For close to three decades, “if you cut me, I bled corporate America,” says Nickquolette Barrett. She started out at State Farm Insurance as a claims adjuster and quickly worked her way into leadership positions, including a role as a corporate training manager. “I was doing everything that the company asked me to do, relocating a few times, chasing the proverbial carrot, and obtaining insurance designations which are almost like college degrees,” says Barrett. "But my career pretty much stagnated.”
Part of her responsibility as a leader was to coach, mentor, and train others in her organization to prepare them for their next career move. “One time, I had the opportunity to do this with my whole team because the company was growing and they were looking to get people into new roles,” Barrett recalls. One by one, she helped them with their internal resumes and prepared them for interviews. As it turned out, she was pretty good at that. Ten out of eleven people on her team were promoted with an average salary increase of $14,000. Her record was almost perfect, but the 11th got married and moved away.
Her colleagues were so impressed with her results that some of them suggested she consider starting her own business. So, Barrett decided to launch a side gig and began marketing herself on social media as a resume writer. “I thought, okay, let me charge enough to get a manicure and pedicure,” she says. “It was fun for me.” But it soon grew beyond a side amusement for pocket money. “After two years of doing my business basically as a hobby, I felt that if I could not get a seat at the table, I would create my own," she says. "That’s when I became very serious about it and put the pedal to the metal to start forming a full-fledged career branding, marketing, management company.” .
"[Expert Panels have] have given me the ability to not only get clients, but I’ve also gotten paid speaking and training opportunities. Being a member has been one of the best decisions I could have made for my growing company.”
As her own business, iRock Resumes, became more successful, Barrett had a hard decision to make regarding her corporate job. She seemed to have hit a plateau and found herself being passed over for promotions. So, she made a gutsy decision: she went to her boss and asked to be removed from the promotability track. “I pulled myself out of the running and said, ‘I’m going to put all my energy into my own company,'"she recalls. "That day, I became the CEO of iRock Development Solutions.” She kept her job at State Farm and worked on her own company at nights and on weekends. “I now call [State Farm] my angel investor,” says Barrett.
Barrett’s plan is to retire at age 55, in a year and half, and then to devote herself to her own business full time. Since she first started her company, eight years ago, Barrett has earned several professional certifications and has expanded her offerings to include interview prep, salary negotiation, job search strategy, executive coaching, training and development, and outplacement services. She’s currently enrolled in an executive career coaching program at the University of Texas at Dallas with plans to earn certification from the International Coaching Federation. Most of her current clients, she says, are high-level executives from various industries with a heavy focus on the insurance, IT, and marketing. With robust referrals, a YouTube channel (iRockTV) that features more than 150 videos, plus Facebook and LinkedIn live videos, she’s built a solid online brand. “My pipeline stays full,” she says.
In preparation for her 2024 retirement from State Farm, Barrett has begun building her organization to include junior resume writers, a director of operations, a director of speaking engagements, and others to carry her vision forward. She plans to devote most of her time to executive coaching.
“I'm looking to build my thought leadership in the space of career marketing, branding, and career coaching,” says Barrett. “That's what attracted me to Newsweek Expert Forum.” Through Expert Panels, she shares knowledge gleaned throughout almost 23 years in corporate leadership roles. Her contributions give her increased visibility and credibility since “I’m in some great company. The level of individuals is just fabulous.“
Barrett says the additional media exposure via Expert Panels “have given me the ability to not only get clients but I’ve also gotten paid speaking and training opportunities. Being a member has been one of the best decisions I could have made for my growing company.”