Kim Shyu: takeaways from a decade of job searching and hiring from one of Schechter Reed’s finest
Ten years ago, a Craigslist job posting turned up one of Schechter Reed’s most accomplished candidates. Over coffee, Kim Shyu and I reminisced on her early career self-doubt and how it fueled a decade of goal-setting, exceeding expectations, and reinvention. Kim’s hindsight view will resonate with today’s recent grads, career-changers and hiring managers.
1. (L.R.) We first met in December 2006 so this is our 10-year anniversary! How is today’s Kim Shyu different from the recent grad I met a decade ago?
(K.S.) Obviously, I have grown professionally and personally. When I met you 10 years ago, I was in post-college mode so struggling to figure where-in-the-world I fit. Part of my challenge was that I was in a job that wasn’t right for me. I spent 1½ hours commuting to a sales job for $33K because I thought I couldn’t do any better. I didn’t believe in myself. That is the biggest thing that’s changed- proving to myself that I can do these things. My confidence has slowly grown because I have continually stepped into roles that were too big and exceeded expectations.
I was stubborn. I’ve always been stubborn. I didn’t want to take advantage of my network after college. I remember hosting a CEO speaker at an entrepreneurship conference that I planned as a college senior. The speaker offered to pass along my resume but I didn’t send it because I thought it would be perceived as taking the easy way. I wanted to work my own network and do it my own way. I wonder how my career would have been different if I had gone to work for him.
2. (L.R.) Do you remember how you found Schechter Reed?
(K.S.) I met or exceeded all my monthly sales goals in my first job and within three months earned a company trip to Iceland. After that, I decided it was time to move on. I happened to find a generic posting for a Recruiting Administrator in Herndon and knew it could be a fit. I had never worked with a staffing agency before but we met after work one night and I was excited to learn that the opportunity was with Booz Allen Hamilton.
3. (L.R.) What tools have you used in your job search recently?
(K.S.) When I moved from Booz Allen to Time Warner Cable and then from Time Warner Cable to Audi, I used job boards. But, in both of those moves, the network got me the interview. Now, I’m not afraid to leverage my network. People genuinely want to see people get placed in companies they love. It makes for better community and friendship. I do that for people too.
4. (L.R.) You have reinvented yourself professionally several times in your 10-year career, starting with a sales position and moving into recruiting management and now digital product management. What advice do you have for anyone who wants to change their career?
(K.S.) Dig deep and evaluate your foundation. You can apply your cross-functional skills to any role. Forget about specialized skills for a moment-you can learn specialized skills. You can’t always teach someone to be organized, approachable, and pragmatic in decision-making.
There will always be times when you encounter challenges with people, process, and management. How you deal with those challenges will differentiate you from others. I know there are times when I can only control a certain amount.
This is how I have sold myself in a lot of my roles. Time Warner Cable was looking for a Technical Writer or Content Manager. When I prepared for the interview, I knew what I could take from my Booz Allen experience. I had never used a content management system before, at least that I knew of. There was a certain amount that I didn’t know. You have to acknowledge that, when appropriate, and be willing to learn but not always divulge your weak areas. I knew what I had to bring to the table.
5. (L.S.) Our clients are always looking for the “secret sauce” that turns an entry-level hire into a hard-working, accomplished professional. When you are hiring, what do you think is the best predictor of success?
(K.S.) Here’s the challenge: you can’t always tell from a resume how someone is going to perform. From some experiences in the past, I have learned the importance of reference checks. I think it has become clear how valuable they are. Past performance is definitely the best predictor of future success. It might not be formal working experience, but I am convinced that everyone has experience with something that involves teamwork- sports, class projects…. How do you best learn? How are you most productive?
You have to do a lot of self-evaluation. That has been a theme throughout my career. I am very self-critical. I always critique myself and ask if I could do something better.
6. (L.R.) After we placed you at Booz Allen, you became a client and hired through Schechter Reed but also through other staffing agencies. How is Schechter Reed different?
(K.S.) The quality of Schechter Reed candidates is superb. I always wondered where Schechter Reed found these candidates! There is something about the way you are sourcing that attracts people like me; people who are happy to be in an administrative role but clearly capable of much more. There were so many examples of strong Schechter Reed hires-top performers who rarely show weakness. The quality was superstar status.
7. (L.R.) Last summer, you published an article on writing a successful cover letter. Why is that subject so important to you?
(K.S.) I think the cover letter I wrote to Audi helped me get the job. I was able to convey my excitement not just for the brand, but for the role specifically, which was so similar to what I was doing (and loved) at Time Warner Cable. The COO of Audi read my letter and had parts of it highlighted in front of him when we met. Supplying a potential employer with a cover letter is a way to set yourself apart from the pack, especially if you’re applying blindly to a position with no one already working there to vouch for you. You can show some personality, demonstrate your writing quality, and most of all make a pitch for why you’re the right one for the position and how the company could think about the role differently with you filling its shoes.
8. (L.R.) I hate to be cliché but you are a full-time working mom, part-time fitness instructor, triathlete and marathoner. How do you do it all?
(K.S.) The support I get from my husband is what allows me to do all this. We partner well and share responsibilities so we both have time to do our own thing. But also, prioritization; until three-to-four years ago, I was a hard-core planner. Since having kids and working full time, I’ve become a live-in-the-moment person. I can’t think past tonight, which is crazy to me! I have never been like that. There is no down time. I just care more about certain things. Some things I might have focused on in my early days just don’t matter now.
I remember a few years ago, there was a study about working moms and whether daycare children were inferior. It was a relief to learn that what matters is HOW you spend your time with your kids, not HOW MUCH time you spend. When I come home from work and until their bedtime, I am diligent about staying unplugged. I invest in my relationship with the kids.
I’ll never stop working. I love working. I want to bring in my own income and challenge myself. I need that to grow as a human being.
Schechter Reed is a woman-owned search firm, created to address a pressing need for high-caliber administrative talent in metropolitan D.C. We are always looking for capable administrative candidates and client companies looking for a dedicated and ethical recruiting partner. Please connect with lori@SchechterReed.com.