Axial's Growth 100 : J.T. O’Donnell

J.T. O'Donnell


Carving Out Careers

J.T. O’Donnell started a private practice of career coaching in 2001, and saw an opportunity to expand her reaches in 2008. During the recession, she realized people were opening their ears and listening up when it came to career advice. It was also at this point in time when she was introduced to blogging.

“I thought, ‘let’s start a blog,’” J.T. says, and so she founded CAREEREALISM. The site launched in 2009 to provide readers with career tools, information and resources.

A few years later, J.T. introduced CareerHMO to build upon CAREEREALISM’s foundation and offer members a unique digital experience, a supportive community, and access to knowledgeable coaches during their job searches.

The Perception of a Career

At 33 years old, J.T. realized she was miserable in her job. Looking back on her years in human resources and recruiting, she felt her career was a series of accidents. “I never felt a sense of control,” says J.T. “I went hunting for logical resources that would make sense of it.”

She decided to do some serious research to find the answers as to why and how she ended up where she was. And after finding the answers, she wanted to share them with everyone. “I began teaching in 2001 and eventually my private practice blew up,” J.T. says. “I had so many clients that I couldn’t take a vacation.”

In 2008, she understood it was time to start a company and she knew could reach a large audience through blogging. Technology could allow J.T’s information to be accessible to all. She named her blog after her book, CAREEREALISM: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career.

“The theory behind the company is ‘better job, better career, better life,’ and it is rooted in years and years of research,” says J.T. She learned that people have the ability to choose a better job and can have control in the process of finding one that is a good fit for them. “It creates satisfaction and a happy life,” J.T. says.

Maximizing With Technology

J.T. knew utilizing the Internet would remove geographic and economic boundaries when it came to getting a career coach. “It shouldn’t only be for the wealthy,” says J.T. “School teaches us everything except how to get a better career and life.”

CAREEREALISM took to Twitter to engage its users in its beginning stages. They called it the Twitter Advice Project or TAP, and experts answered audience questions via tweets. The project lasted from 2009 to 2010. “We had to retire it,” says J.T. “It got so big. It got a lot of attention.”

J.T. says her company was the first website to produce live webinars. In 2010, 1,000 to 1,500 people would tune in at a time to learn about LinkedIn. CareerHMO launched in 2012 and became a place for webinars and other valuable content.

While access to CAREEREALISM is free, CareerHMO subscribers pay $9 per month for its unique content and have the option to pay $45 per month for a personal coach.

CareerHMO teaches members how to identify companies that align with their needs and wants. It teaches a mentality around the idea of employees partnering with their companies. It encourages users to create an “interview bucket list” and explains how to reach out and network. “People are shocked that you can actually shop for a job,” J.T. says.

The company has received numerous letters of thanks from members who landed “bucket list” jobs with the guidance of CareerHMO.

CareerHMO is one-of-a-kind. “Competitors would be resume writers, individual career coaches, and certain specialists, but nobody has built an interactive platform to answer every question on demand,” says J.T.

CareerHMO currently has more than 5000 members, and CAREEREALISM has more than one million visitors each month.

Gaining a Following

“I am just so passionate about getting this information into people’s hands, and that is what drives me,” J.T. says. She started writing on the subject and became a LinkedIn Influencer. She has more than 1.1 million followers on the network, and on her combined social media feeds she has about 2.5 million followers.

She is now a contributing author for Inc. Magazine, delivering a weekly column focusing on employee recruiting and retention. J.T. guest blogs for other publications as well, and provides original content for each platform. She explains that while virtually every topic has been written about, authors can and should still write about it but in their own voices and hopefully bring something new to the conversation.

“I always want to write in a voice as if I’m speaking to you over a cup of coffee,” says J.T. “People say they feel like they know me, and I hope that’s how my writing comes across.” J.T. says her writing has opened many doors for her.

She expects CAREEREALISM to continue gaining followers as well. Since its start, it has seen a 200 percent growth rate of users. She predicts the blog will reach 5 million visitors per month in the future.

As for CareerHMO, J.T. also projects massive growth and aims for 10,000 active users by the fourth quarter of the year.