Vaneese Johnson Has Your Back

This certified career coach gives you the inside scoop to land the job that makes you sing

Headshot of Vaneese Johnson in front of a pink background

Vaneese Johnson has six words for you: “Treat your career like a business.” It’s a mantra you should keep whether you’re looking for a job today or in five years from now.

It’s a mantra she has held dear during her 20-plus years of career coaching. And it all started when she opened up shop for her On the Move Staffing Services in 1998, which assisted temporary employees who were transitioning in their careers.

“As they were evolving in their career,” Vaneese recalls on a recent Zoom chat, “I saw an opportunity on the corporate side to do outplacement career support. The people who are affected need to get career assistance. So I worked for Lee Hecht Harrison where we delivered those services through dedicated career management-type classes. And from there, I became a certified career management coach.”

And she hasn’t looked back. Continuing to help professionals find what makes his/her/their hearts sing, Vaneese is ready to help our students treat their careers like a business in the upcoming two-day Career Boot Camp: Get Your Next Job. Vaneese is no stranger to working with our students; she’s been an esteemed instructor with our Career Services team since March 2020, teaching Career Development Fundamentals and Internship in Academic and Professional Practice.

With this wealth of experience, Vaneese recently shared with me her thoughts on what it means to be a career coach and how she brings this passion to the boot camp.

Do you have current skill sets that are attractive to the buyers, the employers? What is the premium value that you can get for your skills?

What did career coaching look like when you started in the industry?

A lot of people got into their careers the traditional way: You go to high school, then to college, and then your parents tell you to get a good job in this particular area. And a good majority of people do that because they’re taking the experience and information from somebody else’s life and not their own.

So when I was doing career coaching in the corporate space, a lot of individuals had their jobs for 15, 25, 30 years. They’ve never looked for a job before and didn’t know where to start. They didn’t have a strategy for career development or career management. So I started doing classes and workshops based on their needs and then it evolved into how I help clients navigate to the next level.

That’s when I came up with the mantra, “Treat your career like a business.”

If you don’t update your product, services or offerings, then you are going to become outdated in the marketplace. Look at your current offerings. Is that what the marketplace is buying right now in respect to your particular profession? In your industry? Do you have current skill sets that are attractive to the buyers, the employers? What is the premium value that you can get for your skills?

This is also a good time to stay ahead of the curve. Looking five and 10 years down the road, what will be happening in your profession? Put it into practice today and develop those skills so you can get a premium price for your skill set.

So when you are not treating your career like a business and you’re not future-focused and forward-thinking, you put yourself in the commodity zone.

Essentially, get the skills to future-proof yourself.

Absolutely! It also keeps you out of what I call the commodity zone. This is where you’re coming in with standard skills that are current in the market. And now you find yourself trying to negotiate really hard to get the value that you feel you’re worth. You’ve got a number of years of experience and you feel this should be valuable, but the employer is asking, “Do you have the skills to help us solve the problem that’s coming up tomorrow? Can you help us identify a problem in the future that we don’t even know exists?”

So when you are not treating your career like a business and you’re not future-focused and forward-thinking, you put yourself in the commodity zone.

Where does past work experience fit in?

You have a plethora of experience or maybe you’re just developing it. Ask yourself, “Based on all of this experience that I have, what have I found myself naturally gravitating to? Is this something that I enjoy doing? Can I do it effortlessly?”

You like it so much that you’re adding new skills, or you’re reading, researching, networking and talking about it.

So as you move throughout your career, look at what makes your heart sing. Some people might say that doesn’t pay the bills. Well, guess what? We’re in a different economy. A lot of people during this pandemic-and part of the reason we have the great resignation movement-are waking up out of zombie mode. “Wait a minute, what have I been doing? I don’t even like that. I don’t even like this company.”

This is the career-management piece to be strategic about how you’re going after new opportunities. What does your future look like for you? I’m going to encourage you to set some goals and set a timeline.

I’m going to be bringing this energy because I think that everyone has the opportunity to treat their career like a business. The class is interactive; I am not here to lecture you.

You obviously have an amazing amount of passion for this work. And you’ll be bringing the same passion to your career boot camp.

I’m going to be bringing this energy because I think that everyone has the opportunity to treat their career like a business.

I’m also going to be bringing some updated market information. I’ll give you an example. I came across an article about TikTok résumés. Who knew? So I’ll be talking about that in class. We’ll talk about mindset shifting and the traditional tools you can use.

Make sure your résumé has the right keywords that hirers are looking for.

Interviewing: Especially if you’re working already, you’re not thinking about interviewing. If you’re in a certificate program, you’re focusing on developing skills; you’re not focused on how to talk about those skills. We’re going to practice interviewing skills and techniques.

We’re also going to talk about leveraging your network. LinkedIn is still the number-one platform to leverage career opportunities. Employers will Google your name to learn about you and how you present yourself.

I also add in the branding component-creating your own website to showcase your work, ordering personal business cards, include an email signature that has links to your social media pages so that when you’re emailing people, you can say, “In the meantime, please visit the social media links in my email signature to learn more about my educational and professional background.”

The class is interactive; I am not here to lecture you. There will be some introspective work and then you’re going to do group work where you get to start networking with each other and get feedback.

What draws you to teaching this boot camp with us?

UC Berkeley Extension is a really great place where you can take short-term classes to help you in the fastest time so that you can stay abreast of your career. The boot camp is two days of having interactive fun working on your career, and then on Monday you can put this into action-you could even put lessons into action after the first day of class!

How do you create all of the interactive elements into the Live Online format?

I’m not going to lecture. I’m going to give you highlights and a couple of scenarios, and then you get to start doing the work. I am here to answer questions.

In my past boot camps, people brought in their real scenarios. Those aren’t isolated scenarios; somebody else in the class has been in that situation before.

It’s important that your coach is as invested in their own individual professional development so that they can help you to be invested in your career.

So while you’re helping your students future-proof their own careers, how are you staying abreast of trends in career coaching?

Here’s the good news about career coaching: It’s now an accessible support tool that previously was only available to executives. A career coach is definitely going to be a benefit support system that I think everybody will ultimately have in their pocket to discuss opportunities.

I think professionals will be more strategic and manage their time better with skill development because they will focus their energy and time on what they love to do. And career coaches are forever going to be on the sidelines. I think it’s important for career coaches-including myself-to continue to skill build so that we can better serve our clients.

I’m also an international coach with clients in India, Hong Kong, Japan, China and Africa. It’s a joy to relate to individuals from different cultures coming to work either at U.S.-based companies or U.S. companies based in their country.

It’s important that your coach is as invested in their own individual professional development so that they can help you to be invested in your career.

Make sure you gain the right skills to treat your career as a business by enrolling in our special Career Boot Camp: Get Your Next Job. Sign up today!

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UC Berkeley Extension is the continuing education branch of the University of California, Berkeley. We empower learners to meet educational and career goals.

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UC Berkeley Extension

UC Berkeley Extension

UC Berkeley Extension is the continuing education branch of the University of California, Berkeley. We empower learners to meet educational and career goals.

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