In our second See It to Be It podcast interview, Amy C. Waninger chats with Regional Consulting founder Juanita Hines, a career optimization consultant who focuses on helping students and professionals learn how to discover and communicate their intrinsic value, effectively transition from high school to college and college to the professional sector, and a whole lot more. These discussions highlight professional role models in a variety of industries, and our goal is to draw attention to the vast array of possibilities available to emerging and aspiring professionals, with particular attention paid to support black and brown professionals. Check out some of the SI2BI blogs we’ve posted while you wait for the next episode!
Learn more about her book on Amazon!
Check out Regional Consulting‘s website!
Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate. Now, look, for those of y’all who are new here, the purpose of Living Corporate is to create a space that affirms black and brown experiences in the workplace, right? There are certain things that only we can really understand, and when I say we I mean the collective non-white professional [laughs] in corporate America. And when we look around–if you, like, Google being black and brown in corporate America, you may see, like, a post in Huffington Post or something that kind of communicates from a position of lack, but I don’t know if we necessarily see a lot of content that empowers and affirms our identity and our experience, and that’s really the whole purpose of Living Corporate. It’s with that that I’m really excited to talk to y’all about the See It to Be It series. Amy C. Waninger, who has been a guest on the show, who’s a writer for Living Corporate, and who’s also the author of Network Beyond Bias, she’s actually partnered with Living Corporate to actually have an interviewing series where she actually sits down with black and brown professionals so that we can learn about what they actually do and see ourselves in these roles, right? So it’s a variety of industries that she’s–she’s talking to a lot of different types of folks. You’re gonna be able to see what they do, and at the same time you’re gonna hopefully be able to envision yourself in that role, hence the title See It to Be It, okay? So check this out. The next thing you’re gonna hear is this interview with Amy C. Waninger. Y’all hang tight. Catch y’all next time. Peace.
Amy: Hello, Juanita! Thank you so much for joining me today.
Juanita: Hello. Thank you for having me on the show, Amy. I’m excited to be here.
Amy: I am excited to have you. So you were one of the first people I met when I started going out on my own and doing my own thing, and I don’t even remember how we connected originally, but I know that we kind of bonded over the shared experience of having books that we had self-published. Would you tell me just a little bit about what it is exactly that you do and how you got into that work?
Juanita: Absolutely. So I am a career optimization consultant. I provide training for both students as well as professionals. I’m dual-focused. With students, I help to provide them with the information that helps them to transition from high school to college and college to the professional sector. So if you think about a lot of the things that you don’t necessarily learn in high school or college that you’re expected to know when you go in the workforce, things like how to negotiate your salary, how to network, what that means, how to build strategic partnerships and relationships, the importance of managing your social media and really the type of implications that that can have on your future, those are the type of sessions that I work with with college and high school students. And then for professionals, I partner with companies to help them train and retain staff so they don’t have to fire and rehire or lose and overuse. So I help people to more effectively engage within their careers, which will in turn help companies to be able to retain talent as well.
Amy: That’s fantastic, that you found a niche that meets the employer’s needs and the employee’s needs, but you also work with students, and so I’m imagining that you work a lot with colleges too. Is that correct?
Juanita: Yes, absolutely.
Amy: Very good. And so how did you get involved in this work? Because this isn’t an obvious–like, there’s probably not a job posting for this somewhere, right?
Juanita: Absolutely. Not at all, [laughs] and if it was I would’ve loved to find it because, you know, to be under the corporate umbrella of someone that’s doing exactly what I’m doing is definitely–would definitely be an interesting perspective. So I was a recruiter initially when I transitioned from college. I’ll be honest with you. I initially–when I was looking for jobs upon graduating from college I was applying for all of these public relations positions, and I kept being told I didn’t have enough experience, so out of frustration I ended up going into a staffing agency, and I just said, “Look, I need a job,” and they said, “Okay. Well, let’s see what we have for you. Are you open to recruiting? What are you looking for?” I said, “Honestly I can do anything. I just need someone to give me a chance.” And so they sent me out for a two-day position at one of their corporate clients, and they had phenomenal feedback I guess. Like, they were saying “Oh, my goodness, we want to look at hiring her.” One of their HR execs came down and said, “I need your resume.” I was voluntold to give him my resume, and I gave him my resume.
Juanita: Yeah. So they called that afternoon because I knew that we weren’t supposed to go on the internet and we weren’t supposed to give our resume, and after being insisted upon telling him “No, I’m not supposed to give you my resume,” he was like, “Look, I don’t care about all that. Give me your resume.” So when they called I said “Hey, just want to let you know that everything’s going well,” but he did make me go on the internet and print out my resume. They were like “Juanita, don’t worry, you’ll never have to go back there again.” I was like, “No, no. I’m not saying that it’s a bad environment. I love it here.” But yeah, so a long story short, they ended up calling me about three minutes after I left that day and asked if I would be open to coming to work as a recruiter–well, to temp in their office until they could afford to hire me because they had to create a position to hire me because they couldn’t afford to do it at that moment. And so I went in to assist them, and then I was there for a couple years. So I had the opportunity to function as a recruiter. I loved my job. I loved everything about it, and I was spiritually led to leave. Yeah, about three years or so later I had the–you know, I was really delving into–and I know this is a long way of going about answering your question, but, you know, I was really honing in on my relationship with God and learning, you know, that He talks to you and that kind of thing, and so, you know–and I was like, “Lord, whatever you want me to do, wherever you want me to go, I will do it. Let me know.” And so then he said, “Okay, well, I want you to leave your job.” Wait. “Lord, are you sure this is You? I don’t know that this is You.” [laughs] So a long story short, I ended up giving my job a month’s notice, and in that time I was praying about my purpose and what I would do. I went to a purpose boot camp the week after I left my job, and at the purpose boot camp they were talking about, you know, your purpose and what you were created for, and on the way back from the purpose boot camp I started getting all of these crazy thoughts, and I said “Maybe I should jot some of this stuff down.” And so I’m driving from Maryland to Virginia, and when I get home I look at my notebook and I’m like, “What is this?” And I called my dad. I was like “Hey, Dad, I think God is telling me to start a company,” and he was like, “Well, if he’s telling you to do it you need to do it.” So that’s pretty much how I transitioned into having my own company. In terms of career optimization, I was led out of recruiting because I had recruited for about six years or so providing services for a variety of different companies within oil and gas, energy, travel, a variety of different companies that partnered with me, and then God said “Okay, now you’re done with that, so it’s time for you to leave that.” And I said “Wait, what am I doing now?” And he gave me the vision to actually start doing what I’m doing now, and it’s been about 6.5, 7 years or so. I’ve gone into high schools here–high schools more so I usually do more local here in the Houston and surrounding areas, but colleges I’ve branched out and also for organizations as well.
Amy: What’s the name of the company you run?
Juanita: It’s called Regional Consulting.
Amy: Regional Consulting. And I was gonna get to this later, but we’ll just bring it up right now. You have a book.
Juanita: I do.
Amy: Tell us about your book.
Juanita: My book is called Master Your Career Playbook: Resumes. It is actually a book that’s about writing resumes, but not just writing resumes. It helps you to more effectively articulate your value, because just like I was in that situation, what I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t that I did not have the experience. It was that I was not effectively articulating the value that I offered to the employers to which I was applying, and so what I did is I actually–you know, I actually used to write resumes for clients, and I had a client that continued to send me countless individuals, and I jokingly said one day “You know what? I’m gonna write a book just for you, just for you to give to all of your friends,” and so I did. So I wrote the book, and–well, actually I wrote 15 pages and I sat on it for 2.5 years, and then people started asking me, like, right when I got ready to start writing it again people kept asking me “When is your book coming out?” “Hey, where is your book?” “Do you have a book?” I was speaking at different conferences and they were like, “Hey, where can I purchase your book?” And I’m just sitting here like, “Oh, my gosh. Are you serious? I don’t have a book.” And I talked to a speaker, and he was just telling me–he inspired me and connected me with someone who was able to help me get my thoughts down on paper, because the hardest thing or the most challenging part about the writing process is 1. taking the time to do it, but then also making sure that you can effectively articulate the words that you are trying to get across and that it comes across like you intend for it to, especially within resume writing, because no one really gets ecxited like “Oh, my gosh, girl! Guess what I’m doing?” “What?” “I’m reading this book about writing my resume! Yes! I’m so excited!” And you’re like, “Oh… okay…” So yeah, that was–and I wanted it to be engaging. I wanted it to be kind of similar to how I present, but I wanted to be honest, and I wanted to give people a very candid view from a recruiter perspective, because I’ve had the opportunity to place across the employment spectrum, up to senior level executives on down to entry level office support positions.
Amy: I think that’s such a valuable perspective too. I have people all the time who are wanting me to help them with their resumes, and when they ask me, I always quote them–I ask “What’s your budget for this service?” And then they usually are thinking in their heads “I don’t want to pay you, I just want you to do it.” And then when they say “What do you charge?” I give them a number that they would never, ever, ever pay because I don’t want to do that work, but I do recommend your book to them. Because I say “Oh, you need to read this book and this will help you, and I won’t.” [both laugh] So–isn’t that terrible?
Juanita: No, it’s not terrible, and I will tell you–because resume writing is a very time-consuming process, and a lot of people just think that–you know, the thought process is “I’ll just give you a regurgitation of my experience and I’ll let you pick and choose what’s important out of here and hopefully it will land me the interview.” That’s not what happens unfortunately.
Amy: And I know how to write my own resume ’cause I lived it, but I don’t know how to write someone else’s and I don’t pretend to. So anybody who’s listening to this, do not call me for resume advice. Call Juanita. You’ll be good.
Juanita: Actually, and I’m just–I’m the opposite. I can kick someone else’s resume out when I have the details of their experience, but my own resume? Let me tell you how it took me about 2.5 weeks to write my own resume. I’m not kidding. “Well, what do I do about…” I mean, it was really pulling yourself out of the equation and looking at yourself extrospectively. Like, not introspectively, but, you know, “How do I describe this great person that I know she is on paper and how do I get those words down to an employer that will actually help me to be able to get an interview?” And knowing the purpose of a resume, because so many people think that the purpose of a resume is to get you a job, and it’s not. [laughs] The point of the resume is to get you the interview, and so so many people just put all of the information into their resumes and they just think “Okay, I’ll just throw it on out there and see what happens and hope it lands.”
Amy: Yeah, wow. Yep, I’ve seen everything as a hiring manager, but probably nothing compared to what you’ve seen as a recruiter. [both laugh] So what’s something–switching gears a little bit back to your career optimization work, what’s something that surprises you about this work or that surprised you when you started it that you weren’t expecting?
Juanita: You know, I’ll be honest, working with students. I wasn’t sure how I would respond in working with students. I would say that high school students are not my forte. I always had the impression that high school students were just very disrespectful, they don’t listen, and, you know, you see some things outside and what you see on social media and those types of things and you’re just like “Oh, I don’t want to work with those audiences,” and I have gone in and–I will be honest, I have had some of the most amazing students, and what I’ve learned is that a lot of students are actually eager for the information, but they just have people that talk at them and not talking to them and helping them to understand the importance of the choices and decisions that they make today and how they can potentially impact tomorrow and what their future will look like. So I try to–I try to help them enjoy the process. And I didn’t think I would enjoy speaking to students so much, I’ll be honest, and now I do. I truly do. And I’ve had people that say “Well, why don’t you choose whether you want to speak with adults or with students?” And honestly I can’t choose. I can’t choose.
Amy: Well, I’m sure it makes you more effective in both camps that you have that interaction in both areas, because, you know, if you don’t talk with working professionals, then you wouldn’t have the insights to give the students that they need to move forward, right?
Juanita: Absolutely, yeah. And if you’re talking to students and they’re like, “Uh, uh-uh. Who is this lady? I don’t want to hear anything that she has to say.” You know, it kind of keeps you engaging and it keeps you on your toes, because they will let you know if this is not something that they’re feeling. They’ll “Uh-uh, no,” and–
Amy: Yeah, I’ve got two of ’em in my house and they will tune you out in a hurry. [both laugh]
Juanita: Yes, absolutely.
Amy: But I like tha tyour surprise was a happy surprise. A lot of times when I ask that question it’s like “You know, I had no idea how hard it would be,” or “I had no idea, you know, how crazy people were,” or whatever, but I love that your surprise was a pleasant one. That’s great. So if someone’s looking to get into doing this kind of work, if they want to, you know, kind of bridge that gap, that college to workplace gap, where can they start looking for resources or how might they break into this kind of work?
Juanita: You know, honestly I would say a lot of it starts with relationships, you know? Building relationships and strategic partnerships. I always tell people “either you’re networking or you’re not working.” We actually met–and I’ll answer your question when you said earlier “I can’t recall how we met”–I think we met on LinkedIn. And so we connected on LinkedIn, and we started talking–I think we connected over a mutual article or something, and–which is interesting, because you never know how you can make connections and extend the life of whatever you’re doing. And, you know, I always tell people it’s about selfless networking, not necessarily what’s in it for me. It’s about really reaching across the aisle and saying “What is it that I can do for you?” And being that supportive person. I think that anyone who knows me or who has been able to build a relationship with me will tell you and attest that I’m very–I try to be very selfless, and I’m–you know, I try to always ask “What can I do to help?” Because that’s really what I’m about. And so first and foremost it starts with those strategic partnerships and relationships. If you have companies or corporations that’s willing to sponsor you, that’s a huge plus right there. That’s half the battle, because you can get those sponsors that can sponsor you to go in as opposed to you having to get the organizations to pay for it themselves or the students. And I’ve actually had student organizations that have sponsors and have paid themselves out of their own budgets, but, you know, sometimes it–depending on what the budgetary allocations are and what your fees are, you know? And often times I will tell people–they think it’s really glitzy and glamorous, but it’s really a lot of hard work, you know? It’s a lot more than just showing up and saying “Okay, yeah, I’m gonna make this fun and engaging,” you know? And sometimes people look at it from the outside and they’re like “Yes, I can do that. I want to do that,” but they don’t realize the work that goes into it sometimes.
Amy: Yeah. You’re not getting paid for the hour on stage. You’re getting paid for the 95 hours of prep you put into that hour on stage, right?
Juanita: Exactly. [both laugh]
Amy: As an entrepreneur, how do you find support for yourself? Like, where do you go for a sense of community in the work that you do?
Juanita: Part of where I go–I have a great network of professionals. I’m very actively engaged with my community. I’m actually the chair of the program committee at the Greater Houston Black Chamber [of Commerce?]. I’m a graduate of the Houston Black Leadership Institute, and I’m also involved with the current Houston Black Leadership Institute classes. I’m also a member of the Houston Area Urban League Young Professionals. I try to, you know, have really great networks and people that continue to pour into you. So you have to find out what that niche is for you and find out, you know, where can you impact the greatest? Where can you have the greatest impact? And initially, even before I was with the chamber and the HBLI I was with HAUL YP, and so I joined because they had opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community, and through HAUL YP I’ve been introduced to all of these other aspects of life and that have poured into me in so many different ways. And so I would say first and foremost find something to get involved in. Find something that you’re passionate about and pursue that, because you never know how that can open doors of opportunity for you that you can’t even imagine or that you don’t even anticipate.
Amy: No, that’s great advice. It’s so true that when you start doing what matters to you, the people that you need kind of show up, and you show up for them, and–it’s almost a magic that happens. I don’t know if I told you this the first time we talked, but I call it the Billie Jean lights.
Juanita: [laughs] Okay.
Amy: Do you remember the old Michael Jackson video? [?]
Juanita: Yes, when he stands on the little thing [?]–
Amy: And they light up, right? And when I started out, when I started doing what I’m doing, it was like I didn’t know what the next step was, but I’d put my foot down and it would kind of–the path would start to light up, and I’d put my foot down again and the path would light up, and it was like it just kept going until those lights came so fast that it started to look like a runway, and I knew that that was the right path. But I think, you know, part of it is just, like, taking those steps at first to get the–
Juanita: Yeah, absolutely. And that reminds me of Martin Luther King’s quote, “Faith is taking the next step without seeing the whole staircase.” You know? And so sometimes you can take that, and that was really what it was like for me, except for I didn’t even see a house. I just pretty much was like “Wait, where am I stepping?” It was just like “Okay, I’m stepping over a cliff,” but then it came into view as I started walking. So I will say, you know–and I tell people “Look, I’m not telling everybody to leave their jobs tomorrow. [laughs] So don’t put that on me.” Like, “Juanita said I could leave my job today!” [laughs] No, no. That is not–
Amy: That’s not Juanita’s saying.
Juanita: Yes, absolutely, let me be clear. But I will say that, you know, if you’re willing to put the work in and if you’re willing to do what’s necessary, it will–it can benefit not just you. And I think your cause has to be greater than just you. It has to be more than just “Okay, I’m doing this for the money.” And I’ll be honest, I put a lot of sweat equity in early on, so I didn’t–there were events that I did not get paid for. I did a lot of volunteering when I initially started speaking with student organizations in probably for the first, what, five or six years or so. So even when I was doing recruiting, when I was doing contractual recruiting, I was still going into organizations. I was volunteering my time, and people got to know me, and so when God called me out and I had that vision to actually start going into the training and development pieces, it was more of a seamless transition. Not effortless, but it was seemingly seamless for most people, like, looking on, because they just thought “Oh, wow. She just stopped recruiting and now she’s doing training and development.” But that’s not how it was. I was actually putting in a lot of sweat equity, and that’s the things you don’t see from the background.
Amy: Absolutely, absolutely. On those days when I’m not seeing results, I try to measure my progress on how many seeds did I plant today, how many seeds am I gonna plant tomorrow, and I keep planting seeds until something starts to sprout, right? And once things start sprouting you keep planting seeds because you’re gonna need something to sprout tomorrow and the next day and the next.
Juanita: Absolutely, absolutely. You just water it. You can’t see exactly when it’s growing, exactly when it takes root, you can’t see exactly when those roots are extending, but eventually you will start to see the flower when it rises above the ground.
Amy: Absolutely. So I would like it if you would answer–just finish the following sentence. “I feel included when ______.”
Juanita: I feel included when I am amongst people who are open-minded and who are open to listening to other people’s perspectives or points of view.
Amy: Very good. And then “When I feel included, I _______.”
Juanita: When I feel included, I soak everything in and I make the best of the opportunity. [laughs] I’m often times a comedian, I’ll be honest. So sometimes in those moments I’m so excited, like, my excitement will sometimes make me start–like, I’ll start cutting jokes and stuff, and they’re like “Oh, my gosh.” And so people are like “Wait, is she funny too?” Which is [?]–
Amy: You get goofy.
Juanita: I do. Well, yes. Professional goofy, yeah, but yeah, it is. [?]. I’ve actually had students that have asked me at different schools. They’re like, “Are you a comedian?” No, I’m not, but I get excited when it’s something that, you know, I feel included in, especially when students kind of make you feel included and show you the love, you know?
Amy: Mm-hmm. I love that about when students make you feel included, because I think a lot of times students don’t realize that they exist in an environment, right, they exist in a culture, and when somebody comes in, even somebody with authority or somebody from the outside, there’s still a desire from that person to be included in that group, right? You aren’t coming in to be other. You’re coming in to have an impact, but you want to be welcomed and you want to be kind of embraced by that group, and I think that’s such an important point for people to realize. It doesn’t matter what group you’re in as an in-group. When somebody’s new or somebody’s coming in, making them feel welcome will make such a difference in what you get from them and what they take away.
Juanita: Yeah, absolutely agreed.
Amy: Juanita, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Juanita: Yes, thank you for having me. I’m excited to–it was just a great experience. I’m excited to be a part of the show and that you thought about me to have me on, so.
Amy: Well, of course. Thank you so much.