perceive? What happens to the rest of those multibillions of bits?
This is the analogy I like to use to help people better understand it. It’s like that Jennifer Hill, as a human being, is in this huge, black warehouse. It’s pitch black, you cannot see whatsoever. The only thing that I have is a headlamp on my forehead. That headlamp, depending on which direction I’m going to turn my head, is going to directly impact what it is I’m seeing or not seeing. That is our perspective. You have to keep in mind that you have multitudes of things to choose to look at all around you. For example, in your case with the layoff at Condé Nast or in my case, when I couldn’t go to law school, if you focus on how unfair it is that the world is unfair and that you’re a victim, you’re going to find evidence to prove that right because that’s where your headlamp is pointed. However, if you choose to look at, “What a great opportunity. I wonder where this is coming from and why this is the lesson I’m supposed to learn in this,” then you have access to a whole different path that you can take through life at the warehouse.
A lot of people who are reading are entrepreneurs. One of the entrepreneurs’ dreams is to go public or sell their company for a nice exit for themselves and investors. You had that happen to you. Can you tell us a little bit about that story?
It’s a great story because it all came to fruition this exact time on my own radio show which is called Get Yourself The Job. I interview experts from around the world about how to be successful, whether you’re an entrepreneur or a job seeker, to get up every day and do what you love. The guest’s name was Gary Douglas, multi-bestselling author, 25 books. He joins me on the show. He tells me about this game called How Does Life Get Any Better Than This? Basically, the premise of the game is every time something good happens, you say out loud, “How does it get any better than this? How does life get any better than this?”
He gives us a great story of a woman who walks out of his program in New York. As she walks out of the program, she comes across a dime. She yelps with delight. Instead of walking by, she says, “How does it get any better than this?” She walks another twenty feet, and she comes across a $10 bill. She says again, “How does it get any better than this?” She realized that she has enough money to make it home in a cab rather than walking home in New York. She raises her hand, gets a cab immediately, and is saying out loud, “I don’t understand, how can it get much better than this?” She gets out of the cab, finds a diamond tennis bracelet with nobody around to claim it.
You can imagine, I started playing this game. Three weeks later, on the nose, I was not looking to sell my company. I had been playing this, How Does It Get Any Better Than This, game for three weeks straight. I’m just being grateful, appreciative and again, turning my headlamp towards whatever was wonderful in my life. Out of the blue, a company reaches out and says, “We want to buy you.” I said, “I can’t quite say I’m for sale. I’m certainly open to negotiations.” Six months of M&A attorneys later, here we are. I’m lucky that the company that acquired me is great. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to partner with them on everything we’re doing. The power of perception, what you focus on expands.
What do you think it was about you and your company that made the company that bought you wants to buy you in the first place?
I have to say it’s my brand equity. We’re one of the few staffing firms. If you search for my company, we have five stars. I’m lucky that I’ve spent the last ten years working on myself as an individual. The latest talk that I’m working on is called I’m a Recovering Asshole, because I am. Everybody who knows me from earlier in my career from about when I was 18 to 23 will definitely concur with that statement. I went from being a complete jerk, whatever you want to call me, to transforming myself into somebody who had integrity, who you could count on. If I give my word to something, you can guarantee that I’m going to do it. I was able to create a foundation for a successful company based upon that.
From there, some of the top talent in the industry kept approaching me and saying, “Please, can we come and work with you?” They told me outright, “We’re buying you.” When I came up with the company name of JHill’s Staffing, it was a joke. It was a gag. I did not mean when I opened my company in 2009 to actually build a company and sell it. I feel fortunate that I follow the leads of the universe. I allow things to be in the flow. Whenever I’m meant t to close one chapter, another one opens and I step through that door.
You also wrote a book which is great branding called Stop Hoping. Start Hunting!: A Job Seeker’s Guide To Finding A Dream A Job. You were able to get on Conan O’Brien with it. Tell us that story.
It was in the middle of my book tour. I was lucky from a young age I had a wonderful PR guy, Richard Berman, who did all my PR. He was getting me TV appearances long before I even had written a book. When my book got launched, I was flying around the country doing different TV appearances. I had bought my mother-in-law tickets to see Conan O’Brien for her and her niece. We go to go see Conan, but that day I stopped by my office first. One of my colleagues, Scott, says to me, “JHill, grab a copy of your book.” I looked at him, I’m like, “Scott, I’m not appearing on Conan. It’s not my book tour. I’m going there as a guest.” He gives me side-eye and he says, “You never know. It might be a funny gag to sign the book for him and say, ‘Good luck one day finding your dream job,’” if he’d been fired from The Tonight Show. I signed the book to Conan. We get to the show. I talked to one of the PAs and I said, “As a gag, I brought a copy of my book for Conan. Here’s a copy if you want to give it to him. It’s a gag since he just lost his job.” The PA was nice and she said, “Conan’s sweet. Oftentimes after the show, he’ll come into the audience and greet the guests or greet people in the audience. If he does, give him the book then or give it to one of us at the end of the show. If he doesn’t, then we’ll give it to him then.” I said, “Okay, great.”
Five minutes and 55 seconds into Conan’s show, and we all know this because it went viral, Conan started doing a joke about oral sex. If you know anything about the legal industry, it is a conservative industry. Most of my clients are AM 100 Law firms, Fortune 500 companies. Conan starts doing this joke about oral sex and I laugh. I have an uproarious, loud laugh. It’s who I am. The camera pans to me. I see myself on the screen laughing about Conan’s joke. I tried to cover my face. All of my clients are going to fire me over this. I try to cover my face and then Conan’s like, “Somebody wants to talk about this.” We go back and forth. Everybody thought it was staged. I was mortified at that moment. I thought I was going to be fired by every client I’ve ever worked with.
Conan starts playing with me, doing this whole bit about it. When he comes up into the audience unexpectedly to hug me, I’m like, “Conan, it’s on. You damaged my professional reputation. I am totally promoting my book.” I hugged him with my book cover to the camera. Out of that, I handed him a book. It turned into a two-and-a-half-minute bit on Conan’s show called The Sex App Joke & The Audience Lady. I’m affectionately known. I have one million views on Conan’s website for that. It was great because as my PR guy said, “No publicity is bad publicity,” and it got me a lot of clients rather than losing them.
How wonderful would have it been if you had not listened to the person going, “You never know, just bring your book?” All of that happened because you were in this mindset of, “How does life get any better? I don’t have any expectations that my book’s going to be on the show.” Yet, if you didn’t have it there for that moment, that would be amazing.
It was fortuitous. That’s why I say, “You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time.” I’m a spiritual person. Since I’m a recovering A-hole, I spent about an hour of meditation every morning to make sure that I don’t fall back into my reactive ways. I call it the Red Mist. Some people have the Hulk. I turn into the Red Mist if I’m not balanced and thoughtful in my daily actions. I have to be responsible for that.
What’s up for you next?
What I’m doing is I’m partnering with the organization that bought me called Marcum Search. We’re looking to expand throughout California. It’s amazing how much you can do when it’s not your money. We’ve hired three people for the new company in the last three months. I love it that they fully support me. The company sponsors my new radio show. They support my speaking engagements. I get to have the best of both worlds. I get to grow a company, still be an entrepreneur, do what I love every day, and still help people by speaking and hosting a radio show.
You’re running this company, you’re hosting a radio show and you’re also giving keynotes. Who is your ideal audience to hear you speak?
Executives and staff. Some of the most popular talks that I’m doing is the How To Deal With An Office A-Hole talk is one I’m rolling out in Phoenix that everybody’s excited about. The How to Create An Empowered And Empowering Environment is popular among leadership teams. How do we empower our teams? How do you create a team that wants to continue working with you? Sometimes I lead a version of that program to people who are staff at different corporations of how to be empowered and indispensable to their employers. It’s a two-way street. It’s about helping to empower the managers and the leadership teams because it is a top-down phenomenon. At the same time, it’s also about empowering the staff who works there and making sure it’s a great culture that people want to stay in.Play the game and ask yourself, How does life get any better? Click To Tweet
One of the things that I saw when I was in corporate and I still see it as an outsider is the cost of turnover. As a startup, in particular a small company, you’ve got to have something to grab people with talent to come to join your vision and your team, especially if you don’t have competitive salaries up front. How do you keep talent? Do you ever get asked that question? Do you have any insights there? Whether you’re a big company or small, that would be interesting for people.
That’s definitely something we talk about in the empowered, empowering environment and how you manifest that. What’s there is understanding the dichotomy basically of the two types of employees that you have. You have the traditional employee. I’ve written a white paper on this as it relates to the legal secretary, which is similar to all other industries. You have in the white paper I call a traditional legal secretary, or for the purposes of this discussion, we would call a traditional staff person. That would be somebody like my mom or my dad, who stayed at their job for ten, twenty years. They’re loyal. For them, the main motivating factor is stability, safety, good benefits. You have what I call in the white paper the legal secretary of the future. You could insert whatever job title there you’d like, the admin of the future, the broker of the future, whoever it might be. He or she is going to be much more motivated by change, upward mobility, appreciation, and also by having opportunities for growth both monetarily as well as titles.
There was a great guest who I’ve had on my show twice because I love the subject so much. It’s Dr. Paul White, The 5 Languages Of Appreciation In The Workplace. He explained to me on the show that out of the five types of appreciation, only 50% of the population responds to words of affirmation, which is, “Good job.” “Go, get them.” “Great job.” Only 50% of people respond to that. You’re appreciating your employees often in the wrong way unless you understand what their modality of appreciation is. I mix it up with my own staff. Whenever I travel, I bring them gifts. Whenever I go in the office, I give people high-fives, I’d give them verbal affirmations or I spend one-on-one quality time. I’ll ask anybody new who works with me, “What is your preferred method of appreciation so that I can appreciate you and make sure you feel known and respected?”
One of the things that you and I have in common is this concept of storytelling and asking the right questions. When I was being interviewed on television recently about how to have a great story to get a yes, the host asked me, “How do people do this when they’re trying to get a job?” I said, “When you get asked the question at the end of the interview, “Do you have any questions for us?” This is when the magic time happens as opposed to, “What are my benefits? When do I get a vacation?” It’s like, “What would it look like if I was to exceed your expectations in this job?” That one question helped one of my clients get hired. The person already saw this person as somebody who is thinking above and beyond the minimum. I know that shows an employer that this is the dream job for them. What are your thoughts on that?
That’s brilliant advice because storytelling is a critical element in success. I had the Chief Diversity Officer of Randstad in my show. She said from a diversity standpoint, storytelling is tricky because the brain is designed to remember stories better. You might have candidate A who goes in and has the perfect qualifications. It might be a more diverse candidate. You have candidate B who goes in. He or she tells a better story. They will go with candidate and B because the brain sees stories as more sticky and will be more likely to remember that candidate even if they’re not the best candidate for the job. If you become adept at storytelling throughout the duration of the interview, not just at the end, but also look for opportunities to weave stories throughout your whole interview.
I’ll never forget when I was sitting with the CEO of Marcum. We were having breakfast at The Peninsula before the acquisition happened. He looked at me and I was sharing with him a story of what made me a successful recruiter. He says, “Jennifer, you’re good at this. You really know what you’re doing when it comes to interviewing.” I looked at him and I said, “Jeff, I better. I wrote a book on it. This is what I teach candidates.” It’s the same thing whenever somebody works with someone in my office, we train and develop people on storytelling and on making a positive impact in the interview so that they are the most memorable candidate in a positive and not a negative way.Get up everyday and do what you love. Click To Tweet
Are there any last thoughts or ideas you would like to share?
Just to tie-in to your last point, one last thing to leave your readers with. Remember, if you ever have an important business meeting or if you have an important meeting for a potential interview, you want to write down your top five attributes. It might be that you’re detailed, have integrity, or organized. You want to come up with a story that illustrates what we call PEP: Productivity, Efficiency or Performance. Those are your five key talking points in any meeting that you walk into or in an interview. If you always weave to those points throughout the whole interview or meeting, you will be the one who is most memorable in a positive way.
What’s the best way for people to follow you on social media?
If people want to follow me, they can find me on LinkedIn. I have about 10,000 connections out there, under Jennifer Hill on LinkedIn. People can also find me on Instagram as well, under @JenHillJHCCS. I think I have a YouTube channel with some old interviewing tips on it, as well as Jennifer K Hill on Facebook. I post a lot of content on there as well. The radio show, Get Yourself The Job, which people can download on iTunes. Get Yourself The Job is live every week on LA Talk Radio and converts to podcast format after the show.
Jennifer, thanks again for being such a great guest. It’s been a fascinating conversation on how to get our dream job and get and keep top talent.
Thank you so much, John. It’s been a pleasure.
- JHill’s Staffing Services
- Get Yourself the Job
- Gary Douglas on Get Yourself The Job radio show
- Stop Hoping. Start Hunting!: A Job Seeker’s Guide To Finding A Dream A Job
- Marcum Search
- The Sex App Joke & The Audience Lady – video
- The 5 Languages Of Appreciation In The Workplace
- Dr. Paul White on Get Yourself The Job radio show
- Jennifer Hill – LinkedIn
- Instagram – @JenHillJHCCS
- YouTube – Jennifer Hill
- Jennifer K Hill – Facebook
- Get Yourself The Job – iTunes
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