Name: Lisa Panarello

Major at Baruch College: BBA, Marketing Major with Advertising Concentration
Graduation Year: 1997
School within Baruch College: Zicklin School of Business
Company and Title:  Careers Advance, Founder & CEO

1. Tell us about your current position and your role there. 

As most entrepreneurs, I wear many hats. My company, Careers Advance, is a small private firm specializing in professional training and development, for which I perform as director of sales and marketing, service programming, and business operations. On a daily basis, I serve corporate, institutional, and non-profit organizations and individual clients nationwide with one-on-one coaching and group workshops, seminars and webinars. Key training areas include: emotional intelligence, workplace communication, career planning, interviewing, public speaking, and entrepreneurial transitioning. In addition, I develop self-branding tools (résumés, profiles, bios, etc.) for professionals and marketing collateral (proposals, websites, brochures, etc.) for business owners. Yes, my days are full and no two are ever alike. I love every minute of it!

2. What made you interested in career development and what drives you in your current profession? 

After 14 exciting years in diverse industries and positions, including my dream job as Art Director, I left a major publishing firm that was headed for bankruptcy to look for new opportunities. I stumbled onto a résumé-writing firm and submitted mine for review. They offered me advice and then recruited me as freelance writer. A few months later I was asked to deliver an interview coaching session. At the end of that call, the client expressed sincere thanks for helping them gain a renewed sense of confidence and preparedness. I didn't know résumé writers and career coaches existed in the world. I was instantly attracted to the prospect of guiding others to find and secure their dreams. So I kept at it. I initially thought of it as a 'gap position' because while I loved the freedom of freelancing, I had every intention of going back to Corporate America. But as I continued my job search, new clients kept flowing my way. It became clear that I was destined for a new role in life. So, I finally took it seriously and put myself on the path to entrepreneurship.

What drives me most in my current role is having the opportunity EVERY DAY to furnish individuals and companies with the tools to thrive and stand on stage inspiring audiences to achieve, all while being the captain of my own ship.

3. What were some unique challenges you faced in your professional career and how did you solve them? 

Wow, where to start. Well, I'll name three for which I learned the most. My first major professional challenge was during my time on Wall Street, when my boss turned down an internal promotion for me without letting me know. Apparently he thought I was too valuable in the role that I was in, which was flattering (and he had an aversion to female brokers, which was blockading). I didn't stomp my feet or demand a change, but I did express my disappointment to a fellow broker at another firm. His manager approached me with a job offer and I accepted (after turning down a counter offer at the original firm who wanted me to stay for more money, but in the same role). This experience proved that one decision maker does not seal your fate.

That said, my next challenge was being fired from that firm four years later. I was shell shocked and I didn't handle it well. I practically cried in the office touting all my contributions and walked out without saying goodbye to anyone. Needless to say, my emotional intelligence skills were in much need of development.

On the train ride home, I took a hard look at myself and realized I was at fault; my performance had slipped over the past few months as I was concentrating on finishing my degree and eager to kick start my marketing career. So, I sucked up the tears, owned up to the error of my ways and began a new job search vowing to always keep my work ethic at its best.

A third challenge occurred while on the job itself. As marketing assistant at a major children's publishing firm I was asked to coordinate a huge sales binder project. I spent weeks gathering information from colleagues and preparing a mock binder for the printer. When it was ready for production, I noticed the changes we made would up the price by $10,000. Yikes! I was nervous beyond belief. So, I called the printer to work out adjustments and devised an option that would keep some of our design preferences intact for only an additional cost of $2,000. I kept my cool, explained the 'why' and the 'how' to my boss, and enabled her to make a decision based on facts. This experience taught me to present solutions instead of problems. 

I've had other career blunders in between and since, and I sure more are to come. I choose to handle challenges and mistakes by first looking in the mirror and then weighing options based on a blend of logic, intuition, and insights from others (sprinkled with calculated risk!).

4. How was your experience at Baruch like? How did Baruch impact your life and career?

I truly loved the classroom experience. Many of my professors excelled in their role! While they valued textbooks, they brought real world business stories to life and challenged us with exciting projects. These forced me to learn computer skills and allowed me to be a supportive team-player while finding my leadership chops. The entire curriculum was in line with my future career. Even the elective courses proved invaluable. In my Public Speaking class, we were tasked with running and participating in mock interviews; we learned from both sides of the table. This boosted my confidence and knowledge for the process ahead.

I think college is what you make it. And since I was funding my education, I wanted to make the most of it. Luckily, Baruch provided tremendous ground for me to grow. Overall, the writing, communication, problem solving, and analytical skills I honed coupled with left/right brain thinking approach I developed during my time at Baruch helped me build a professional brand that businesses valued then and still to this day.

Additionally, Baruch offered a literal bridge to my career goal. While most students secure internships during school, my days were filled with a job. So after I graduated, I visited the Career Placement Office, found an opportunity and applied. The company owner asked me "You have six years of work experience, why do want an internship?" I replied "I just finished my degree and want to begin my marketing career with your newspaper." He recruited me on the spot and I launched my career in my chosen field immediately. I'm proof that internships have merit before and after college.

On a side note, I used to write résumés for classmates and friends while in college. The day I graduated, I had the poise to offer my services for a fee. I continued to do this on the side throughout my marketing career, which is ironic considering what I do for a living today. All the take-aways from Baruch absolutely contributed to my current success as business owner, public speaker, and career coach.

I'm proud to be an alumna. A New Yorker at heart, I looked into Brooklyn College, Pace University and Fordham University; but I chose Baruch because of its top-tier business school ranking on the East Coast, campus environment, and yes, tuition rate. You cannot beat the robust education, experience, and support for the price. It's even more of a bargain today with all its modern technology, courses, resources, and scheduling options. Baruch continues to remain relevant and empowering. Well done!

5. What is one of your favorite memories you have from your time at Baruch? 

One favorite memory is the Newman Library. I loved entering those doors; it was both impressively collegiate and warmly inviting. From the 'stacks' to the study rooms and everything in between, the Newman Library was an amazing place to go for independent research and group work. I realize everything is online now, but I appreciated and leveraged every type of resource Baruch made available at the time, from newspapers and microfiche to industry journals and audio recordings and beyond. 

6. If you could change one thing during your time at Baruch, what would it be? 

I was working full time while attending Baruch in afternoon/evenings, so it was a bit difficult to take advantage of extracurricular activities. If I could go back, I would re-budget my time and find a way to participate further in the American Marketing Association. I would attend more meetings and assume a leadership role. These efforts would have certainly advanced my learning and my career early on.

As for what I would change about Baruch, I would say the same thing to any college: audit professors more closely. Most of mine were great, but one tenured professor fell through the cracks. You could tell he was just going through the motions; his teaching style was uninspiring, ineffective and lacked depth. He may have been top of his field, but his delivery fell way short of credibility. He was either completely oblivious to the class's demeanor or simply didn't care. I had him for two classes back to back and began cutting the first and attending the second because I liked the subject matter more. He never seemed to notice.

On the flip side, this experience taught me not to rely solely on teachers to learn. I eventually got more involved in class by asking questions and sparking dialogue with classmates. On that note…

7. What is some advice can you give to current Baruch students and alumni who are in the job search stage? 

Get involved! Find ways to apply your education while you're in school. Don't just join a club; take a position, learn skills and make a difference. Don't just go to class, raise your hand, ask questions, make comments, share ideas; take on projects and oral presentations with fervor. Offer to deliver a workshop or run an event. Get noticed! I put up 100 fliers across three Baruch campus buildings to market my own 'Interview 101' workshop. 20 students showed up! I gained confidence and public speaking skills (which I use in my current practice!!). Build your résumé while earning your degree.

Not sure what career you want? Choose electives that match your interests to test the waters. And I strongly recommend visiting the Career Placement Office at least once per semester--including your first semester. Planning is critical to success. Don't wait until the day you graduate and assume your degree will get you hired. Establish a first-name basis with your counselor; let them know who you are, what you offer, and what you seek, and keep them posted on any changes or developments. They will work hard for you if you show you are working hard for yourself.

As for graduates, leverage all the resources Baruch has to offer. Participate in workshops, invest in webinars, read newsletters, and most importantly--go to mixers. Don't walk away without a business card. Follow up occasionally. Build an engaging LinkedIn profile and use it. 70% of jobs are found through networking. Learn how to do it!

8. What are the top 3 things students/alumni should do in an interview? 

1. Prepare--research the company/industry/competitors. Have at least three facts ready to use. Know the position (read the posting!). Think of specific examples that relate your experience/skills to the job requirements/responsibilities. Bring your research with you! You're allowed to look at notes while you're in the meeting, just like recruiters look at your résumé. And learn the STAR method so you can answer situational and behavioral questions and validate your candidacy.

2. Engage--Have a dialogue! Don't just answer questions. Level the playing field by asking questions of your own about the interviewer, the company and the job itself. Sit up straight, use eye contact, tone variation, and hand gestures. You don't have to be overly gregarious but you do have to show interest and enthusiasm to persuade hiring managers that your talents will come with a personality and work ethic. Be engaging and have a conversation!

3. Follow up--send an email within 24-48 hours to EACH interviewer. Group email is fine if you had a panel interview. Go beyond 'thank you for your time'. Cite details and comments you learned during the meeting (show you were listening) and describe how these insights solidified your interest in the job/company and how it confirms why you're a good fit. Two weeks later follow up with a phone call restating your interest and why they'd benefit from bringing you on board. Two weeks later send a final email inquiring of where they are in their decision making process and what you can do to persuade them further (don't beg, ask for insights). In between all this, keep up your search efforts. No matter how promising the opportunity, there are no guarantees, and it's better to have multiple offers in hand. On that note…

BONUS TIP: Price your 'asking range'. Know your minimum salary requirement and high-end figure based on your experience/skill/education level and going rate in your industry/city. Then develop a list of all your negotiating parameters (training, tuition reimbursement, parking space, commuting support, flex time, travel exposure, vacation, benefits, etc.). Don't leave anything on the table!

9. How can people contact you? 

I'm happy to connect with students, alumni and Baruch faculty/administrators and can be reached directly at:


Email:  [email protected]