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THE INTERVIEW: Susan Ireland on Change and Success

Susan IrelandSusan Ireland’s paths to success speak to many women entrepreneurs, although she never would say that. We “met” through her blog and later IRL. Hearing her story made much of the research I have read come alive.

Susan came from an entrepreneurial family – her parents owned a hotel and she had concessions in it from the time she was 7. That stood her in good stead when a divorce meant she had to support herself; she started a laundry business which she sold profitably 6 years later. This post-divorce pattern is common among women entrepreneurs, although few have the entrepreneurial family background.

Susan met her mentor, Yana Parker, when she sought out advice on writing a résumé to get a corporate job. She disliked corporate life very quickly and Yana took her on as an apprentice to learn about résumé writing.

Susan says: “The theme of my business is résumé writing. I started in 1989 working one on one with job seekers to develop their résumés. After a few years I had more business than I could handle so I trained another woman. Our relationship was one of mentor and apprentice, not boss and employee. After six months of training, I could refer work to her and she paid me a commission. I have used the same mentorship model to train seven more résumé writers. As technology changed it was no longer necessary to do it at my kitchen table.”

Changing the model

“Once my team was in place, I was able to write my first book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Résumé, published in 1996.” (If you know someone who needs a good résumé book, check out the most recent version - 5th edition - published late last year. Susan has written four more books since the first one incidentally.)

“The Internet became ‘the place’ for job search and I had to move online. By 2000, I launched my website. This meant learning a whole new set of skills, including website development and online marketing. With a good website I could attract as much traffic as my huge competitors and my reach for customers became global. Suddenly I was working with job seekers in places like Singapore and Russia.”

“The struggle to keep a strong Internet presence is constant. There is always more to learn, more to do. You can be good at your profession, but hardly anyone will know about you unless you have an active online presence. ”

The new technologies also gave Susan the ability to develop and sell her online résumé builder product, Susan Ireland’s Ready-Made Resumes.

“As soon as I heard about blogging, I started my blog, The Job Lounge. I made a commitment to blog several times a week for one year to see what business results it might bring. And thus I discovered the power of the online professional community. I invited other career experts to help answer questions and developed wonderful relationships I rely on to this day.”

“A reader of my blog recommended I join the (then) relatively new LinkedIn. It has become one of my primary places to network, promote my business, and help job seekers. I also spend time each day on Twitter, Facebook, and Business Exchange. I post articles, comments, and videos on blogs, websites, and YouTube as well. I speak at and attend conferences and actively network online. Twitter has proven valuable to build relationships – when my peers are tweeting about something I have said or done, people contact me. Job seekers want resumes, the media wants interviews, organizations want to license my stuff.”

What success secrets would you share with others?

“I love a grassroots approach to business growth. So networking has been absolutely key to any success I have had. I have always leaned on friends and associates to teach me, show me, advise me, prod me, – and even console me when things head south. As my mental Rolodex gets bigger, it is almost impossible not to find help when needed.”

“ My work has changed, technology to deliver my services has changed, job search techniques have changed. But my philosophy of résumés as marketing pieces for job seekers has not changed.”

For entrepreneurial women: “Know your professional strengths and weaknesses. With each business project, lean confidently on your strengths and get help in areas where you are weak.”

Susan’s business and work has changed significantly from the days when she worked with clients at a local career center. She has dramatically changed her business and model several times over.

After two decades she still looks ahead and says “I’m curious about how the power of social media develops as a business tool and I want to be a part of that game in these early stages.”

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Image courtesy Susan Ireland, used with permission

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced Human Capital issues speaker and management consultant. She founded Strategies for Human Resources to advise organizations facing organization and people challenges. Previously she designed and managed human resource functions for GE, Software AG, Maxwell Online, and others. A Wharton MBA and an Air Force veteran, she actively supports the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Check out her website, SHRinsight.com, for management and development articles.


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