Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Meet a Mom feature where we celebrate our local mamas. Susan Newman is this week’s highlight and we’re so excited to introduce you to her! For the last 20 years this mom of two teens has been the Chief Education Officer of school2life, a vital career resource. The small business founder sure is busy. In her “spare” time she teaches ‘Marketing Yourself’ classes at Columbia College! Read about Susan’s apt career advice and how it’s all that much more relevant since the COVID 19 crisis. She delves into the how-to and the must-do of marketing oneself, a skill that is learned with practice. Welcome, Susan!
Hi Susan! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What brought you here?
Hi, I’m Susan! I was raised in Highland Park and in Greenwich, Connecticut. My college years were spent in Chicago and upon graduation, I headed to Los Angeles where I launched my career in entertainment marketing, a career which eventually brought me back to Chicago. In 2001, I pivoted from marketing products to helping people market themselves. I’ve been in the city for more than 20 years pursuing a career helping people succeed, which I absolutely love. And, I’ve also been raising and helping my two kids succeed, which is a responsibility that I also absolutely love!
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have two children. Alex is 16 at Lane Tech and Zach is 14 heading to Lane Tech next year. Raising kids during all this “unknown” is challenging for us all. For me, the most difficult part is having to help with math homework. That is by far is the most humbling experience:)
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
My favorite thing about being a mom is the great responsibility and honor of having such a significant influence on how Al and Z see the world. It’s a privilege to watch them lead their lives and to help them thrive as people and make their mark in the world. Not that you asked, but my second favorite thing is all I learn from them just by being in their lives. It’s quite humbling at times that’s for sure.
Please share your favorite mom tips that make your everyday life a little easier…
Two things that I believe have simplified our lives for the better, especially during quarantine, are planning and getting out of the house and going for early morning drives. For example, in an effort to keep the peace at home, I ask my kids how they would like the day or evening to go and we plan who is doing what and for how long.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
Even though I’ve had success helping people figure out what they want to do and how they will do it, I still face the same challenges as my clients do in figuring out my next move. Because I absolutely love what I get to do for school2life, I realize now that I want my legacy to be as an influential professional dedicated to helping students thrive in their educational and professional pursuits. Like my students and clients, I have much to accomplish and I’m still figuring out how I’m going to get it ALL done. We really are all in it together!
You are a mompreneur! Please introduce your business.
Yes! I run school2life. We are an education agency focused on preparing students for the “real world.” Just as professional agencies help brands find their voice, we help students communicate theirs. Our agency activates today’s students by teaching the practical and relevant communication tactics and strategies necessary to have the professional conversations that they’ll need to generate opportunities and take on life’s pivots. The stuff most of us all learned on the run!
For over 20 years we have provided students with platforms to communicate their individual unique successes, strengths, and accolades with sophistication, relevance and confidence — the trifecta of skills necessary to thrive in education and the real world.
What single most important piece of advice do you have for anyone looking to market themselves?
My advice for everyone, students and professionals alike, is to maintain your mental health. A great way to do this is spend these days developing materials to competitively market yourself. Consider designing your own branded letterhead for resumes and cover letters and create a digital portfolio with a bio, letters of recommendation and samples of relevant work you’ve completed. These few things showcase a cohesive look and in turn will make a solid first impression. Not to mention, I promise when you see yourself through these documents and your portfolio, you will be impressed with yourself and feel more confident. Use your community to guide you through this time and future pivots. Approximately 78% of jobs are obtained through referral, so it’s not who you know, but who knows you. The goal is to stay “top of mind” so when opportunities do become available you’re the referral. Set up informational interviews and networking meetings to stay connected with people. Consider your professional relationships to be your career insurance policy. And call me so I can support and help you out.
What age should youth start thinking about how to market oneself?
I think it’s about how you represent yourself in general, as this is what drives relationships, opportunities for collaboration, and advancement. Whether it be a friendship or professional growth, what is the experience people have with you and what can you contribute to any given relationship or situation? Whether its marketing yourself for business or being a respectful 6th grader, to me it’s one and the same – less about being contrived and more about innate character.
It seems like we all go through so many iterations of our careers. What is your previous background and did your previous career help you start school2life?
My previous career was in advertising and marketing. There, I gained strong skills in client services, strategic partnerships, sales and relationship management. I parlay this background to teaching people how to market themselves in order to gain opportunities, meet their goals and thrive in education and industry. I help people tell their story and represent their unique market value in the workplace.
Do you have any mentors, any resources for inspiration?
I don’t have any “go to” inspiration source. I enjoy hearing people’s professional stories and that’s how I gain motivation, creativity and professional drive. I’m fortunate that I moderate professional panel discussions for my college students, so I am inspired regularly. My advice is to be curious, talk to people, hear their stories and ask questions. This has derived school2life’s primary impact strategy “education via conversation”. Dialog, resulting in an action plan, makes all the difference in how we view our trajectory.
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to re-enter the workforce?
The first step is to do some self-assessment so you can truly understand your “story” and recognize your unique accomplishments and experiences and how they contribute to this next stage of your career. Then you call me and I show you how to effectively market yourself by teaching you to communicate your unique strengths and capabilities with sophistication, relevance and confidence…the trifecta of skills necessary to gain opportunities and manage life’s pivots. The Mom Project is a fantastic resource for employment.
How has your job changed since the COVID 19 crisis took over?
I’m spending a lot of time supporting college students who are displaced from their career centers We are hosting workshops via ZOOM on communicating with confidence, interviewing, resumes, networking, etc. My goal is to keep their “head in the game.” s2lGallery is more relevant than ever for all students because it promotes confidence, which is critical during this time that we are all home.
You’re also a teacher! What college do you teach at? What classes?
I have been teaching Marketing Yourself at Columbia College Chicago for the past 20 years. I’ve had the opportunity to successfully launch thousands of students from their school careers to their professional careers. I still work with many of them today, as they circle back as alum looking for interns or full time hires because they know the type of responsible professional that school2life breeds. I am incredibly proud of the work we do and its impact on the student community. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun!!
How important is it for you to have a career outside of being a mother?
Contributing to the success of future generations is what’s important to me. Motherhood and my career contributes to my pursuit of this.
What’s on the horizon for your business?
It’s amazing to hear students of all ages talk about their accomplishments from in and out of the classroom. Not to mention, the ability to self assess is necessary to get into college and get a job. After 20 years of teaching college seniors how to effective market themselves to get employment, I realized we teach the critical skills far too late in education. So I’m out the change that by way of school2life Gallery, think show and tell 2.0 or Pintrest meets LinkedIN. We created a digital platform which recognize and socialized student achievement throughout their educational career. As students share their s2l Gallery with parents, peers and professionals, they learn the key skills expected from them in the “ real world” yet seldomly taught. The platform shows them how much growth they’ve had throughout the year and positions them for opportunities. We’ve received amazing feedback and we hope middle school through college students throughout the country, take advantage of all of school2life‘s Guided Professional Services. Check it out at gallery.school2life.com and
I hope that middle school and high school students join our school2Life Gallery, and that college students and grads sign up for our online Zoom classes:
- May 4: Put Your Best Work Forward: Resumes, Cover Letters & More
- May 5: Communicating with Confidence – Tips for Successful Interviewing
- May 6: Landing an Internship – How to Get a YES!
- May 7: Networking 101: It’s NOT Who You Know. It’s Who Knows YOU!
- May 8: Attention College Seniors! Would You Hire You?Put Your Best Work Forward!