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1Mby1M Incubation Radar 2010: Careerealism

Posted on Tuesday, Dec 21st 2010

By guest author Eunice Nyandat

How often have you changed jobs? If the answer is “many times,” you’re not alone. Data gathered by the U.S. government indicates that frequent job changing is not just a 21st-century phenomenon. Even workers born at the end of the baby boom (1957 to 1964) have held an average of 11 jobs from ages 18 to 44. Today’s 1M/1M company, Careerealism, operates under the premise that “every job is temporary.” The idea for the company took root in the mid-1990s while founder J.T. O’Donnell was working for a well-known national staffing company. A senior manager from Europe explained why he believed that the American economy would shift and cause Americans to look at their careers as as series of temporary assignments. He also predicted as much as 50% of the American workforce would end up in contract roles as opposed to full-time jobs – a situation with many pros, but some serious cons, for American workers.

Fast forward from the 1990s to 2008, when J.T. O’Donnell, who has more than 18 years of experience coaching, managing, and training employees, founded Careerealism. O’Donnell is the author of “Careerealism: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career,” a how-to guide for employees looking to become more satisfied with their careers. She is also a co-author of the nationally syndicated career advice column, “J.T. & Dale Talk Jobs,” which appears in more than 130 U.S. papers weekly and reaches 6 million households. Greg Barretten, the brand development manager, has been with Careerealism since its founding and oversees the company’s branding efforts, website development, and social media management.

O’Donnell started Careerealism because she believed that the shift from the industrial age to the information age posed considerable challenges for the present workforce. She names them the three career truths:

1) School does not teach people how to manage their careers.
2) The rules to effective job searches and career development keep changing.
3) As people age, their career wants and needs change.

This means, reasoned O’Donnell, that people need to be able to monitor and manage their career choices to stay employable for the duration of their working life. Advances in technology have provided the opportunity to deliver affordable and mass-customized career coaching. The Careerealism Web platform offers a number of products and services, including a blog with daily career advice; “Career Rx” with quizzes, personality tests, interview prep resources, and a job search engine; and Careerealismclub, which the company describes as a “career HMO” (health management organization). Subscription to the club is $9 a month, with a $49 set-up fee. With this subscription, members have access to a private social network and can use the services of a professional to review their resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and other career tools.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 15.1 million unemployed Americans in November. Another 5 million are underemployed, and another approximately 60 million are planning a career or job change when the economy improves. This translates to millions of people looking for career advice and to grow in their careers. Careerealism focuses on college-educated professionals aged 18 to 30. Its free blog reaches more than 45,000 readers a month, and there are two Twitter feeds totaling 34,000 subscribers, a Facebook fan page with more than 1,000 fans, and a weekly newsletter subscriber base of more than 15,000. Careerealism also has a YouTube channel with more than 30 career advice videos. The HMO has more than 300 members.

Careerealism competes with a number of free and paid career advice sites and communities and career coaches, particularly the services organized by universities, nonprofit organizations, and corporations for their students or employees. On the paid side, provides career management services for recent graduates and include job listings. They also offer a subscription of $9.95 per month for company and industry information, and claim to have assisted over a million job seekers. Another player,, has online company and industry profiles. Careerealism also competes with career consultants.

There is a lot of free career advice on the Internet and elsewhere, and O’Donnell believes that her HMO-style approach helps job seekers to avoid information overload, thus clarifying their career goals and finding jobs faster. It can also be cheaper than hiring a consultant, whose fees could range from $300 to $700. The company aims for a high-touch user experience to ensure that subscribers feel they have made a good investment.

Careerealism is debt-free and completely bootstrapped. O’Donnell has invested all the money she has earned from consulting gigs, book sales, syndication fees, advertising fees, and Career HMO subscription in the development of the business. She has no plans to raise money but would consider strategic partnerships with companies that have complimentary service offerings. Further, O’Donnell is planning for an eventual exit. She wants to acquire 10,000 Career HMO subscribers and 1 million monthly readers for the career advice site, making Careerealism it a turnkey operation for the right Fortune 1000 – a company that wants to target a highly educated demographic with long-term sales potential.

Careerealism presented at the roundtable on April 1, 2010 [recording time 39:40 to 51:30]. J.T. asked Sramana if she should focus on only one vertical, and Sramana thought, given the current youth employment situation in the United States, focusing on college students and recent graduates would work well. Sramana also advised J.T. to continue bootstrapping and not waste time looking for financing for the time being.

Recommended Readings
Mashing Together A Job Search Engine: SimplyHired CEO Gautam Godhwani
Deal Radar 2009: Simply Hired And Facebook As A Job-Seeking Tool

This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Incubation Radar 2010

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