How did these two moms who met on the first day of 7th grade, circle back together and end up in business together? Wendy Piazza and Gina Reid not only went to middle school together, but they also went to the same college and lived together in Manhattan.
Wendy worked in advertising account management on clients including Hasbro toys, Cover Girl cosmetics, and Panasonic electronics. But it was when she switched to Human Resources hiring young talent and developing training programs, that she found her true passion. “I loved guiding young adults in their career paths.” She also spent some time as an executive recruiter.
Gina worked in production at NBC Sports and on a documentary for the NBA Players’ Association. She then moved to the business side of production with an advertising firm. When her son was born, she became an executive recruiter and placed account managers at advertising agencies. Bottom line, both women had experience with career development for young adults.
Fast forward to 2015. Wendy and Gina were still great friends, with Wendy living in Connecticut and Gina living in New York. As their kids entered college and high school, they found themselves helping students with the college, internship, and job search process. Over in Katonah, Gina was developing resumes, teaching networking and interview preparation. While in Darien, Wendy was helping students with college applications and internship interviews. They decided to join forces and their firm, Define Yourself, was born.
But what would they offer and how would it work with the two women in two different locations. Technology allows them to be in separate locations and still provide personalized attention. Wendy and Gina developed a format for how they would interact with college students and young professionals by working with some friends’ children to determine their approach.
“We start with a conference call with the graduate. This allows us to get to know them and hear about their career goals and learn about what they’ve done for work and in college.” Wendy says that many kids don’t know how to talk about their experiences and need to learn how to present themselves in the best light, on paper and in person. Some also need guidance determining their strengths and career direction.
“One of our goals is to help kids talk about their skills and strengths in a constructive way. This is huge for them in the interviewing process,” says Gina. Wendy and Gina then take what they’ve learned about their client and create or revise their resume to best reflect the student or young professional’s accomplishments.
The next step is to figure out how their clients want to approach their job or internship search. Most students don’t know how to start the process. “Many clients want to use the same cover letter for every opportunity. We teach them how to research companies and target heir letters to the specific company and position.” Wendy and Gina teach them how to
use their college resources and how to access heir personal relationship to network. “Young adults need the confidence to reach out to people they know who might help them. We work to explain how that process works and how they can utilize to their benefit.”
Wendy says, “We encourage the graduates’ parents to help them develop a list of friends and associates who might help their child in some way. It might be an informational interview or a referral but there are always people who can assist.”
The two women recognize that they can’t get someone a job but they can help “their kids” define themselves by developing the confidence and direction to present their skills and accomplishments in the best possible light.
Wendy and Gina love the flexibility their business provides but say, “The greatest reward is when a kid calls and you can hear the excitement and confidence in their voice telling you that they got a job. That makes it such a fulfilling venture for us.”
Combine talents with a friend to start a business.