Career Resource Center, long known for the professional, reasonably priced assistance it provides those who are under-and unemployed, celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its executive director, Jan Leahy, during this spring.
Originally from New York, Leahy received her degree in human resources from Northwestern University and translated her knowledge into helping others regain livelihoods. The Lake Forest-based Career Resource Center (CRC), under Leahy’s guidance, has evolved from being a small, faith-based organization open three days a week to a well-known professional organization with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation that has helped in excess of 11,700 people. Under her leadership, CRC has grown and evolved into a major resource for job seekers, not only on the Chicago’s North Shore but also for those in southern Wisconsin and throughout the area.
Prior to starting at CRC, she had “retired” to raise her family. Her work life began in human resources at a manufacturing facility, followed by a position at a publishing company. However, she left the work force for more than a decade before she began her current position, which quickly grew.
Her first job after 17 years of being home with her children, began as one that was “a very poorly paid part-time job that was really a full-time job, but was right up my alley,” Leahy said. Her mission was to make CRC a professional organization, which she definitely accomplished. Her reward? “I know that every day I make a difference in someone’s life. We change the lives of our candidates and the families they are part of, giving them a better chance to be successful, stay motivated and maintain a high self-esteem.”
She considers CRC “fun and hard work,” attributing a lot of her success to the basic foundation established by those who created CRC.
“The people I have the opportunity to work with are extraordinarily talented,” said Leahy. “My job is always really challenging and engaging, which is a real driver for me. I have to stay current and up to speed in order to provide relevant services so there is always something new to learn.”
To her credit, she loves technology and reads a lot. “Candidates also keep us up to speed about what methods employers are using to source candidates,” she added. Those who come to CRC to conduct seminars and lectures are outside professionals who possess a wealth of relevant and current knowledge, which helps her keep up to date.
Most challenging for her is “keeping all the balls in the air as the only full-time employee. Clients are important. Volunteers need to be managed and connections need to be made. If we are doing new things, I learn them!” she said. Development, operations, finance, marketing and more fall on her shoulders. She relies on others for advice and counsel.
She quickly emphasizes that “one of things most helpful for the Center is to find talented volunteers. They become part of the family and most stay a long time.” However, she added, “I run a tight ship and stretch a small budget!”
Due to that small budget and time constraints, she must allocate time and human resources wisely as well. Her goals and dreams for the future include increased visibility for CRC services and resources. Although she believes CRC to be “the best kept secret around, part of my vision is for this NOT to be a secret.”