When Jessica Starr interviewed for a recruitment specialist position at Acara Solutions, she instantly connected to the company’s core values of accountability, supportiveness, transparency, and follow-through. These principles have shaped her career and propelled her into her current role as Acara’s Regional Director of Client Services for the East region. In this edition of Seeing Fit, Jessica offers her insights on the value of overcoming life’s challenges through hard work.
On her path before Acara
I grew up on a farm in Bethlehem, New York, and went to school at Siena College, where I studied psychology. Upon graduating from college, I hoped to impact people and change the world as a psychologist. But after a series of personal hardships, I was forced to change course and pursue full-time work. I took a nannying job after college and watched four kids for four years. Once the youngest child began attending preschool, I knew I needed to get a job that provided me with valuable professional experience to build my resume. I left my position as a nanny and found work as a licensed insurance salesperson. The world of insurance was difficult and not well-suited to my skillset, but I stuck it out for one year. Ultimately, I learned about some of the characteristics to avoid in a workplace culture: a lack of flexibility, minimal encouragement, and limited opportunity. After getting my feet wet in my first professional setting, I switched gears and discovered the recruiting industry.
The move to recruitment
Before taking my first recruiting job at a healthcare staffing agency, I never knew recruiters even existed. But after I found out more about the profession and the day-to-day responsibilities, I knew the job was right for me. I dove right into the high-volume, fast-paced environment. From the get-go, I contacted 200 people each day to talk to them about career opportunities. After I left the insurance company, I swore that I would never work in sales again. Yet I ended up in recruiting, an industry that, at its core, is intrinsically sales-based. Recruiting allows me to use my personality and energy to build relationships and positively impact people’s lives. I found myself growing invested in the candidates that I placed, and I wanted them to succeed in their new positions. Even though I wasn’t able to change the world as I initially thought I would, I feel that my job as a recruiter still allows me to make a difference, one placement at a time.
What drew her to Acara
I was looking for the next step in my career when I heard about Acara Solutions. Through my interview with Acara, I noticed that every employee who I spoke with had one underlying belief: if Acara found the right candidate for a client, the entire company would flourish. The organization’s pillars of success were posted on a desk, and I read them as I was waiting for my interview. They really resonated with me: communicating within 24 hours, holding yourself accountable, going beyond, getting the job done—not just for yourself, but for other people. Set goals, maintain those goals, and follow through on commitments. I thought to myself, “This is who I am as a human. This is what I live and breathe every day!”
Hitting the ground running
When I began my tenure at Acara, I jumped right in to support our team. I’m an extremely competitive person, and one of our clients had just put 30 open jobs on our plate. It was a huge opportunity, one that I wanted to knock out of the park. I ended up filling 20 of the 30 positions myself. I began coming to the office early every morning as I sat at my computer, phone in hand, making dozens of calls. I understood the value of these extra hours and how they gave me a leg-up on the other recruiters. From this experience, I developed a strong partnership with our branch account executive as we worked together to not only support our largest local client, but fill a large majority of the local business that was generated.
A one-of-a-kind client experience
While working with one of our local clients, I was able to sit in on some of our initial sales kickoff meetings. This helped me to understand who they were as a company and tailor my search according to what they were seeking in a candidate. The company was known as a community-first organization with a culture that believed in second chances. When we opened our first requisition for this client, I wanted to find someone who aligned with their company culture just as much as they fit their job requirements. It was then that I met one of my most favorite placements. Throughout conversations with the candidate, I quickly learned about his strong skillset, along with his unique sense of compassion and drive. After engaging with the candidate and helping him to facilitate job interviews, I was thrilled when he eventually accepted a job offer. Yet I later learned that this individual was more incredible than I had initially known. The candidate was a veteran who had recently been homeless. He was temporarily living in a community shelter until he could get back on his feet. In order to complete his paperwork, I was able to meet him in person and see where he was living. We talked for quite some time, as I discovered even more about his unforgettable life story. Hearing about his journey left me moved and inspired at the thought of making a difference in the world—exactly what I thought I would be doing when I first declared my college major!
On transitioning within the company
About a year into my tenure with Acara, I was asked to move into the role of Account Manager to service one of our largest customers. While I still performed recruiting work for many of the same accounts, my responsibilities grew to include building more relationships with clients and increasing collaboration with our internal teams. I learned to wear multiple hats, working less as an individual contributor and more as a collaborative team member. I needed to balance what the client wanted, what we wanted, and what needed to be done to ensure our placements had a strong experience while on assignment. In working with one particular client that required 24/7, round-the-clock support, I worked to reply to any email, answer any call, or handle any situation—even during “after-hours.” My goal was to ensure that my client knew that I was there for them, serving as a dedicated resource at all times. Upon my promotion to my new role as Regional Director of Client Services, I have taken my mindset as an Account Manager and expanded upon it to drive client satisfaction on a larger scale. I work as a consultant to understand our customers’ needs and properly advise them on appropriate strategies to pursue. I enjoy being able to talk with multiple clients per day while collaborating with leaders of our internal teams to help drive our industry-recognized best practices.
Setting her sights to the future
I wanted to have a career at a company with room for growth, and that’s what I’ve found at Acara. Within one year, I was talking to my manager about my future within the company and how I hope to someday hold a position as a vice president. There is no doubt in my mind that I am set up to meet that goal if I keep aiming to achieve it. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, and I’m not expecting it to, but I want to learn from my superiors at Acara while helping others in cultivating their own drive and passion for client services.
What makes her successful
I aspire to see our clients succeed as much as I want to see Acara succeed. I’m a very strategic person and find it best to keep myself organized with specific plans. Every morning, I write myself my goals for that day: the number of calls I need to make, the meetings that I have scheduled, and what I need to do to fill job openings. By using these goals as a checklist, I’m able to better motivate myself and improve my performance. I don’t stop working until my daily goals are achieved.
Her ideal day off
Give me a book by a beautiful body of water and let me relax—preferably in a place where there’s no cell service. Otherwise, I’m going to be checking my email out of habit!
What you might not know about Jessica
For the majority of my life, I danced and cheered competitively for hours on end—a full-time job’s worth of practices every week. My childhood passion came full circle last year when I began teaching dance lessons. I’ve found that this is a great way to interact with kids and keep myself active. Prior to teaching dance, I spent 15 years as a former competitive cheerleading coach for youth athletes. Also, about a year ago, I got married. My husband and I are currently expecting our first child in August.