Clients Who Inspire Us

D’Juan Wilcher, Midwest Region Director, Travis Manion Foundation

D’Juan, a U.S. Navy Reserve Officer, was selected by the George W. Bush Presidential Center as a “Stand-To” Veteran Leadership Program (VLP) Scholar.  His career began in the U.S. Navy and has evolved into one that makes an active impact on youth throughout the City of Chicago.

D’Juan’s words of wisdom: “Success is not linear and does not look the same for everybody…remember that balance doesn’t mean equal.  Take the 30,000-foot view of your life.  Be kind. Be Patient. Do the work.”

Heather Freed, President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois.

Heather began her career in youth social work, advancing in her profession to become an Executive Director in 2014.  Heather relocated to the Greater St. Louis Area to accept her current role in 2019.

She overcame the imposter syndrome that so many experience by embracing and articulating her accomplishments.  Through the resume process, she built confidence in sharing her what she’s achieved.

Her advice for others in the job search process, “Stay connected with people you meet along the way.  You never know when you might be able to work together again even if it didn’t work out the first time.”

John Kirtley, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Illinois Mutual Insurance Company

John’s career began as an associate attorney in private practice before climbing the ladder to Associate General Counsel at Ameritas.  Unable to advance further, his search led him to relocate from Cincinnati to Peoria, Illinois in 2020.  He and his family are excited about the future that lies ahead.

The advice John wishes he’d had at the beginning of his search, “You have to be flexible and willing at the first jump to get to the next level.  General counsel jobs are scarce so jump at the chance to get one if it’s offered.  Networking is critical. You have to stay active.  You never know how someone is going to hear about you so you always have to be “on”

Cynthia Barnes, Founder and CEO of the National Association of Women Sales Professionals (NAWSP), a Community Organization.

Meet Cynthia Barnes, Founder, and CEO of the National Association of Women Sales Professionals (NAWSP), a Community Organization.  Cynthia has grown in her sales career to influence and train others to say YES!

The advice she wishes someone had given her earlier in her career. “Don’t let anyone put limits on you. Why not challenge the status quo and say, ‘If it were up to me, what would I accomplish?’”

What additional wisdom does she have to share?   “You are in charge of your life.  You spend at least a third of your life working.  You should wake up and say I GET to do this today.  Respect yourself enough to walk away from things that don’t grow you, serve you, or make you happy.”


Wayne Zill, Vice President of Construction for Amherst Construction Services/Main Street Renewal.

Wayne began his career in entry-level construction and purchasing positions with national homebuilders before becoming a Division President in 2003.  Unfortunately, he lost that position during the recession that impacted so many Americans.  Always resilient, Wayne worked his way back to a leadership role within the industry over a six-year period.

His advice for job seekers looking to pivot from their industry?  “You got to do the resume, but you have to NETWORK. NETWORK. NETWORK.  Remember that the majority of jobs are found through networking.”

How he stayed resilient during the search:  Know that other’s may be hurting more than you and just keep moving forward.

Michael Ziener, Executive Director of Illinois for the American Cancer Society

Michael served his country in the U.S. Navy before entering the for-profit business community.  Ultimately, Michael chose to follow his passion and pursue nonprofit leadership with organizations such as Susan G. Komen and the Patriot Education Fund before joining ACS.  Michael has worked diligently to grow in high-profile leadership positions.

How he overcame his challenges: “I sought executive coaching to learn how to become situationally aware and open to feedback. Having a coach was the best decision I ever made. Feedback, positive or negative, is wasted unless acted upon.  Remaining open to feedback has been vital. Those who don’t want to hear or act upon difficult feedback will continue the same mistakes.”

Gayle Topp, Human Resources Specialist, Core the Resource Store

Gayle began his career in Accounting before becoming a teacher for 26 years before deciding to transition out of the teaching profession. Thanks to maintaining a strong network, he found the opportunity to join Core first as an employment specialist before becoming a member of the executive leadership team.

A big concern during his search:  Age discrimination.

How he overcame that concern: Demonstrating the value he could bring to his future employer by sharing his story with his network, making them aware he was searching and being willing to do his best work even in an entry-level job.  He then marketed himself within the new organization to show he could do more.