Jessica Williams from Prichard Communications and Mac’s List shares her experience of her professional life launching with her personal life. Leaping into the unknown because she just knew she was in the right place, working through new work tasks, and successfully growing her client’s reach by over 50% – several years running.
She shares what she learned on her journey and how great it was for her professional launch to create and ignite a personal launch, at the same time.
TOPICS DISCUSSED INCLUDE:
- Ways your professional launch can foster a personal launch
- Taking a leap of faith into the unknown
- Building a website and list over 50% through relationships and connections
- Trial and error and figuring it all out
- Being in the job that you are supposed to be in
- Navigating difficult situations and coming out on the other side
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
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MORE ABOUT JESSICA WILLIAMS
Jessica Williams is an account director at Prichard Communications where she works with nonprofits and foundations in health and human services. She is also the account director for “Mac’s List,” a service of Prichard Communications and an online community connecting talented job seekers with employers who offer rewarding work. She writes for the “Mac’s List” and Prichard Communications blogs.
An avid adventurer, poetry enthusiast, and nature walker, Jessica is often found practicing yoga, wandering the streets of Portland, or playing with her dog. Jessica has worked in sales, marketing, and communications since she graduated from Wake Forest University in North Carolina in 2003. She has a master’s in strategic communications from the University of Oregon and is a certified yoga instructor. In 2008, she locked eyes with a killer whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – she can’t let it go.
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Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is a launch yourself podcast with Melissa Anzman episode. Number 14, featuring Jessica Williams.
Melissa Anzman (00:07): Hello. Hello. Hello, and welcome to the launch yourself podcast, career, business, and brand advice to help you be seen, make an impact and deliver at your maximum potential. And now here's your host, Melissa. Anzman
Melissa Anzman (00:26): Welcome to the lunch yourself podcast. I'm your host, Melissa Anzman today. We will be chatting with Jessica Williams. Jessica is an account director at Prichard communications, where she works with nonprofits and foundations in health and human services. She's also the account director for mac's list, a service of Prichard communications and an online community connecting talented job seekers with employers who offer rewarding work. She writes for the mac's list and Prichard communications. Blog is an avid adventure poetry enthusiast in nature Walker, and Jessica can often be found practicing yoga, wandering the streets of Portland, Oregon, or playing with her dog. Jessica has worked in sales, marketing, and communications that she graduated from wake university in North Carolina in 2003. She has a master's degree in strategic communications from the university of Oregon and is a certified yoga instructor in 2008. She locked eyes with a killer whale in the middle of the Pacific ocean.
Melissa Anzman (01:25): And she's can't let it go, please. Welcome my friend, Jessica to the show. Hi, Jessica. Welcome to the show. Hi Melissa. How are you? I'm good. I'm so glad to have you on it's been almost ages and ages for, since we've caught up. Jessica had joined us from Mac's list. That's actually how I know her through Mac, who we have had on the show before Mac Prichard. But Jessica really worked on the mac's side of Prichard communications and that's why we got to know each other with all of the job search capabilities and information that they have posted there. And I'm so excited to have her on the show to help us get a better insight into max Lewis, as well as Jessica's own launch. So welcome. Thank you. Thank you. Excited to be here. So here at launch yourself, we define a launch as a specific point when you purposely decide to take action to fulfill your maximum potential and your career, business and brand.
Melissa Anzman (02:25): So with that in mind, Jessica, which launch would you like to share with us today? Well, I'd like to talk about Mac's List, which is a website in Portland, Oregon based in Portland, Oregon, and it's an online community of job seekers and employers. And we help job seekers find rewarding work and employers find great candidates. But it's also goes hand in hand with my own kind of personal launch. So I hope to talk about both of those things. Absolutely. It's amazing how one lot usually work so closely together with a second launch. I always say that you don't actually see your launching until you're in the middle of it sometimes. So it sounds like this is one of those fabulous.
Jessica Williams (03:08): It definitely does.
Melissa Anzman (03:10): So talk to me a little bit about when you joined mac's list when that was, what was going on, sort of what made you join him?
Jessica Williams (03:19): Okay. Yeah. So I actually worked for Prichard communications. And as you said, you interviewed Mac Prichard about his relaunching of that side of the business. And we really think of mac's list as a service that we provide to our community at printer communication. So I'm an account director at the firm and we do public relations for nonprofits and foundations and health and human services. And when I came on board I was working part time and getting my masters in strategic communications at the university of Oregon. And I met Mac through our colleague, Laurie, how she was in a class with me, and he was looking for somebody to come in and work part time temporarily as a customer service person on Mac's list. And I had been a subscriber of mac's list for a very long time.
Jessica Williams (04:13): When I first moved to Oregon, a friend of mine who has a long career here in communication said to me, if you need a job in Oregon and there's one place you look and that's Mac's list. And it was just this basic newsletter that I got in my email inbox every week. And it really had the, some of the most amazing jobs and I would look forward to it every day or every week. So I was really excited to come in and work on mac's list and at Prichard. So that was in 2012.
Melissa Anzman (04:47): So not that long ago
Jessica Williams (04:49): Really it'll be two years in April.
Melissa Anzman (04:51): So interesting because that sort of description of mac's list is so different from the mac's list of today that I know there's no way today that one person could part time manage, you know, the newsletter. So if you could talk us through, how did that grow to where it is today? How did you launch that to its current situation?
Jessica Williams (05:14): So when I came on board there were multiple kind of hands in the pot here at Prichard communications. My colleague Laurie was had been writing the newsletter for several years for Mac. And there were a couple other people in the office kind of working on the account on the technical side of things. And we had a part time intern who did the social media for us. And then I was working 20 hours a week doing customer service. And it was a pretty crazy time in the office. We've been through a lot of transitions since then. And so I guess my advice to people who are coming in in a situation like that is that it does get better. So if you work really hard I, you know, I wasn't really sure where my job was going to go when I got hurt on, but I knew, I knew it felt like the right thing to do. And I was literally handed you know, things to do on Post-It notes and, you know, follow up with this, follow with that. And I had to learn as I went, which is typical of most jobs, I think that people find themselves in.
Melissa Anzman (06:27): That's so interesting because you're right, like it was an organization mess that was learned on the job fire. And as soon as you sort of put your time in, you get better and more comfortable and it gets better. So knowing there's a light on the other side of the tunnel is probably good for those who are in inside of craziness right now. It's true.
Jessica Williams (06:48): So, I mean, I, I can't tell you Mac, I mean, mac started mac's lists as a way to keep in touch with his colleagues, his professional colleagues. And he would just throw jobs on a email that he sent out once a week, once a week, and his outlook email address book, and then they turn it into a newsletter. And then a few years later they started charging employers to post on the list because employers found that they were reaching more quality candidates and less quantity. And so it really grew organically out of this need in the community. And when I came on board, they were just at this pivotal point of, okay, what, what do we do with this? We have something here, how do we leverage this? And Mac was in the middle of relaunching. So we had a basic website that was on Prichard communications site.
Jessica Williams (07:36): And he was in the middle of relaunching it into this whole new domain name for macslist.org. And I, wasn't a part of that project initially within a couple of months, I was brought in to lead the project and I had never I had never really done anything like that before. And so it was really interesting. I was just like, yep, I can do it. Let's just make it happen. And we, we had several challenges along the way. We learned a lot of lessons and made some mistakes as you always do. But now two years later, we really feel like we have the systems in place and the processes in place. And we really understand our community in a way that we didn't two years ago.
Melissa Anzman (08:19): So you mentioned earlier that this launched with backflips really coincided with, you know, a change in direction or a personal launch. Tell me more if you would about that. Yeah.
Jessica Williams (08:31): So I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2009 and was going through a pretty big transition in my life. And I had I had been in sales for five years, right out of college. I sold wine, I sold advertising and I knew that I didn't want to be in strictly sales anymore. And I had tried various things. I decided I wanted to go back to school to become a midwife. And then I became a yoga instructor. And then I decided to get my masters in communications and really came back to my strengths. And this was the first job for me. I had been looking for three years and for me, it really coincided with what I wanted to do, which was make a difference in the world by using my strengths. And it really fits that bill perfectly. Now, I didn't really know it at the time.
Jessica Williams (09:24): And I think you mentioned that earlier, I didn't know that it was going to turn into that. I kind of took a leap of faith that you know, that, that something about this, when it, when it became available, felt like the right thing to do. And I literally knew it was my job. I walked in and said, you know, I am made for this job and I'm going to make this happen. And I don't think Mac interviewed anybody else. If he did. He didn't tell me he did in like two weeks, they had hired me and Mac and I just jive really well together. What I started to realize pretty early on with mac's lists was that I, this was also right, tapped it tied into my personal brand. And so you know, I was in a position where, you know, people, people who come to max lifts, they want find a job.
Jessica Williams (10:12): And if you are the editor of a huge job list, you become very popular very quickly. Yes. Right. So we launched a blog about how to find work in Oregon. And I was writing a weekly blog post. So was Mac and, and I started to become a leader in, in how do you find work in Oregon? And again, that was tied up in my brand and as a good, every good sales person knows you know, you are your product. You, you know, your product is only as good as you are. And if you don't represent your brand or, you know, in a personal way you people won't buy into it. And so luckily was easy to do. This was something I definitely have always believed in is helping people find meaningful work. And, and that comes from my search for meaningful work. So, so you're,
Melissa Anzman (11:14): You know, desire and your passion, I should say, really turned into exactly what you hoped it would and helping others do that as well. So you're living your brand. It's not only just a good fit with your personal brand, but you're living it every day in this role.
Jessica Williams (11:32): Yeah, I absolutely am. And, you know, and I I've, I've, my position has evolved into a role now where I spend maybe 35% of my time on mac's list and the rest of my time is spent on the nonprofit clients that we serve at Prichard communications. But I at my heart is devoted to the mac's list community and I I feel connected to, to that community, to that brand because I helped build it into what it is today. And I derive a lot of satisfaction by being engaged in that community.
Melissa Anzman (12:06): Mhmm. So with that, let's get into more of the launch details if we could, and, and feel free to give the perspective from both, you know, the mac's list perspective, but also you being the person doing it, your internal launch perspective as well. So, you know, growing something like this is big and scary, and I'm sure, you know, Mac had it around for a while. I've just sort of little by little making it bigger and bigger and adding a newsletter and adding a website, you know, but how, how did you guys get through that? Okay, we're going to be real about this. We're going to put the shingle out, we're going to charge people. We are going to be the leader in Portland for jobs.
Jessica Williams (12:52): Well, yeah, I mean, you talk about there's a gap, right? There's where you are and where you want to be and how do you close that gap? And for us, it's, we really honestly you know, other than the work we had done with our clients, we had, we had never done this in kind of an internal way. And so especially I had, I had, like I said, worked in sales, I got my masters degree. But this was really the first time I had worked on building this kind of online community. And so for us, it was trial and error a lot, and it was giving, giving it away to for free. And the beginning was how mac started, you know? And and then we've only grown word of mouth. And I think that's a Testament or growing only grown by word of mouth.
Jessica Williams (13:36): I think that's a Testament to the kind of, the quality of service that we provide. So, you know, how do we get where we are today? It was largely in thinking about our community and what their problems were and helping solve those problems. So we launched the blog about how to find work in Oregon, and we, we provide fresh content on that, on that blog. Every week we network in the community, we have partners in the community, we do events. So it's about providing a service to the people who come to us for help and come to us, looking for work. And once we realized that things really started to shift in our success at mac's list,
Melissa Anzman (14:23): What was so easy for you guys during that time? Like what worked, you know, as it should, is easy as it should, that you can look back and say, well, of course we did that. That's, that's what it was supposed to do.
Jessica Williams (14:37): I'm inclined to say there was very little that worked it was really, it was really a challenging time for Mac and I as we, you know, we'd launched the site, we were working with the developer and a designer. I came in, in the middle of the project. There were loved, there was so much to learn. I don't know that.
Jessica Williams (15:00): Yeah,
Jessica Williams (15:03): Because I had never, I had never done anything like that before. And so I don't have an answer for that. That's okay. You know, I'd be surprised if the answer was, Oh yeah. Everything was great because part of what's so interesting to me and the podcast listeners is that things don't usually work as a plan, our plans on paper, particularly when you're stepping into something new, in a space that you hadn't been in before or repositioning your focus from this company that was an email to serving a community, right. That shift is so different. So thank you for sharing that insight with us. Cause that's more, that's more true than normal. And it, you know, like I said, we made, we made so many mistakes. We thought, you know, okay, in order to grow this and let people know that we're here and to best serve our customers, you know, I need to call people and remind them to post on the list.
Jessica Williams (16:03): And I need to, you know, follow up with them by, by phone call, you know, and I found pretty quickly that that wasn't how I, he wanted to hold called. They wanted to come to us. And so it was more about receiving and being here when they, when they needed us and you know, doing my best, that customer service and being a thoughtful, authentic person on the other side that they could connect with, not just our readers who were looking for work, but also the employers who wanted to post, because a lot of four 11 employers, that's a really challenging time and for it to go smoothly and for them to feel like they have some support on the other side is really helpful. And I found like just, yeah, just being, being available to them was more important than constantly, you know, keeping in touch and reaching out.
Jessica Williams (16:53): So that's an example of, you know, something that I tried that, you know, seemed at first, like the best idea, but actually ultimately, you know, I learned pretty quickly I need to try a different tactic here. Great. I just I'm picturing the HR people of the world, which as, you know, I'm one of them being like, why are you calling me, email me one thing that you have done very well. I think as a, as a, as a team is early on in your blog, you partnered up with a lot of subject matter experts. Can you talk to me a little bit more about, you know, what the plan was behind that and how that is, or has been working for you? Yeah, so our goal, again, it's been serving the community in Oregon and that also includes kind of Southwest Washington. So, and the best way to build credibility as a business is to the social proof.
Jessica Williams (17:53): So if you know, I'm working with a career coach in town who has tons of clients and, you know, they're writing on my blog, we're building that relationship. And it shows that I'm not in this just, you know, we're not in this just for Mac's list, we're in this to serve the community and we're in it to get everybody's advice. And you know, we're not, it's not just us telling you this it's, you know, so and so over here and this organization over here and, and you're getting lots of different perspectives and that's how you, I think from our perspective, that's how we were able to build that community because it's not just about us and what we think it's about, what everybody else in that space thinks. And how can we all work together to help one another? And, you know, we, in doing that, you know, we didn't we, we don't pay for guest contributors in our site.
Jessica Williams (18:44): Well, what they found was they were getting new clients through our site. They were getting recognition and they wanted to be a part of that. And we field requests from guest contributors, potential guest contributors all the time. The biggest challenge in doing that is finding you know, the time to either a edit the post or he finding good writers. So you know, a lot of people want to write for your blog, actually, maybe aren't the best writers and we can't operate as a full service editing kind of learning how to feel those the people kind of weed out the ones we want to work with, the ones we don't you know, who makes sense for our brand and our community who, who understands how to write for our community you know, what do our people want what's in their best interests? And, you know, as the, as the counteract man for, mac's list, I am in charge of kind of managing that brand and that way, and making sure that everything that we do on the blog and all the rest of our site and all the conversations that we're having are in line with inline, with what I feel our community wants. So,
Melissa Anzman (19:50): Yeah. Has that been difficult for you to find a good balance with, of balancing the community needs with the brand? Or have you just sort of come about that through trial and error? Yeah, actually it started to really click
Jessica Williams (20:06): About, I don't know, eight months into my work here and it, it really started to jive and that became kind of, it was pretty organic. And once I realized that it's been pretty simple, that has not been, you know, that hasn't been a challenge because it, it grew organically grows word of mouth. And I take the stories, our readers tell us, and I use those for the brand. So it's really not about my agenda. It's really about the agenda of the community and what they need. So it always comes back to that.
Melissa Anzman (20:39): That's great. What would you say is one of the biggest challenges that you came across while building mac's list to what it is today?
Jessica Williams (20:49): Hmm. Well, honestly, Melissa, and this might be a little personal, but about a month after I was hired here, I was brought into, in the middle of the project to manage the website relaunch and to write for the blog. And I was managing an intern and I was finishing up graduate school. I was in a major car accident and you know, I had to call Mac and say, I'm sorry, you just hired me, but I I'm going to need a little time off to take care of my, and Oh man, you know he handled it quite well and we managed through it as a team. But that was the biggest challenge I think for us. And, and he, and I still talk about it to this day is, you know, something we were able to work through together during this time when it felt very pivotal, you know, we had a date we wanted to launch, we had, we had ideas for how we wanted this to go and it didn't play out that way. And we had to, we had to adjust to get through that time. Wow.
Melissa Anzman (21:50): I had no ideas as often as I've talked to both of you. I had no idea because that's a huge thing to overcome. I mean, not only being a new employee, but on the cusp of launching something new for something you've worked so hard for to have to basically put the brakes on. And of course, you know, Mac was great about it. I can't see him reacting, you know, in any other way, as I would hope any good boss would do, but that's hard for both sides of the fence because you probably didn't want to let anybody down by it, but you needed to take care of yourself. So I think that's a really important lesson to learn that the launch can wait until all the pieces are back together and everyone's actually ready for it.
Jessica Williams (22:33): Yeah. It, it really was crazy, Melissa, because I had worked, you know, you work you've worked in HR for a long time and sometimes as a job seeker, like you get that job offer and you just, you just pray to God, nothing's going to go wrong even. Right. Yay. Finally, what I worked so hard for, and that's where I was, you know, I had been there a month. I've had what I wanted, I was ready to run with it. Like, give me, give me the range, let me take it over. And then spam, I was in a car accident. It just caught me, you know, just stopped me in my tracks. And that was, that was so hard to accept. And I would work through the pain and Mack would say go home. Yeah. So yeah, it was challenging.
Melissa Anzman (23:18): It wasn't, you've overcome it though. Like together, you guys have built this amazing thing on the other side, which in my opinion is just such a Testament to, you know, feeling like you belong in a position and how good that feels. And also the other side of that equation, recognizing how important you are to the team, because that's really what would hold, something like that together as both sides of the equation, really knowing that these are the people need to have their hands in the situation.
Jessica Williams (23:48): Yeah. It was definitely, definitely like that. I think we all knew I was meant to be here for them. So yeah.
Melissa Anzman (23:54): I love that. I hardly ever hear that right. Of that instant knowledge, this job is mine. This project's mine. I don't really know what I'm doing, but it's mine. I love it. That's sort of it as like, you know, the career coach and me, the HR person in me is like having a party because that's exactly what, you know, I hope for everybody to wake up and feel is this is my calling. This is what I'm supposed to do. This is the culture and environment I'm supposed to do it in. And these are the people I'm supposed to be surrounded by. So I'm so glad for you that after such a long search and pivotal time in your life, just in general, and with those specifics that you were able to find that
Jessica Williams (24:37): You too
Melissa Anzman (24:39): Career wise and, and we can talk about Mac's list as well, but career-wise first, what would you say was the biggest result that you achieved taking this leap of faith into this position at mac's list?
Jessica Williams (24:52): Hmm. For myself my, I didn't realize it at the time, but about six months in, I realized my personal brand is wrapped up in this and what I've done now. And, and I really learned this from Mac. He he really believes that we stand on the shoulders of others and that we we, we should help one another and we should contribute. And I've always been a very social person. But he really taught me how to kind of leverage that strength in a way that I could engage with my community in a way that I didn't know as possible. And I felt what I feel like her in Portland is an amazing network of people. And I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by that. And I feel like I got there because I worked with Mac on this project with this community and it taught me what it meant to be engaged and to be contributing and to be a service to others and help other people, and really how amazing that is when we do that. So I think for me, it was just, I mean, I hate to hate to, I'm not blowing it out of proportion. That feels like it was a big deal last year, launching me as,
Melissa Anzman (26:09): Yeah. Oh, I love it. Mac should use that as your, as your next tagline. It's fabulous. So if you want to share, I guess the other side of that sort of the mac's list results of, you know, maybe what, where you guys are versus where you started, if just sort of a glimpse into the success of that, that would be great.
Jessica Williams (26:31): Absolutely. So I started we were, you know we had an audience of, well, we had an audience of 29,000. I looked at the earlier, before we got on this call. So in April, 2012, we had a 29,000 members of our audience that included, you know, we consider that number, unique visitors, social media, followers, newsletter subscribers. And now we're at 67,000. So less than two years, we've grown our audience by 130%. And we've grown our revenue in the first year I was here. We grew our revenue by 60%. And last year we grew by 50%. I'm anticipating in a conservative way that will grow by 25% this year. And all of the, all of that revenue is reinvested in the company. And I couldn't do it without the team of people that now I lead you know, Mac works works a little bit on mac's list. I manage a team of two people, one who works full time as an account coordinator for max what's. Her name is Cecilia. And she does the day to day now. And so, you know, I think that's kind of a takeaway is it's not we couldn't have done, I couldn't have done this by myself. It was a team effort.
Melissa Anzman (27:54): Love it. What kind of advice would you give to other people who are in a similar space as you were in right before you joined mac's list?
Jessica Williams (28:07): I tell people that sometimes, well, I guess my first piece of advice is make the best decision you can with the information you have right in front of you and be guided by your intuition and know that when the time comes, you're going to know, you know, where that, where that step took you and, and how you're going to use it to get you to the next place. And and for me, you know, I took a risk. I came on board again, 12 part time position. It was temporary. I wasn't sure. And I left a pretty comfortable position at a company I've been with for two and a half years to come here and start over. And so sometimes just taking that lead and knowing you're going to be okay, and you've done the work and you're ready as all that needs to happen, and you're going to have, you're going to survive through whatever happens. That would be my first piece of advice.
Melissa Anzman (29:05): So if you could, can you remind everybody where they can find you online and then I want to know what's next.
Jessica Williams (29:12): Hmm. So I mean, all kinds of places I'm on PR Prichardcommunications.com on macslist.org. I'm also on LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter @JessicaJoellen. Yeah, those are great places to reach me.
Melissa Anzman (29:29): Great. I'll be sure to add them all in the show notes. And before we head off, if you could tell us what's next for you.
Jessica Williams (29:38): So I, like I said, am spending majority of my time
Jessica Williams (29:42): Now working on the clients at Prichard communications that we serve in the health and human services sector and the nonprofit foundation world. So I'm really excited about growing my communication skills on that side of the firm and and learning from my colleagues and, and my clients. And that's really, that's really where I'm headed right now. Great. I love it. And I love how you are forward thinking of taking your current position, even the one that, where you started in and what's next, what's next, what's next. Isn't necessarily a straight line, but it's always more and I love that approach. It's great. Thank you, Melissa. I hope you enjoy today's episode with my friend, Jessica Williams. She shared an amazing story of how her personal life and her professional life launched together. If you'd like to get the show notes for this episode, you can go to launchyourself.co/session14. Again, that's launchyourself.co/session14. And if you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes and leave us a great review until next time.
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