101 - Kierra Kohlbeck: From Teacher to Tech Recruiter

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101 – Kierra Kohlbeck: From Teacher to Tech Recruiter

Ashley

Kierra Kohlbeck is a former fifth grade math teacher who transitioning into recruiting. We talk all about how she knew recruiting was right for her and the steps that she took to find open positions and get interviews.

Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

From Teacher to Tech Recruiter

Daphne:
Hey Kierra, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Kierra:
Thank you so much for having me.

Daphne:
I always like to get started with the interviews and just ask a few questions about your history working in education. Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you did before you left the classroom?

Kierra:
Yeah, so I was a fifth grade math teacher at an elementary school. I had moved from Wisconsin to Colorado after graduation and took a job right after graduation as an elementary school teacher.

Kierra’s transition out of the classroom

Daphne:
When did you start thinking of leaving the classroom?

Kierra:
I would say it was really tough because COVID happened my first year of teaching, so everything after that was a little bit different than what I had experienced when I was student teaching. So the online portion of things wasn’t great. I know that the year of COVID we just completely stopped school March, and the kids didn’t get any more curriculum other than packets if they picked them up. So that was tough. And then the next year it was optional to be in person or not, so I was teaching both online and in person. And I think it really just changed a lot in education for me and my expectations of what it was going to be like, so I think that was kind of the turning point for me when I realized that it wasn’t going to be a long-term career for me.

Daphne:
How did you start exploring careers outside of the classroom? Did you have any idea where to go or anything?

Kierra:
Yeah, so I would say the beginning of last year during the school year I knew I wasn’t going to come back the next year, so I started building up my LinkedIn, which was a process in itself. It just takes a lot of time. I think every teacher dreads doing it, because it’s just such a different world than what we’re used to. And I had also followed a lot of teacher pages on Facebook, and I remember seeing that a teacher had left a classroom to become a healthcare recruiter. So immediately I started doing research on that career and following people in the recruiting career as well, and that’s when I started focusing directly on recruiting as my next steps that I was going to be taking after the school year was finished.

Daphne:
So what was it about recruiting that stood out to you as a role that you were interested in?

Kierra:
Yeah, it’s funny because everyone that is a recruiter will say that they never went to school to be a recruiter. They just fell into it. And a lot of the skills that teachers have transitioned really well into a recruiting role, so the management piece, the organizational piece, the relationship building, all of those things I had been doing the past three years. So I was like, “This would be perfect for me.” I love that I could still be working with people, but then I could also meet and exceed goals, which is hard to see when you’re teaching, because you could be the greatest teacher, but it’s hard to see that performance really shine through.

Daphne:
Yeah, I’ve heard from another former teacher who’s in the recruiting space that what she really realized that she liked is she’s competitive with herself and she likes to get wins in her job, and so she felt like she was frustrated with teaching because you can do as much as you can and then you don’t get recognition or you don’t get a salary compensation that matches it. And it started to make her feel like a little bit more dissatisfied and stagnant and a little bit resentful of the career because she realized that that was the type of motivation that she really enjoyed in teaching. Do you find any similarities in that with yourself when it comes to recruiting?

Kierra:
Yeah, I would say that sounds almost identical to the way I was feeling. I’m also an extremely competitive person, so I think being in a career where I can meet those goals that I set for myself was big for me, and also the career growth. I like that I’m in charge of my fate and how well I do because I am so competitive that I know that I won’t fail in this career. So I would say almost identical to what you said as far as what I wasn’t being fulfilled in as a teacher.

How Kierra got ready for a career outside the classroom

Daphne:
So let’s go all the way back. You realized you are really excited about finding a recruiting position. What steps did you take to actually land the position that you got?

Kierra:
Yeah, so I took your Teacher Career Coach Course that you offer, and that was the first step I took because I was like, “I need help.” I had seen that you had this course on I think it was Instagram. Someone that had taken it, posted about it or a TikTok or something, and a bunch of my friends from school had also looked into it. So we all bought it the same weekend and started it together, which was fun because we could talk about the modules together. So that was the first step I took. It really helped me with knowing how to rewrite my resume, because a teacher’s resume is so different than the corporate world. So I think that was extremely helpful. And then the networking piece, I can’t emphasize enough how important networking is, and that’s I think what made me successful in finding a new career that I was excited about and really love now. So that was the first step I took.


And then I would just say building up my LinkedIn, connecting with other recruiters, having informational interviews with recruiters, getting an understanding of what their job looks like, what’s expected, and going from there. So I spent a few months really diving into everything and focusing my time and energy on that after school, which was good because it kept me motivated because I was excited for what was to come in the future.

Daphne:
I love that. And I was just reading something about how to create grit. This takes grit and determination, and one way that you can hold on to that hunger for a goal is to have something that you’re passionate and you’re working towards. And if you don’t have any sort of career clarity, if you’re just clawing your way outside of the classroom towards any direction, it’s easy to give up if you don’t have that vision of what you’re looking for, of what you’re working towards, of what it is. If you’re just like, “I don’t know. Whatever. Is it a desk? Is it just not teaching? I haven’t really researched what those roles are,” but once you find the passion, that’s where the grit starts to come, and it sounds like that motivated you after hours too.

Kierra:
Yeah, I would say it could be very overwhelming, so the focus piece was really important. It helped me with what I was going to prioritize and what I was going to focus my attention on. If I was just going into a career change not knowing exactly what I was going to do, I would be very overwhelmed. I also wouldn’t really know what companies to focus on or what skills I needed to ramp up. Yeah, I think it’s really important to have a focus, for sure.

Daphne:
Do you feel like having everything tasked out in that process and the Teacher Career Coach Course helped you stay focused so you weren’t going into too many directions of, “Should I be working on my resume right now, or should I be doing LinkedIn, or how much time should I be spending on things?”

Kierra:
Yeah, I know, it’s funny because I did want to jump right away to the resume writing piece, but I do think it’s important to go through each module as they are numbered, and some modules you can spend more time on than others. But I also thought that the printouts were really helpful that you included with each of the modules. It helps you organize your thoughts and the companies that you’re targeting, so all of those pieces were helpful in the long run as far as where to prioritize my time, because, yeah, you want to just get started and get going right away. But I think it’s important to spend the time through the whole process to really get the results that you’re looking for.

Kierra’s application process for recruiting positions

Daphne:
So, if you have any guesstimate, how many applications do you feel like you put out for recruiting positions before you ultimately got your yes?

Kierra:
So to be honest, five.

Daphne:
What?

Kierra:
And none of them got back to me. So I actually didn’t get any of my interviews by applying. I think mainly because the fact that I’m a teacher, people disregard that when they are sourcing through resumes. So I had the most success by reaching out to people on LinkedIn. What I did was I found a few companies that I was extremely excited about. I did my research on those companies, and then I would reach out to people that worked there, as far as hiring managers or internal recruiters. And I got all of my interviews set up that way, and I felt like it was a good use of my time. Not only was I building connections already with people in the company, but I think it really made me stand out more than an application would.

Daphne:
So you were sending some pretty solid networking messages to get their attention. But yeah, I mean it ended up being a really successful approach, so it obviously worked. And one thing that also I would note with that though is if you are reaching out to the internal recruiters, they’re looking for someone who potentially would be a good culture fit for them, because you’re going to be their colleague as well. So making that personal connection of, “Hey, I’m just interested in this,” is a solid approach when it comes to those recruiter positions, especially.

Kierra:
Yeah, and I think the thing that I had to think about when I was doing so was that if I don’t get a reply, that’s fine. At least I tried. The worst that’s going to happen is someone’s going to reach out and say, “Sorry, we don’t have this available,” or they just won’t respond, so I definitely think it’s worth the risk doing that instead of putting in hundreds of applications places. I just think that the networking piece is the biggest piece of everything. And I also made sure I had my LinkedIn ready to go before I was doing this. And I think I sent connection requests to every person that I knew in college and friends and family right away just so I could start building my network, because it does make a big difference.

Daphne:
And for people who are newer in the process, people who are just listening to this that haven’t listened to the resume episodes and they’re not in the Teacher Career Coach Course, I just want to be super, super clear. This does not mean that you did not have a solid resume or that your LinkedIn did not match a solid resume. Your LinkedIn replicated a resume. It was not just like, “I’m a teacher in transition,” and that’s all it says, and then you’re messaging people on LinkedIn. It sounds like instead of applying this way, this was almost your application process is you were messaging them and they were looking at your LinkedIn, which replicated a resume.

Kierra:
Yeah, and not to say that I didn’t use my resumes. They were still asked for when I was interviewing, so it was still an important piece to have ready to go and polished. So I still had to use it even though I applied in a different type of way. It was still asked for and still looked over, so definitely still an important piece to have.

What it was like for Kierra to interview for recruiter positions

Daphne:
How many interviews did you have with companies before you ultimately landed this position?

Kierra:
So I interviewed with two companies that I was really excited about. Both of them got me interviews and both of them offered me jobs on the same day. One was before the other, and I was really hoping for the second one so it actually worked out really well, because it’s hard with the interview processes that you just don’t know how long they’re going to take. So I started one a lot earlier than the other, and that’s the one I wanted, but it was also a way longer interview process. So it was tough to balance the two when the one that I really wanted was much longer, but it ended up working out well in my favor, and I think it was because I was really transparent with the company that I really wanted to work for that I needed to speed up my process with them because I was further along with another company already. So I think that transparency was also important in helping me get that sped up to process. And yeah.

Daphne:
Do you mind sharing anything that you remember from the interview process specific to becoming a recruiter that they asked you that really stood out?

Kierra:
Yeah, so one of the interview processes was actually really interesting because they were all conversational based. I had five of them and it was with five different leads on each team at the company. And it was just a conversation. They actually didn’t ask me any questions. It was just to see if I would be a good company fit and personality fit, because in their minds if I fit in those areas I would be a good fit to train. So I got lucky enough where my company trained me up to become the recruiter that I am now. So that was a really interesting process, because I was like, “Oh my gosh, they didn’t ask me anything. I don’t know if I did well or if I didn’t do well.” I mean, the conversations flowed, but I wasn’t sure if there was something I was missing, because there was almost too good to be true that I was going through this process.
And then the other company had asked me a question, so that was for a healthcare recruiting company, it was, “Why do you want to work with nurses,” or, “Is working with a nurse special to you?” So that was a different question than I’ve been asked before because it’s obviously very specific. I’ve also been asked about a time where I made a mistake, and what was that mistake, and how did I fix it? So that was also a really interesting question. Both of those were questions that stuck with me because I hadn’t heard them previously.

Daphne:
Do you mind sharing your answer to the mistake question, because from someone who works with hiring managers, I love these psychology questions that people ask?

Kierra:
Yeah, I actually love interviewing, which I’m sure a lot of people don’t. Oh, it was, “What was the time you missed a deadline, and how did you go about fixing that?” So I said, “I can’t remember a time where I had missed a major deadline, and I think that is mainly due to me being extremely organized. I use a planner to organize all of my tasks, so it’s really hard for me to miss something that I need to be doing.” I said, “But if I were to have missed a major deadline for a job, I would definitely own up to my mistakes and make sure that I apologize and that it doesn’t happen again, because if it’s already happened once, then it shouldn’t happen again.” So that’s how I answered that. I answered it with, “It hasn’t happened to me, but this is what I would do if it had.”

Daphne:
And even during that, you’re displaying that you have some soft skills that are really important to a recruiter’s position, which is such a solid answer is every time you’re answering anything that has to do with specific positions, really thinking about what are the soft skills, what are they looking for with a person in this role. One of our questions that we’ve asked teachers when they were applying for different positions was, “Tell a time that you had a disagreement with someone else,” and basically what we were really looking for was someone to prove what teamwork work looked like, even if you have disagreements inside the office. But what we ended up getting with one of our applicants was someone who had a really great story about how they were ultimately right and able to prove that they were right, but that’s really not what you’re looking for in that question.

Kierra:
Right. You don’t want someone to be proving they’re right. You want that discussion and that conversation piece and the communication aspect of it. So that’s interesting.

Daphne:
Yeah, and even that little tiny bit of, “Yeah, and I was able to prove to her that was right, and everyone else knew that I was right,” was like you’re still holding that and I see you. You did it right. But there’s so much psychology that goes behind the actual interview process, and I know as a recruiter you see that as well. But on the other end, before you were in recruiting, did you find that that was something that you needed to study in the modules in the teacher career coach course where we teach that type of insight prior to getting into the interviews themselves?

Kierra:
Yeah, and you talk about how you can spin things to make them positive, and I think that’s really important when you are answering questions, because if they do ask you difficult things like that, it’s more of how can you be better or how can you solve that or what did you do to make that situation positive. So those are definitely helpful tips. I definitely watched that before my interview process, and also it helped me when I was researching for my specific role too.

A day in the life in Kierra’s recruiting position

Daphne:
Now let’s talk a little bit, what does the day-to-day look like in your recruiting position? Are you completely remote?

Kierra:
Yes, I am completely remote and I absolutely love it. I am such an extrovert, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it, but I’m constantly talking to my coworkers and other candidates all day. So I think that piece really helps. And I can also move around the house a little bit, which is nice. So depending on what I’m doing during that time of day, it’s nice to have that flexibility. But I would say that the majority of my day is looking for candidates, so I actually am on the tech team at my company, so it was learning a bunch of new technologies and tools and lingo. That was a job in itself. But I will spend my day screening and sourcing candidates. So I’ll look for a specific job that we’re hiring for. We’re an agency, so we hire for multiple tech roles, so I’ll focus on one. I’ll source candidates, so source meaning search for candidates that would be a good fit for that role based on specific skills that company is looking for, and I’ll send out messages.


And then once I get a message back from a candidate who’s interested, I’ll set up a screening call with them, and it’ll be about 15 to 20 minutes and I’ll just ask them about their experience and tell them more in depth about the role and see if it would be a good fit based on that conversation. And if that conversation is good, then I write them a submission and send them over to the client that we’re working with, then they’ll start that interview process. But I maintain that relationship the whole way through the interview process. I do check-in calls with them before their interviews, after their interviews, really to just gauge how they’re feeling, what they need from me. So I really like that aspect of it, that I get to create these long lasting relationships with people. And then other than that, just a few meetings. So it is great. I love it. I get to create my own schedule, so that’s also really nice.

Daphne:
Is there an expectation of you being online during certain hours of the day?

Kierra:
Yeah, so we have working hours from eight to five. And then we also had summer Fridays, which was pretty cool, so we got to log off at noon or one on Fridays. But yeah, we’re expected to be on eight to five. No one is micromanaging me, so it’s not necessarily that anyone would know that I’m on my computer that whole time, but I would say that it definitely shows in your work and your outcomes how hard you’re working. So if I wanted to work a little less one day, I definitely could, but it’s just time I’m taking away from placements I could be getting, which is, for me, a commission, so it’s not worth it for me to not be spending my time during the workday doing my work.

Daphne:
Yeah, that’s something that I’ve seen with so many remote roles is they have these working hours that are the expectations, but if you do need to go for a little walk with your dogs or something like that, then it’s totally expected. Remote first company role that I had in the past as a learning consultant, I’ve had calls where people are like, “Oh, by the way, on this call I’m going to drive and pick up my kids. I hope you don’t mind.” So there’s always a little bit more flexibility, even if there is a specific timeframe where they’re online.

Kierra:
Yeah, and I like the fact that I can go for a run during lunch or go for a walk or take an appointment and not have to create lesson plans for a sub. I can just go. I was sick last week for a day and my manager’s like, “Hey, you’re fine. Just log off and rest.” And it’s just such a different world to be working in, and it’s just really healthy, I would say, for as far as your mental health goes.

Kierra’s recommendations to prepare for a career in recruiting

Daphne:
For anyone who’s thinking of getting in to recruiting, are there any types of hard skills or tech tools or things that you think that they should maybe upskill in to make them an even stronger candidate?

Kierra:
Yeah, I think first of all being knowledgeable on the role, doing your research. I actually found the company that I work with now by following one of the recruiters that I now work with. He posts a lot of content all the time, and it really opened up my eyes to the type of company he was working for, which is why I wanted to work there so badly. And I would say taking advantage of your LinkedIn Premium, using those free courses to get that knowledge that you don’t have. I know that when I was interviewing with one of my companies, that LinkedIn Recruiter was a thing they used, and it’s a platform basically for sourcing candidates, so I went and I took the class on LinkedIn for that just so I was already ahead of the game when I got into the role and when I was interviewing so I could speak on it, that I had done my course and that I know what everything is so that they don’t have to teach me that.

Daphne:
Yeah, I’ve seen some debate where people say, “Oh, companies, they may or may not even care if you take these courses. What’s the point in taking them?” But ultimately, there are going to be people who come into an interview who are prepared, who understand the acronyms, who understand the language, who understand the tech tools, and this is the best way that you can do it quickly and at a reasonable fee is LinkedIn Learning. I think teachercareercoach.com/linkedinlearning is a free month of it. You can also get it through your library. So it’s just a lot more affordable way for you to really understand the roles that you’re going into. Speaking of LinkedIn though, you are probably on there a lot as a recruiter using LinkedIn Recruiter. Do you mind sharing any of your tips from a recruiting perspective on things that teachers should or should not be doing while they’re using LinkedIn as a platform?

Kierra:
Yeah, I think it’s good to be mindful about what type of content you’re posting. I think it’s important to engage with meaningful content, but also when you’re reaching out to somebody, introduce yourself. Really tell them about why you’re looking to speak with them or what transition you’re trying to make. A lot of times I get messages where people will just send me their resume and say, “Hey, find me a job,” and it’s not really personable. And honestly, I’m not going to be as inclined to help that person because they haven’t made that next step to try to get to know me. I think it’s a really good practice that when you’re reaching out, you’re introducing yourself.


And I’ve talked to a ton of teachers now that I’ve been in recruiting, and I’ve been telling them about your course and how it worked for me, but a lot of the times they’re reaching out saying, “Hey, this is my situation. I would really like to pick your brain on this,” and that’s the kind of time I’m willing to give to anybody. As long as you’re making the effort to get to know me, I am more than happy to help anybody. So I would think that using the platform in that kind of way is really beneficial.

Daphne:
Have you seen anything on LinkedIn that’s public facing posts or comments that you would urge teachers to maybe shy away from a recruiting standpoint that could potentially be red flagging them?

Kierra:
Yeah, I would say I’ve seen a lot of posts where people post, “I’m desperately looking for a job,” or, “I need a job right now. Who can help me?” Those kind of posts I would say don’t really come across positive. They have a negative feel towards them, because it seems like you’re not able to get hired, which isn’t how you want to represent yourself. You want to represent yourself based on your skills. So if you’re posting meaningful content that people can engage with, I think that will make you stand out a lot more and also provide you with the connections that are going to be necessary for your future rather than doing a poor me post, because those don’t ever come across with confidence, I should say.

Daphne:
I always try and say over and over again LinkedIn is basically your resume. Pretend you’re sitting in the interview chair, because that might be the last thing that someone sees right before calling you for an interview. It’s displaying on your profile and so you don’t really want to leave all these breadcrumbs of how long you’ve been in it or when you’re feeling your lowest. You want to feel that’s the professional platform for you to display your best work, not a every day this is my ups and downs of my career change process. Even though you may get other people who are in a similar situation liking and commenting on your posts, which also feels good because you’re finding this community, it’s detrimental to what you’re actually using that platform for, which is potentially getting a job.

Kierra:
Yeah, that’s great advice. I would highly recommend using it in a professional way, because that’s what people are going to look at when they look at your profile. I would also say that it’s important to list all of your skills that pertain to whatever you’re trying to transition into next, because as a recruiter we search for profiles based on those skills. So if you have those skills listed in your profile, you’re more likely going to come up for us recruiters who are searching for specific roles. So I think that’s really important, too, that a lot of people don’t really realize.

Daphne:
Yeah, and it’s part of what we teach in the course as far as applicant tracking systems, and it’s not keyword stuffing, but it’s very specific to understanding the roles that you’re applying for and knowing that you are teaching resume just translated into corporate is not going to cut it if it’s a job that they are using an applicant tracking system for. They’re looking for someone who’s talking specifically about the skills specific to this role, and that’s what’s going to pop up at the top of their list. And if they’re desperate and they’re not really getting any other people who are applying for the jobs, maybe they will start to look at other resumes, but most likely they’re just going to go for that handful.

Kierra:
Yeah, and I really like how in your course you teach on how to reword things, because there’s a lot of skills that we have as teachers that we don’t know how to apply to the corporate world, and you do a really nice job of how to reword and rephrase things that we have that experience in and can speak on. So that I found was extremely helpful when redoing everything, and even in the interview process, being able to speak on those specific skills because of the rewording that you were giving us.

Daphne:
It’s so important because you’re coming from this world of education where you assume that everybody knows, “Oh, I had an IEP. They know what an IEP means.” And it’s like, no, you have to break it down and break it down to why it’s meaningful for this specific position, like, “I had to keep track of really sensitive information that was organized, and it was basically a caseload, and I kept track of it on a quarterly basis, and I also was filing it in a very specific way, and that’s why it applies to this role where I’d be doing something very similar.” You have to speak to them like they have no idea what it is that you did, but I’m not good at off the cuff just translating it. That’s where I always go back and really study those materials if I’m going into a call to make sure that I understand what’s going to be the key point of a conversation that I have with hiring managers about why teachers are great for this position or that position is making sure that I go back and study as well.

Kierra:
Yeah, exactly. And I just think people, when they hear teachers applying or they’re interviewing a teacher, they don’t really realize all of the things that we do on the day-to-day as teachers and all of the metrics we use and track and the data that goes into it. So there’s a lot of pieces that I think are important to speak upon, because a lot of people don’t know what the day-to-day looks like of a teacher, or outside of the day of a teacher looks like, and all of the extra things that we are really skilled in. So I definitely think being able to highlight that is important.

What Kierra learned through the transition process

Daphne:
One of the last questions that I want to ask you that I ask all the former teachers who come on the podcast, what did you learn about yourself during this process?

Kierra:
Yeah, I learned that you shouldn’t feel stuck. There are always other options out there. As far as what you think you can do, you can, and it might be a long process, but the process will be worth it in the end. I am much happier now than I was teaching. I don’t regret leaving teaching one bit. And I think that if you really spend the time doing the things that you need to do prior that it will pay off. So I think it’s just spending that time and really that energy into the future that you want for yourself, because the payoff is so much greater than the time that you spend doing it.

Daphne:
I could not agree more. I mean, just looking at the project, it looks so big and daunting, like, “This is going to be a big project,” and so you’re going to have to decide whether or not it’s the right choice for you. But once you realize, “Yes, it’s absolutely the right choice for me,” doing all the work ends up paying off tenfold. It’s the most important decision I ever made in my life.

Kierra:
Yeah, same, and I think it’s really what got me through my school year, because, yeah, it was hard to go to work every day, but knowing that this was going to be my last year teaching, it’s sad to say, but it was really exciting to me to know that I was going to be doing something else the next year. So I think that that is a great motivating factor in helping you finish your course and the things that need to be done prior.

Daphne:
Well, kudos to you to doing all the hard work, and congratulations on finding a role that is a great fit for you. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to meet you, and then for you even coming on, sharing your story, just a huge thank you. I appreciate you so much.

Kierra:
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It’s great finally meeting you after taking your course and speaking upon your course so much. I’m really, really happy to be here. Thank you so much.

Daphne:
Thank you.

Mentioned in the episode:

Step out of the classroom and into a new career, The Teacher Career Coach Course