Carrie Corcoran

Employer Branding Consultant, TalentNet Media

1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

The teacher who probably had the most influence on me was Sheila Nesvacil. She was a Distributive Education Teacher who taught at Monona Grove High in Monona, Wisconsin where I went to high school. I really developed my love of marketing through listening and learning in her classes. She encouraged me to run for President of our local Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) chapter, so I did. And I won. I did well in that class too, I think I got straight As. I was kind of the teacher’s pet. She had a kind heart which was infused with me throughout my career. It’s probably one of the reasons I enjoy giving back to others so much.

I also competed in a state DECA competition and won 1st place in the sales and marketing category. If I recall, I had to sell a piece of clothing to a panel of judges and respond to their objections. That was fun! Sheila was there at every step in my journey and offered support and encouragement. After I graduated, I went to college with the goal of becoming a DECA teacher and following in her footsteps but my lack of skill in accounting courses led me down the path of communications and marketing. I stopped by her classroom after I graduated from college to say hello and to reminisce. She remarried and I don’t recall her new last name.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

I was born and raised in Wisconsin and have always had a wanderlust for travel and new experiences. A lot of people I went to high school with never left Wisconsin or stayed in the Midwest. I’ve never been like anyone else, so I decided to move to Orlando, Florida. I was working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the time and was able to transfer with the company. I told my parents, and they were supportive of my decision so off I went to the Sunshine State. I lived with a friend of mine who years later became a work frenemy. Her dad was selling his home, so she invited me to live with her with the caveat that when they got an offer on it, we both had to move out. Let’s just say, we had a killer move out party. While my job with ERAC was short-lived, I stayed in Orlando for 6 years, trying out multiple career paths, none of which were actual paths before I transferred to the Boston office with Freeman Decorating, a trade show and event contractor.

I was single and ready to mingle in the big cities, so I moved wherever a job would take me. After Boston, MA I did a short stint in Jersey City, NJ and worked in Midtown Manhattan and was laid off after 9/11 and packed up my car and moved to Dallas, TX for all of three months. From there I moved back to the Sunshine State but this time Pensacola, FL where I met my husband which really forced me to settle down, in a good way. We got married in 2004 and moved to Dallas, TX and lived there for just shy of 14 years. We left D Town for T Town in 2018 and now we’re living on Tulsa time in Oklahoma. If I hadn’t taken the bold leap to move to a new city and state after college, my life and career trajectory would have been quite different.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Like many others, we got a pandemic puppy during Covid. Her name is Oreo or Double Stuffed Trouble. She is our second French bulldog, and she’s a tank at a little under 30 lbs. We have another Frenchie, Cosmopolitan Girl who is almost eight and a half years old. My husband was hesitant about getting another dog, but he finally gave in, and off to Memphis we went to pick up our puppy in the middle of a pandemic. Puppies have peculiar habits, and one of Oreo’s is licking her paws. It’s probably her way of coping, and it’s one of the most annoying sounds. Both dogs sleep in the bedroom with us. Cosmo snores like a drunken sailor. They have their own section of our room with their crates which are blocked off. The paw licking was driving us crazy, especially at bedtime, so my husband suggested using earplugs. He has sleep apnea, so I hear his CPAP a lot, mainly like white noise in the background, but now with the earplugs, I find I’m sleeping much better and drowning out a lot of noise. Oreo is still a hot mess but cute as hell.

4. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?

Conventional wisdom says don’t take a step back in pay. I used to believe this and wanted mine to keep going up and up.

What changed my mind were mine and my husband’s circumstances. In the fall of 2009 both my husband and I lost our jobs due to layoffs. That was a rough time. My birthday is in December and then there’s Christmas. My husband wanted to make my 40th special and spent over $500 on gifts for me. I threw a tantrum over it and crushed his spirit. We both collected unemployment while we looked for new jobs. I wasn’t as early of an adopter of social media as others so when I connected with someone who had a company doing this and saw she was looking for interns I jumped at it. I did an unpaid internship at 40 years old. Talk about a step back in pay. Looking back, it was one of the best things I did for my career.

I don’t recommend it for everyone. You must weigh the long-term gain against the short-term loss. I did this a couple more times in my career and so has my husband. I’m hopeful we don’t have to do it again.

5. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

I tend to be very direct with people and that has gotten me in hot water more than once. I’m a please and thank you person anyway and believe in common courtesy but hate small talk with people I don’t know well. I like to get right to the point which is not great for building relationships. I never know what to talk to people about. I don’t have kids so those conversations while interesting are not relatable to me.

I’ve lost track of the number of times in my career someone has told me to soften my approach. By the way, I have gotten better over the years, but I like to call it like I see it and don’t do well sugarcoating things.

I would say the most recent time it backfired on me was at the last company I worked for. I put together a monthly Glassdoor summary for my boss and the TA team. Back story, we made Glassdoor’s Best Place to Work in 2019 with my well thought out strategy and action plan. Fast-forward to 2020 and I wanted to do the same but senior HR leaders were not on board because they thought the public perception might be that we were scamming reviews. I knew we wouldn’t make the list without a strategy, and I stated the reason why in my report. They apparently didn’t like being called out. My saving grace was one of the Recruiting Managers flagging it to my boss before she forwarded it to SRHRLT. No harm, no foul and lesson learned.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

I am a connector. I’m always connecting the dots. I have an uncanny ability to match people with the right jobs even though I’ve never been a recruiter. If I see a job in my LinkedIn feed, I go on auto pilot trying to figure out who in my network could be a match and then I make those connections and sometimes introductions. I enjoy giving back in that way. I consider myself a closet recruiter. I also have one romantic matchmaking to my credit which led to a fabulous couple getting married and they are still going strong today. I’ve matched half a dozen people with dog rescues and reputable French bulldog breeders too. I can’t turn it off.

7. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?

This is a tough question because I am not easily offended. I would say probably why I don’t have kids. A lot of times when people don’t have kids it’s not within their control. I’m the opposite. I never had a desire to have a child or become a mother. I also didn’t get married until I was 36 and by that time, there was even less appeal. Kids are expensive and I have no idea how people afford them. We have dogs so I have fur kids.

8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

The last company I worked for, I worked from home from Dallas for the first eight months. It wasn’t until I moved to Tulsa and started working in the office at their corporate headquarters that I felt like an outsider. I was hired as their only Talent Attraction Strategist.

To back up a bit, when I started with them, I traveled back and forth to Tulsa frequently. I always flew in for meetings, but it’s a short four-hour drive and a great opportunity to extend weekends away so my husband would drive up and join me.

After our fourth or fifth weekend, we talked about moving to Tulsa. We could make our money and retirement go further than in Dallas. It would also be great for me to be closer to stakeholders and senior leadership, which is essential for any employer branding initiative to be successful. We put our house on the market and got an offer in about two months. We had to find a house in Tulsa in two days. And just like that, off we went to new a new city.

In retrospect, I recall my boss not being overly excited about us moving here and I never understood why until we did. I’m pretty sure I know why everyone gave me such a cold reception, but that’s a story for another time. Here I am, an outsider from Dallas, a metropolitan city, coming in to shake things up.

Change is scary for some, but I thrive on it. I very quickly felt like a round peg in a square hole. Our team was the largest I’ve ever worked on, a team of 20, all-female except for one male. The Recruiting Managers were like the mean girl’s club. I found out after the fact some on the team actively thwarted my success. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. I did have some exceptional advocates for the work and value I provided within the TA team, and others across the company, including one at the C-level, but only a few people went out of their way to make me feel welcomed. Inclusivity starts on your own team.

There were rumors spread about me having had an affair with my husband before we got married, which is so far from the truth. He was married when I met him, but there were no shenanigans until after his divorce. Most of the games they played on me in TA were subtle, like not inviting me to lunch, micromanaging my projects, social outings, strategy meetings, and distancing me from hiring managers. I always had a go-between with the recruiter, which never made any sense to me and made the process less efficient.

The global pandemic has been horrible for many reasons, but one of the biggest changes that came out of it was being sent home. I thrived on working from home. No more office gossip, uncomfortable lunches, and the pettiness to deal with, at least face-to-face. I learned from this experience that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone appreciates change or those who champion it. Some people do not want to see you succeed, but some do, and those are the people who matter. The best revenge (which I don’t believe in) is a success, and I embrace that. Even though I had a rough two years, I was there for three. I don’t regret moving to Tulsa or working for the company. I made incredible strides in my career, achieved a lot of industry firsts, and formed new friendships, and that’s something I’ll always be grateful for.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

Working remotely, I’ve had to embrace technology a lot more. I really like Harvest, a time keeping app. As an independent consultant, it helps me keep track of my hours, projects, and has invoicing capabilities. It’s user friendly and cost effective at $12/month.

10. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

My most prized possession is probably a necklace my mom gave me after her second husband passed away. I lost my father to terminal cancer in 1994. He was only 54 years old. My mom remarried shortly thereafter. Her second husband had her original engagement ring from my father turned into a necklace. He added a gorgeous trillion cut tanzanite stone to her diamond and had it set in 14k gold. My mom gave it to me after her second husband passed away. I’ve never been that fond of yellow gold, so I had it changed into white gold. It is beautiful and reminds me of my mom and dad when I wear it.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

I love French bulldogs, so much so that I created my own private group on Facebook when I lived in Dallas and did a charitable fashion show for dogs called Paws for Fashion. I also love the roaring 20s. I have fine antique jewelry and costume jewelry from this era. If I were to design a bar it would likely combine both passions. My husband is a fantastic graphic designer, so I’d include elements of his designs in the bar. With a dog named Cosmopolitan Girl, how could I not? My bar would be speakeasy style. We’d have a lot of themed events. I might even allow dogs and name drinks after them. Bottoms up!

12. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

I had to pose this question to my husband. He said I would be the one hunkering down in a safe place. I would not be outside gardening because I hate insects. I would not be fighting the zombies because I don’t like violence. As a survivor I would probably do what I do best, matchmake. I would match people with jobs, match rescue dogs with people who want pets, and maybe have a dating service. I’d be a big part of the community and bring people together.

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

The best piece of professional advice I’ve ever received came from a former boss of mine, Gail Rigler. Though, I adapted her style after she used it on me. She was reviewing a sales deck I had put together and asked me, are you open to some coaching? I loved this approach. No one had ever asked me that before or seemed to care. It was just given. Shortly after that I became a manager and used it all the time. I have also found it works well when teaching someone about an initiative, project, or philosophy.

14. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?

I don’t look back at anything in my career with regret. Each experience has led me to who I am today. There may have been times earlier in my career where I overindulged in alcohol too much. Yeah, that’s probably a big regret. You never want to be nicknamed the “Puking Cuban”. It’s not exactly a career regret but more a regret that was part of my career. When in Rome, except we were in Miami.

15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

I would say shyness can be seen as a bad quality by some. I don’t mind it because I’m an introvert. I thrive in front of a crowd or being the center of attention but drop me in a group of people I don’t know and that’s my worst nightmare. I’m probably an extrovert trapped inside introvert’s body. Introverts like to work alone, need solitude, keep to themselves, and accomplish a heck of a lot. That’s probably one of the reasons I enjoy working from home so much.

16. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

I think I tend toward leading the team usually because no one else volunteers for it but also because I like to be in charge. If someone else doesn’t pull their own weight I jump in and get it done. I’m a planner and I know I can do it well and keep everyone on track, or at least try.

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

People say that AI or technology will replace recruiters. I hope this never happens. It would be a sacrilege to remove the human element. This would be a crushing blow to the industry.

18. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

My motto is if you don’t ask, you’ll never know so always ask. What’s the worst that could happen? You get told no. I typically ask three times for something before I give up. I’m like a stubborn French bulldog that way. I’m not taking no the first time around. It’s served me well in getting initiatives approved, salary increases, more responsibility, and budget for projects.

19. If you could add a question to this selection for the next person to answer, what would it be?

What keeps you up at night?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

I would like to nominate Megan McCarthy. She is a friend of mine, someone I have great respect for, and a former colleague in the employer branding space. She has a great story to tell.

Thank you to Carrie Corcoran for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Carrie on LinkedIn

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