Name: Kendra Reddy
Occupation: Career expert and professional speaker
Years of experience: Seven in current field, 16 working full time

Q. What steps did you take to help you get started in your industry?

A. My career path has certainly not been a straight one. I’ve never envisioned myself as choosing one specific thing to be when I grow up and, as a result, I transferred my skills and strengths to several different industries (basically experimenting and gaining experience) until I found executive search. I enjoyed working with people who were searching for new opportunities, since I had done so much of that myself, and realized that I could help even more by working in the broader arena of talent management.

I spent five years working as a full-time career consultant, providing career transition, career management, and change management support to clients and companies. In addition to meeting individually with clients to assist them in creating and executing proactive career plans, I also designed and delivered seminars and workshops to groups and organizations. This was by far my favourite part of my job. In order to be able to do more professional speaking on the career issues I am passionate about, I started my independent practice, Blueprint Strategies.

Q. Describe the ideal qualities a person should have to succeed in your industry?

A. In this industry you are a catalyst to your client’s process so you have to be flexible, find creative solutions, and stay on the cutting edge of what is happening globally in the marketplace. Patience and empathy are critical, since a large part of most people’s identities is tied to the work they do. And, of course, to speak professionally, you have to be comfortable being the centre of attention in large groups and have a high, positive energy level!

Q. What kind of background, either educational or other, best suits someone starting out in your industry?

A. My educational background is psychology. Other areas of study in this field include human resources, career counselling, organizational behaviour, education, and industrial relations. Hands-on business experience is also an asset — my experience in planning and executing my own career evolution in a period of revolution translates into relevant insight, which results in success for my clients.

Q. What do you like most about your job?

A. The best part of my job is helping people to understand how to take control of their careers and motivating them to take action on their strategy. There is no better feeling than seeing a client have a plan and work the plan.

Q. What are the most challenging aspects of your industry?

A. The early stages of career change and transition can be difficult — especially if the person did not expect it or want it. Being the first point of contact immediately after someone’s just been informed that their job has been modified or gone away can be a very delicate situation to be in. My role in those situations is to address immediate needs, such as how to communicate the news to friends and family, or how to access personal support and resources, in order to help the person to begin to move forward.

Q. What tips would you offer newcomers to the industry?

A. I would offer the same advice I offer clients who are interested in exploring new career paths: Research and find out as much as you can about the industry by talking to people who are in (or have been in) the same industry. Talk to people at every stage and level. Ask them the same questions that I’ve answered here, ask them to speculate and evaluate where they think the industry is going in the future, ask for personal feedback, and most importantly, ask them to refer you to someone else who would be interesting to speak to. It is important to have a realistic and holistic view in order to make informed decisions.

Q. What kind of local associations/organizations/volun­teer activities would you recommend?

A. The Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario and the Strategic Capability Network are both well-known and helpful associations. Contact Point is a wonderful (free) resource for career and employment counsellors and career development practitioners. Look for volunteer opportunities at career centres within local high schools, colleges, and universities.

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