At just 26 years old, executive recruiter Danielle Leach has found a career that she loves and in which she is thriving. But despite Danielle’s passion for her job, she didn’t always know the career path she wanted to take. Straight out of college Danielle served as a missionary in a foster care home for Native American children, and after that spent two years working for Teach for America before finding her path as a recruiter.
These days, along with her busy work schedule, Danielle writes a lifestyle blog and also runs a college advising program for a group of her former students—as a first generation college student herself, she believes in the importance of passing on the lessons she’s learned to others. Danielle has taken students on college visits, helped them raise money to fund SAT tutoring sessions, and worked with them on college applications and essays.
We’re so impressed with Danielle’s drive, determination, and enthusiasm for helping others, and we’re thrilled to share her story with you today. Keep reading to learn more about Danielle’s career path and the resume advice she has for job seekers. Oh! And we’re also sharing a few photos of her adorable pup, Henry. (Because let’s be honest, this world can never have enough puppy pictures.)
Full Name: Danielle Paige Leach
Current Title/Company: Executive Recruiter at Search Solution Group
Educational Background: Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Global Politics from Clemson University
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
I graduated from college in December 2010 and had already been accepted into Teach For America, which didn’t start until June 2011. Since I had an “off” semester, and had been dreaming of an opportunity to serve since a young age, I moved to Montana to serve as a missionary in a foster care home for Native American children. My cousin had recently started the home so I landed the job through him. Overnight, I went from recent college graduate to being a “mom” to six children. It was definitely one of the more challenging experiences of my life, but on one snow-covered day at the playground when one of the little boys called me “mom,” my life changed forever.
In June 2011 you began teaching high school math in Charlotte, North Carolina through Teach for America. Tell us about this experience! What did you learn from your two years of teaching?
Teaching is probably one of the most meaningful things I have done in my life thus far. For the first year, I taught remedial Algebra I and my second year I taught Honors and IB Algebra II. I attended private school and was unaware of the severity of the gap that exists within our education system. I had students in my class who hadn’t mastered their multiplication tables. My students were behind academically and faced other challenges in their home lives, which made school even more difficult. I refused to lower the bar and held my students to the highest of expectations. As a teacher you have to give all of yourself to your students, not only academically within the four walls of your classroom, but in their personal lives as well. To truly be successful, you have to have a passion for what you are doing. For two years, I was in love with math. My students thought I was crazy at times, but it definitely made class more entertaining.
Professionally, I learned the value in flexibility and the importance of planning proactively for every scenario. Personally, I learned the meaning of selflessness and putting the students’ lives before my own each day.
Throughout my time teaching, everyone always said things to me like, “You are making such an impact on your students’ lives,” but the impact they made on mine was far greater.
After Teach for America you landed a job with Search Solution Group as a recruiter. What initially drew you to this position?
My mom is a Vice President at a recruiting firm in Jacksonville, Florida where I grew up. I never thought I would do recruiting, but once I decided to leave the classroom, all roads pointed towards following in my mom’s footsteps. At Clemson, I never stepped foot in the business school and had very little exposure to the business world. I thought recruiting would be a great opportunity for me to immerse myself in the complexities of corporate America.
I interviewed with several recruiting firms in Charlotte and it was really important that I found the right fit for both the company and me. A positive culture was the biggest thing that I was looking for as the recruiting industry has a stereotype of being a cutthroat, competitive environment which is not what I was looking for. My mom actually spotted an old ad online for Search Solution Group where one of the requirements listed was that you must love dogs, as they are a dog friendly office. That night I emailed my resume along with pictures of me and my dog, Henry, to the owner of the company and interviewed the next day. I fell in love with the people I interviewed with and I am happy to call them some of my closest friends today!
What are your job responsibilities with Search Solution Group? How has your role evolved since you first started with the firm?
Essentially, my responsibilities include sourcing candidates for our clients open positions. This includes everything from entry-level HR Generalist positions to Senior Directors of Executive Compensation. Once I source the candidate, I work with them throughout the entire interview process coaching and prepping them for next steps in the process. Sometimes, this process can take a week and other times it can take up to a few months.
My role has evolved through the amount of jobs I am able to work on at a time. I started with just 2-3 and now I typically manage at least 25 open positions at a time. I’ve mastered the art of prioritizing. As a goal oriented person, I shared a few goal-setting strategies with the team and now we have quarterly goals with check-ins which has helped us all become more successful. Additionally, since I love numbers, I implemented a tracking system that is now used across the business. It helps us all be more accountable to each other and achieve our goals.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I have a genuine interest and passion for people. Although I consider myself an introvert, I love connecting with new people. Each day, I connect with people in various positions across the country. I love learning about their past career choices, what they are looking for in the future, and connecting on other things such as colleges and pets. I’ve had candidates send me pictures when they have a baby; I love being involved in people’s lives.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
In recruiting, there are so many variables that can effect a placement—from life changes that occur to other job offers coming first—and a lot of them are outside of your locus of control. I like to be in control of everything so it was definitely a hard obstacle to overcome. I now focus on the importance of relationships and open communication throughout the process which can make those variables less surprising. I also always have a back up plan. If I couldn’t find another candidate, then I wouldn’t be good at my job. So I focus on the positive and keep hustling.
What advice can you give women seeking a career as a recruiter?
There are so many recruiting firms, so it’s important that you chose the one that is right for you. No one knows you better than yourself so it’s important that the company is able to offer you what you are looking for in your career. Spend time interviewing with multiple firms to really understand their culture and know their metrics for success. Ask if you can spend a day shadowing members of their team to see how they interact. Take your time doing your research on the company and their markets. Have a clear understanding of the expectations the company has for you.
Don’t be afraid to fail. I missed out on too many opportunities because I was so afraid of potentially failing. Looking back, those are the times when I really learned the most about myself and grew into the professional I am today.
You spend a great deal of time reviewing resumes for your job. What are some tips you can share with our readers on crafting an appealing resume?
There are so many aspects to a resume and a lot of it does depend on what type of position you are looking for. If you’ve achieved any type of certification (CPA, MBA, SPHR, etc.) I always recommend having that at the top near your name, as a lot of companies are now requiring them. Second, I always look for company descriptions. It’s hard to believe but people are often unaware of the company you are coming from, especially if it outside their industry. A quick one to two lines maximum summarizing the type of company and its size can be beneficial. I also look for dates (months and year) of employment which helps me to see longevity at companies and progression throughout career. Lastly, I always recommend using a basic Word format without any special formatting. Often times, the formatting prevents your resume from being properly formatted into company’s tracking systems and this could make your resume unsearchable.
In your spare time you write the lifestyle blog Elle Paige & Henry. What inspired you to start a blog? What have you learned since starting your blog?
I have been following some blogs for years and have really grown up with the women who write them. I admired their vulnerability and willingness to be so open and it inspired me to take a step outside of my comfort zone. I’ve learned so much since starting the blog. Again with the numbers, I love tracking all of the data associated with the blog, Instagram, and Pinterest and discovering the most optimal times and topics for postings. It’s funny how there will be a post I am really excited about sharing and then it won’t receive as many views as I would hope and then there are others that are unexpectedly popular. I try not to focus on it too much and write about what is interesting to me at the moment. Authenticity is a trait I admire deeply in others, so I want to keep the blog authentic to me. I’ve also learned to always be prepared—I write most of my posts on the weekends and schedule them to publish throughout the week since I do have a day job.
You also run a college advising program for a group of your former students who are going through the college application process. We would have loved to have had your guidance when transitioning to college! Tell us a little more about what you do through this program.
As a first generation college student, I found the college application process to be overwhelming and retrospectively there were so many things that I learned. I taught these six girls during my second year of teaching and now they are seniors in high school. We started last fall and spent the first year meeting monthly and discussing basic topics such as what the application process looks like and financial aid options. Over the summer, we spent time touring colleges nearby such as my alma mater, Clemson. I was also able to fundraise over $1,000 to help one student receive SAT tutoring lessons from one of the top instructors in Charlotte. This was really meaningful to me as I wanted her to have the same options as some of her more affluent peers. Now that they are seniors, they have each selected six colleges that they plan to apply to, and we are working together as they complete their applications, secure their recommendations, write their essays, and apply for scholarships.
What is a typical work day like for you?
So far, no two days have been the exact same. In a typical day, I am on the phone connecting with people and submitting them to our clients, coaching candidates through both phone and in person interviews, and hopefully placing a few candidates in a new position (the most I’ve had in one day is two). Our office is big on culture, so we eat lunch together in our largest conference room which is always one of my favorite parts. We also take the dogs for walks in the afternoons. If it’s a good day for the business, we celebrate with champagne!
Best moment of your career so far?
In the month of January, I made over $100,000 for my company which at the time, only our owner had done. It was rewarding to see how I had directly impacted the growth of our company. I’m in constant competition with myself to do it again. Hopefully, one more time this year!
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I missed out on too many opportunities because I was so afraid of potentially failing. Looking back, those are the times when I really learned the most about myself and grew into the professional I am today. So, I would tell 18-year-old Danielle to fall flat on her face, eat a cupcake to lift her spirits, and then try again.
Danielle Leach is The Everygirl…
Morning or night?
I can’t believe I am saying this but, morning.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
From a young age, my dad always encouraged me to ask for what I wanted. While in some situations, the ask can be uncomfortable, I find that I am able to articulate myself really well in both my personal and professional life. The skill comes in handy for everything from ordering in a restaurant to asking for a raise.
Favorite part about living in Charlotte?
So many! I love that I live in a neighborhood yet it still has a city feel. There are so many fun boutiques, restaurants, and fitness places within walking distance of my apartment—and gorgeous parks for Henry! It also happens to be perfectly situated between the beach and the mountains.
I wish I knew how to ________.
Sing. I’ve performed some pretty amazing concerts in my car during road trips and would love to see what I could do with a sold-out arena.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
The Duchess of Cambridge. I have a fascination with the royal family and I would love to be her best friend. I love brunch so I think we would order fried chicken and waffles with goat cheese grits and bacon on the side. Mimosas to drink, of course.