The 25-Year Journey From Defeat and Disgrace to Honor and Prosperity

Be Inspired | Do Good

A mountain girl at heart, Carissa Mulahn has lived and worked in the Roanoke Valley for years. It was inevitable that she would open her small business and dream job, Mulahn Recruiting, here in Roanoke Valley as well. Carissa’s passion for recruiting and business began long before she even realized she was meant to work in recruiting.

Carissa’s story has been a 25-year road. As she puts it, “a road from defeat and disgrace to honor and prosperity.” Carissa’s adulthood began at 19 when her daughter, Jessica, was born. After escaping a dangerous relationship with Jessica’s father, Carissa had to raise her daughter alone. She owes her escape and survival to her deep faith in Jesus Christ. Her career has been varied. Carissa has worked in entrepreneurial as well as corporate and government arenas, where she has developed client relationships, expanded company networks and set service records repeatedly. Despite her many professional accomplishments, Carissa believes her proudest accomplishment and “header for her life” still remains the successful launch of her daughter, Jessica, into the professional workforce of New York City following Jessica’s college career at the University of Virginia.

It took a training engagement with a Mary Kay trainer for Carissa to realize her career ambition: owning her own business. Everything Carissa had been doing career-wise had been to gain more freedom but it wasn’t until someone pointed it out to her that she became aware of it. At one particular training session during her Mary Kay days, the trainer asked the group “What do you value most?” Her immediate thought: money. Instead, the trainer and dear friend retorted that she thought the thing that Carissa valued the most was freedom.  For Carissa, accepting Freedom as her primary motivator was a challenge at first, but the more she sat with her Mary Kay trainer, the more she recognized the truth of the statement. Carissa now believes that “sometimes it takes someone else to point out what is right and you can’t even see it.”

So what does her life look like as a recruiter? Carissa primarily works with clients that are “wise enough to understand that the time and energy they will put into locating talent is not where they want to focus their time, instead, they want someone else to put a pool of candidates in front of them.” She explains these clients are wise because they specifically seek the expertise, energy and time of recruiters to process the information gathered during a job search, find a great candidate and have a successful onboarding experience for the candidate.

A necessary, albeit uncomfortable step, and the bulk of what Carissa does with her clients is to pinpoint the top three things a client needs and priorities in the position they are hiring for. She notes that clients are hesitant to define the top three things because “it brings into reality the idea of a job that solves all their problems but they don’t know exactly what problem they are trying to solve.” But when she works with job seekers, she meets with them face-to-face to discuss what they love, what hindrances they’re experiencing and where they’re trying to go. “I need to talk to you about what you’ve overcome to get where you are now. Some people are just going to drive through and some are going to be very hesitant [to these questions]. Both of these [responses] have their own positives, dependent on where they’re going to be matched.”

Her advice to job seekers? “You need to be flexible and recognize that the job market has changed.” She explains that job seekers need to identify their translatable skills instead of falling back on the same duties from their previous position. They need to tap into the power of their network. She recommends to reconsider your resume approach, “every single client I have worked with has told me that resumes with a picture on it rise to the top.” Her suggestion is to simplify your resume, make it fun and eye-catching. And to anyone who is struggling with a career change or just left a career they’ve been in for years? Identify your translatable skills, strengths, and weaknesses but most importantly, self-awareness. Her recommendation to anyone in this situation would be to look into Cortex Leadership’s ‘Genius Zone’ package, which can provide a more thorough look at your personality traits, workplace motivators and ability to work in teams to provide an idea of future career options.

As a successful business owner in the world of recruiting, Carissa has a few notes of wisdom that she’s learned over the past years. Her largest challenge running this type of business is mental stamina. As a solo business owner, Carissa has been tasked to be accountable for all unsolved problems which means she’s had to learn to do everything herself or has had to find people with the skills a difficult job requires. The one piece of advice she would give herself if she could go back to when she first started is to “get over yourself” and let go of your ego. “Admit when you don’t know something. Find a subject matter expert. Seek outside perspectives. Keep asking questions. There’s always more to a situation than through your own perspective.” She suggests to sit down with people to pick their brain, hire a consultant and use others’ expertise: “they know more than you and they will kick your butt into gear!” It’s not about networking – it’s about asking for help when it’s necessary so you can succeed.

Carissa is always looking to deepen her network. Her motto for networking is to value anyone who wants to connect with her, “I’m always thinking this interaction could hand me a check for $10,000, any kind of engagement I have, I treat it like that.” No matter the person, she reminds herself, “this is an incredibly valuable and incredibly pertinent interaction regardless of who it is.” If you’d like to reach out to her, sit down, or connect, she would be thrilled to hear your stories about what got you to where you are and what you’re hoping to do next.

A final parting word of advice is a verse from the Bible that brings her comfort: Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will search for me and I the Lord will be found by you, you will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Carissa believes you can’t miss the part about the search for the Lord with all of your heart. You just have to put in the effort to know your own heart well enough first.

Listen to Carissa’s podcast here.


Photo credit: Bohemian Media Robot Group and Photography

Written by: Emma Shulist

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