Abby Kohut ’84 doesn’t want to help you find a job, she wants to help you find your calling. Kohut is the founder of Staffing Symphony LLC
, a human resources consulting firm that helps companies recruit, hire, train, and manage their workforce. She is also the author of a new book, Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets
and the blog absolutelyabby.com
Her book and its accompanying website are a new direction for the seasoned staffing professional, but one that feels natural. “I decided to start to talk to job seekers about how to find jobs because I was once a frustrated recruiter,” Kohut told the Polycam. “It is so critical to find the right job—one that you love and are passionate about. I want to help people find that passion.”
Kohut knows how hard it can be to find their true vocation. Always a driven and ambitious student, she loved math and science at Poly. But, as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, she changed her major ten times in her first year. “I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she confessed.
She eventually settled on psychology and, after college, worked as a computer reseller. She got her first taste of human resources and recruitment when she was charged with hiring sales representatives for the company. “I loved it,” Kohut said.
Kohut was already doing human resources consulting (in addition to her work in computer sales) when she started Symphony Staffing in 2006. “I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life,” she said. “Really, the hardest part was finding a name because all the good ones were taken!”
Symphony is a small company—Kohut has only one other employee—but business remains steady, even in the recent economic downturn. Kohut’s past clients include The Economist, and animal health and nutrition company Alpharma. “There’s always one company hiring,” she told the Polycam
The company bills itself as a complete human resources services provider. “I go to a company that’s expanding—say, hiring 500 people in 3 months—and I act as project manager for that,” Kohut explained. “Or, if the company doesn’t have a director of recruiting, I become interim director of recruiting. We help implement applicant tracking systems, document procedures, background checks… basically all of the process stuff that comes with hiring.”?
While her roots as an entrepreneur go back to childhood (she recalled putting on a carnival in her parents’ driveway and charging neighbors admission), Kohut said that Poly gave her the tools and confidence to try her hand at new and challenging things.
“Lots of extracurriculars,” Kohut remembered. “Glee club, volleyball, softball, basketball, Oasis Society, the Ping Pong club the science club… I loved it.
Initially drawn to math and the sciences, Kohut still has fond memories of teachers like Paul Raso
, Marie Corkhill
, and Dorothy Donovan. “I had to work really hard to get my grades. I was a B-plus/A-minus student by the time I graduated, but I had gotten better as the years went on. When I started, I was probably a C-plus/B-minus student. Poly taught me how to study and how to learn.”
With her first book under her belt, Kohut is spending more time writing and speaking to jobseekers, and she has no shortage of career advice for Poly students and alumni.
“Spend a lot of time looking within yourself and figuring out what you love and not being afraid of it,” Kohut said. “For current Poly students, try different things and take as many classes as you can, but take career assessments, too.”
“Starting out in sales is a wonderful thing to do,” Kohut continued. “Even in high school. The skills you learn in sales—being nice to people, attention to detail—are things you’re going to need later in life. Doing sales for five years really helped my career a lot.”
Most of all, Kohut advised, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It took me 20 years to do what I absolutely love. But when you find what you love… you’d do it for free.”