If Jenny DeVaughn hadn’t fallen in love with recruiting a decade ago, we might be calling her Madam President. Instead, you can still call her Jenny even as she trades her Chief Enthusiast Officer title, today, for the more prosaic director, social strategy for Bernard Hodes.
Last week, as she was looking forward to her first day on the job today with the international recruitment advertising and acquisition firm, DeVaughn was all excitement and, well, as befits a CEO, enthusiasm.
“My heart is in social media,” she says. “The people at Hodes are incredibly smart about using social media and they are working with some of the biggest and best companies. That’s what’s so exciting about what I’m going to be doing. I can have a bigger, broader impact and work with really great people.”
She actually said a lot more about her new job, but, like trying to sketch the scenery from a bullet train, the best I could do was catch every third or fourth sentence. It was enough, though, to get a sense that DeVaughn preaches what she practices.
She is one determined woman who knows how to set goals and achieve them. Too many people, she told me, “not-work instead of network,” playing Farmville or Mafia Wars on Facebook.
It’s not a strategy, she says, if you don’t have goals that can be measured. Whether it’s candidates that apply, conversions that occur, hires that are made, or relationships established.
When she launched her own short-lived social media consultancy last summer, she wrote that she “stayed up many nights actively net-WORKING in-person, not social NOT-working. My activities were aligned with strategic business goals. Also, I was fortunate to have mentors who gave me honest advice.”
It was that grit and determination — plus, of course, the smarts to make it happen — that lead her to switch from a career in hospitality, to start over learning the ropes in recruiting.
DeVaughn grew up in a large family in Iowa, the daughter of a Korean mother and business owner father. She left after high school to seek her fortune, eventually landing in Phoenix where she worked as an executive assistant to the owner of a small chain of sports-themed restaurants and night clubs.
Along the way, she discovered recruiting and it was love at first sight. Determined to learn the craft and become a career recruiter, DeVaughn moved to Atlanta and a job as a receptionist with a legal, finance, and professional staffing and search firm that promised her the chance to recruit.
“I came here (to Atlanta from Phoenix, where she began her recruiting career) and I didn’t know anyone,” she recalls. “I had to quickly learn and build a network. I did and I’ve learned from every person I met.”
She learned quickly, building a LinkedIn network that now numbers more than 19,000 connections. While she’s proud that her network size has enabled her to source candidates without ever paying a fee, DeVaughn talks about the personal relationships that are at the heart of a core network.
In building her Atlanta network, DeVaughn would attend professional and social HR meetings, especially SHRM-Atlanta, where she is now executive vice president of communication and PR.
“I would do research,” she explains. “I knew who I was going to meet before I went to those events. And I knew something about them.”
By 2006 she had won the Rookie of the Year award, was officially named a Rising Star and moved on to Atlanta’s Talent Connections where she met her mentor, Tom Darrow, the company’s founder. DeVaughn credits him with nurturing her passion for networking and encouraging her entrepreneurial drive, supporting her launch of Social Precision.
A blog and a consulting sideline at first, she made Social Precision a full-time consultancy last summer with her as consultant, trainer, and chief enthusiast officer.
In an email before we spoke, DeVaughn wrote:
“Many people didn’t know if it was the best idea to leave a successful and wonderful recruiting firm where I was still generating commission with stable clients. There were several recruiters and HR professionals in transition. Why would I volunteer to join them?”
Darrow encouraged her to follow her heart. And that lead to a chance meeting with some Bernard Hodes executives who attended a presentation she gave on LinkedIn. One thing lead to another and the offer was made to help lead social media strategy on an international scale.
“How often does this kind of opportunity come along,” DeVaughn says. “I’m just so very grateful to all those people who have helped me so much. I would not be where I am without my network. By network I mean my family, my business family, friends, savvy colleagues, all the people I meet.”
Looking forward to the start of her new job DeVaughn said, “Social media is one small part of a comprehensive recruiting strategy, but it is such an important part that I don’t think you can really say you have a recruiting strategy without it.”