Leander Howard II believes in helping REAL people obtain REAL results. He is the Founder/CEO of Spark Your Resume, a full-service career development agency connecting top talent to top companies. He is the Host of Spark Your Success Podcast where he connects entrepreneurs to better business.
He started his career at Adobe as a Financial Analyst in August of 2020 and recently left to go full-time in his business in October of 2021. He is an alumnus of Georgia State University where he received a dual degree in Finance and Marketing through the J. Mack Robinson College of Business. During his time at Georgia State, he interned at Wells Fargo, Arthur M. Blank Foundation at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, served as the President of Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity (2019-2020), and was listed as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar in 2019.
He has been featured on many platforms for his wealth of knowledge such as Typeform which is a form builder tool for his automation and digital marketing skills, Canvas which is a diversity recruiting platform where he taught a masterclass for Black History Month teaching students how to prepare for their next job interview, and Afro Tech by Blavity where he also taught the African American community “How to Prepare for an Interview During Afro Tech 2020”.
When Leander is not working, he enjoys reading, daily fitness, listening to podcasts, and spending time with loved ones.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Finding clarity in career
- Gaining traction with 3 Marketing Assets
- Finding ideal role
- Building meaningful relationships
- Ace the interview
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:03] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on paycom. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is a very special one. This is part of the GSU ENI series that we’ve been doing for some time now, and I’m so excited to be talking to our guest today, Leander Howard the second. And he is with Spark Your Resume. Welcome.
Leander Howard: [00:00:49] Hey, how’s it going? Lee Thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:51] I am so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Spark your resume. How are you serving folks?
Leander Howard: [00:00:56] Yeah, man, most definitely. So Spark your resume is a professional development agency connecting top talent to top companies. I actually started a business literally the semester before I graduated from Georgia State University. So April of 2020 was the year or the month. I started it and I started my business plan January 9th, 2020. Actually, a friend named Michael had told me that I should start a business because I was already helping people with their professional brand on campus. He was like, Man, you just don’t know how many people actually need this type of service in the world, right? You’re already doing it for people here and it’s working. How about you monetize it and actually start a business and help more people throughout their career? So that’s what really happened, man. That’s how I got started. Thanks to Georgia State, they taught me about entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, so and really Alpha Kappa PSI, professional business, fraternity. I was the president there from 2019 to 2020, which actually taught me how to run a successful business.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:56] Now, so the problem that you are trying to solve is to help folks either get their first job or get a new job and find kind of the right fit job for themselves.
Leander Howard: [00:02:08] Yes, sir. Pretty much so. We pretty much have a framework, man. You know, you want to first, how do I identify your gift and purpose? Right. I think that’s something that people need to start with because you need to know who you are and what you and what you don’t want before you enter the job market. Or else you’ll go in looking at everything and thinking everything aligns with what you want to do, right? Just like going to the grocery store and picking out everything on the shelf when you don’t need it. You’re applying for every job online and you’re not hearing any callbacks because you haven’t really taken a targeted approach to landing a new role. So we help with them. We help our clients identify the gift and purpose first, and then after that we build their marketing assets, which is the resume LinkedIn cover letter, and then a digital portfolio which we start we started implementing a few months ago to help people actually build a brand that pays them forever. Right? So really our focus is to help you build a brand and then the result of that is getting a new job or gaining new clients. Right. Because we’ve seen a lot of our clients dive into entrepreneurship or maybe solo partnership consulting, right? Because now they’re talking to people about what they know and people are gravitating towards them because of what they know, who they are. So your main job, man, is really to help people in your dream role in 90 days or less without applying for jobs online. So we also apply for jobs for people in our new and our new program. So that’s been going pretty well and helping them pretty much connect with people in their industry and recruiters and hiring managers all across the world.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:34] Now, does this work better for certain industries, like, say, I want to be a performer or something in the creative arts field? Is this going to work as effectively as if I want to be, you know, in finance or business analytics?
Leander Howard: [00:03:50] Yeah, I would say more so like general business sales, marketing, finance operations and then I.T. it’s like kind of our niche right now. Not really, you know, entertainment performers, things like that. Not trying to find them a job. They’re more gig workers, to be honest. So this is more like long term work. So full time employment and maybe we do a little bit of contract work depending on the client, but I would say mainly full time, full time workers.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:24] And then mainly kind of in the nuts and bolts of business is kind of the niche that you’re in.
Leander Howard: [00:04:30] Right.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:31] Now. You mentioned that aligning your passion and skills, that’s an important component of this. Do you ever find that when you’re working with someone, they have a degree like, say, in accounting, but they’re not you know, they start doing accounting. They’re like, I hate accounting. Like, why did I do this? And now, you know, I’ve got to kind of adjust a little bit and you’ve got to kind of aim using your accounting degree in a little different direction.
Leander Howard: [00:04:57] Yep. So what I tell people, man, is like, it’s more about your transferable skills because we’ve had clients that were teachers, right? And now they’re customer success managers, so. That you have to take your experience as being a teacher, and how does that relate to being a customer success manager? You’ve done a lot of things as a teacher, right? But all of those skills aren’t relatable to becoming a customer success manager, so we don’t need to highlight those skills on the resume. So our job is to paint a clear picture to the hiring manager and recruiter on why you should be qualified, why you should be interviewed for that specific position. Based on your previous experience and skills. So to transition from. A role that our position that has nothing to do with your current role. You have to be able to articulate the transferable skills that you’ve learned in that role and get someone to believe that you can actually do the things you say you can do.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:58] Now, how important is LinkedIn today? Is that kind of you have to be really good on LinkedIn in order to get a job in today’s world? Or is that something that’s just a nice to have? If you got that, then that’s great. But it’s not a big deal if you don’t.
Leander Howard: [00:06:15] In my opinion, man, I think LinkedIn is the best platform to be on. I wholeheartedly believe that if you’re not on LinkedIn, it does limit your chances to getting hired in today’s society. I know for a fact many recruiters are looking at people’s LinkedIn profile and how I look at it and the job search process. You’re doing yourself a major disservice if you’re not on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is a search engine. So and your résumé is very transactional, right? So if you’re applying if you’re, you know, your job search, you’re open to work, right? And nobody knows that you’re looking for a job if you’re only if you’re only submitting your resume. The resume is very transactional. I have to apply to this job to show them that I’m interested rather than on LinkedIn. I can put open the work on my profile, put up to five position titles on there, and recruiters and hiring managers can find me based on what I’m based on what I’m looking for. But if you’re not on LinkedIn, you have no visibility right to be found. So you’re doing yourself a major disservice if you’re not on LinkedIn and your in your profile is not keyword optimized to the point where people can find you based on keyword searches.
Leander Howard: [00:07:20] So it’s a platform called LinkedIn recruiter, right, that recruiters use daily to find qualified talent. If you’re like they’re looking up, they’re doing like this thing called Boolean search, right? So it’s very specific search. It’s like and or not filters that you can use to pretty much segment your audience or segment the type of people you’re looking for. Right. Once they conduct that search, if you don’t pop up, you won’t be found. And that’s why it’s so important to have a keyword optimized profile, right? So where people know who you are, what you’re doing, how you can help them so they can find you on LinkedIn. People have found me on LinkedIn because my, my, my profile is optimized. So you type in resume writing. People have literally messaged me and said, Bro, I found you on LinkedIn in search. I let that resume. Right. You’re the first person that popped up. My year old. That’s nice. That’s good. But it’s because the work I’ve done to build the profile to where now I’m position on LinkedIn as an expert in my field.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:16] And that’s what every individual should be doing when they’re in the job search, is to create those kind of keyword optimized profiles so that they can be seen as kind of the go to person for whatever job it is they’re looking for.
Leander Howard: [00:08:31] Exactly, exactly. That is what LinkedIn is for. Building your personal brand and connecting you with the right people. And LinkedIn algorithms work. They work on your behalf. So if you’re if your profile is not optimized the right way, LinkedIn algorithms will not work on your behalf. So, for example, I went to Georgia State University, right? If I go to my network tab on LinkedIn right now, it will literally show me people that went to Georgia State University that I should be connected to, like, hey, hey, check out these people that also went to Jack Robertson, College of Business. Right. They’re trying to they’re trying to connect you with people you’re affiliated with. And then also, if you’re searching for jobs on LinkedIn, if you’re looking at a specific company to apply to link them, will show you the company alumni. So it will tell you like, hey, you’re looking at Home Depot. It would tell you, hey, you got 212 people that went to your school that work at Home Depot. Don’t connect with him.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:23] Now it sounds like the people who are going to get jobs are not the people that just kind of are passive about it. They can’t just kind of even if they optimize their LinkedIn show, that will give them a better chance. But the people who are going to get jobs are or the people that you kind of alluded to are the people that go in see, oh, this company has, you know, ten people from my university in there. Why don’t I, you know, message them and say, hey, I want there, too, and I’m looking for a job? Look, you have to kind of be proactive about this, right? You can’t just sit back and hope the phone’s going to ring.
Leander Howard: [00:09:58] Most definitely. You hit it right on the nail, man. And searching for a job is a full time job. And the people that are going to get jobs, anybody can get a job. But the people that are going to get great jobs land their dream role are the people that’s proactive. There’s a difference. I can get a job right now. Maybe not a job that I like, maybe not a job that I want, but I can go get a job. It’s about the job that you actually want. The job is going to pay you what you’re worth. The job that you’re going to love, the culture, the benefits, the people that you’re working with. That’s what matters. It’s not just getting a job, it’s landing your dream role. And that’s why we changed that verbiage.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:39] So now when you’re looking for your ideal role, that is something that doesn’t happen by accident. You have to have taken that first step to really understand what it is you’re trying to, what outcome you desire, what is the right fit. And then you’ve got to find a match that is an organization that kind of is philosophically believes what you believe in and needs what you have.
Leander Howard: [00:11:05] Those are the.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:05] Research. Those are the kind of services that your company provides. Right. You help them really get strategic and really not waste time going on interviews in places they don’t even want to work.
Leander Howard: [00:11:21] Most dead. That’s our whole goal. Right. So like I said before, you got you have to first identify your gift and purpose. Point blank period. You can’t do anything until you do that. Your gift is something you do your absolute best with minimal effort. And what’s what’s going to fuel your fire to get up every single day and do that one thing. Regardless of how you may feel. Right? This is your family. You got kids, you got like I’m pretty sure we’ve all had days where we don’t feel like going to work. Well, we still do. What’s your purpose? What’s that? What’s that? Burning desire to help to make you want to do. Meaningful work every day. Because it has to be bigger than you. Right. So that’s why we take that so serious. That first step is so critical. It’s about building you, understanding who you are first. And then we can go into the job market because the job market is not in your control. It’s just like the stock market. It fluctuates every day. Every single day. It’s out of your control. But what is in your control is understanding who you are and what you do. Understanding what you’re going to accept and what you’re going to reject. So if this doesn’t apply, we’re not even looking at it. We’re only focused on these positions at these companies. We need to connect with these people. Let’s go all in here for the next 90 days and I guarantee you’ll see results. You will see results, but you got to stay focused. You have to stay focused because you can get lost. The Internet is crazy. You’ll get lost. Searching for jobs with distractions, ads. Youtube videos popping up like. It’s a lot of distractions. So you have to know who you are, what you do, so you can eliminate those distractions and focus on what really matters. And that’s what we do.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:14] And then how did you get involved with the Main Street Fund? How did that get on your radar?
Leander Howard: [00:13:20] So I think, yeah, actually one of the alumni from Georgia, the Mainstreet program, had reached out to me and she told me about it and that’s how I applied. And then I interviewed. They love the business and then got selected, man. So most definitely excited to be in this cohort. Some great others. Some other great entrepreneurs in there. Founders, CEOs doing some wonderful things. So excited to do demo day coming up in October and just thankful for the opportunity.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:51] So what part of the process has been most beneficial for you?
Leander Howard: [00:13:57] I think customer discovery, you know, we’re still like now I guess we’re testing the waters, you know, trying to find that perfect product market fit, right. So we tested, you know, we’ve done some partnerships with companies such as like rework training. They’re a immersive program helping people transition into sales development representative and business development representative, tech sales positions. So we’ve helped one of their cohorts build like their resume, LinkedIn, the cover letter and it went well, they loved it. So trying to finalize that partnership to where now we can help. We have consistent people that we’re helping on a every two month basis, right. Every cohort they have. We’ll be responsible for helping them build their brand and helping them land their new role after they get done learning how to become a BTR SDR. And that’s where I see. Honestly, the biggest bang for our buck in the market is as a business. It’s partnering with companies or bootcamps that are teaching people the education and the skills, but not necessarily mastering the career development side. Right. So we partner with these companies and boot camps to pretty much come up with a managed career services operations to where we can help them, help their students build their brand and actually teach them how to land their dream role after they’ve already learned the skills needed to actually do the job.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:26] Wow. That’s fantastic. Before we wrap, can you share a piece of advice for the folks that have gone through the gantlet? They, you know, optimized their resumes. They got their LinkedIn perfect, and now they’re going out on interviews. Is there any tips or advice you can give that person to help them get the job from the interview?
Leander Howard: [00:15:50] Yeah. So. Well, for interviewing, man, I would say treat it like. She’d like to meet somebody new. A lot of people overthink the word interview like interviews kind of has a negative connotation these days. I treat it as just another another opportunity to meet somebody new. Right. I’m learning more about them and honestly how I landed on my job because I recently worked at Adobe as a financial analyst coming out of college, that’s my first job. And Adobe doesn’t recruit at Georgia State, so I had to go get that job right. And it taught me the power of networking, building meaningful relationships, and then how to ask to interview me. And I just first being yourself, right? And then making it a conversation. That’s the best thing you could do because I went into the interview asking them questions and they forgot to ask me questions because 30 minutes passed by, we already had a whole conversation. Now they like me. You have to remember, people hire who they like, know and trust. You’re probably not going to get somebody to trust you in 30 minutes, but you can damn sure get somebody to like you.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:50] And that and that’s a really important point. Don’t forget to ask them questions. This isn’t just you being interrogated. You’re interrogating them, too. You want to make sure it’s the right fit for you?
Leander Howard: [00:17:03] Yep. It’s a two way street. Right. So that’s your opportunity to actually get insights from the company that you probably would never get if you didn’t have the interview. Because everybody is looking for an outside end. You don’t know what they’re doing. Every company is different, so the only way you’re going to know if a company is the right fit for you is by talking to the people that work there. Not looking at their blogs. What they put online is anybody can write that. Of course it’s going to look good. It’s going to sound great. It’s marketing. Everything comes down to marketing and sales. So when you’re interviewing, the job search process is literally marketing and sales, and that’s why people struggle with it because people don’t know how to market and sell themselves. Think about it, your resume LinkedIn cover there in your portfolio is your marketing assets. That’s why I call it your market for marketing assets. Your interviewing is your sales. You’re selling somebody on the opportunity of hiring you. And that’s why I’m really focused on right now treating professionals how to treat their career like a business. I’m teaching professionals how to treat their career like a business because it is one. Leigh I believe everybody is a freelancer, right? You have unique skills and capabilities, right, that you’re offering in exchange. To your client. Right. Which is your company? That’s your client. Right. In exchange for salary benefits, vacation time, PTO and stock options. You could take that same skill set, right? Because, you know, you know for a fact it’s a need. You have a job right now. They just hired you to do something at that company. You know, for a fact, your skills are in demand. If you have a job right now, your skills are in demand. Point blank period. You could take those same skills and go get another client. But people lack sales and marketing. They don’t know how to position themselves in the markets where people can like no one, trust them enough to hire them. And that’s where we come in.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:52] Yeah, it’s a mindset shift and they have to believe that they have value and that they’re worth it and that they should be the one doing the job, not somebody else. And, and it’s a mindset shift. And I think that your service can really help open some eyes and help people, you know, make their dreams come true.
Leander Howard: [00:19:13] Most that’s man, that’s the goal. That’s the goal, man. We’re almost at 1000 clients right now. So in the past two years. So we’re doing we’re doing some good things, man. I just you know, we had of course. And that’s why I always tell people just to start, too, man, because my business plan when I first started has nothing. It doesn’t even relate to what we’re doing today. Maybe the services, but that’s about it. Process, procedures. How is going? Nothing relatable, but I would have never learned if I didn’t start.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:45] Yep. Amen to that. So if somebody wants to learn more, get on your radar. Maybe have a conversation with you or somebody on your team. What’s the website? What’s the best way to get a hold of you?
Leander Howard: [00:19:54] Yeah, man. So Spark your Macomb is our website. I have, like, free trainings and stuff on there that you can sign up for. I have a free training. Teaching you how to land your dream role in 90 days or less. That’s actually been going really crazy. Like a lot of people love it. So I would say check that out. You can find it on a website. I think it’s under the resources tab and you can also connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s my number one platform. Shoot me a message on LinkedIn. Tell me that you watch the or listen to the interview. We’d love to chat with you and if we could maybe schedule a time to meet.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:26] Good stuff. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work. We appreciate you.
Leander Howard: [00:20:31] No problem. And I appreciate you having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:33] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on GSU ENI Radio.
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