A Librarian's Business Success as the Skeleton Whisperer

Heather Palow
May 23, 2019

When one thinks of the Librarian career of old, the ideas of books, quiet and sacred halls of granite come to mind. As we recreate the image of today's modern Librarian career, research, technology, and retrieval of records from a variety of sources is a much more accurate picture.

In our new "Finding Your Moment of Success Spotlights," we’ll share inspirational conversations we’ve had with clients and associates in hopes that they inspire you. After all:

Life's about moments: don't wait for them, create them!

- Tony Robbins

You probably weren't thinking about being in your current career since you were 5 years old. Some careers of today weren’t even around when we were young and the careers of the future aren’t even invented yet. In all the career potential available to us, there are bound to be questions both as the “career changer” and the employer.

At Finding Your Moment, we encourage people to find career moments that engage their joys and passions leading to personal and professional success. With so many education, business, and career choices we often seek wisdom from those who have navigated employment paths before us.

Sara Cochran, Founder of The Skeleton Whisperer offers research and record retrieval services as well as guest speaking engagements to clients who are looking to unearth stories about people they care about. With this fascinating business, I couldn't help but ask some questions about her journey to owning a business where she learns about the skeletons in people's past!

I see on LinkedIn that you have a background in Library Science, how did your education prepare you for your current job?

I had a few jobs through the colleges I attended and one was in the school Library. I pursued that degree with the goal of becoming a Cataloger, which requires you to know a little bit about a lot of different subjects. Unfortunately, when I graduated, the job market was pretty rough. I signed up with a temp agency and ended up working in a Human Resources department and two non-profits before being hired at a company that did pre-employment background checks.  I stayed there for a long time, giving up my dream of working in a library in exchange for a steady job that kept the roof over my head. By the time I was ready to make a change, I’d realized that my true love was finding the story of my and other families stories. I took the Boston University course and opened my business at the same time. Knowing a little bit about a lot of subjects, and how to find the information I needed, has been very beneficial to my work.

Finding Your Moments of Success

Were there any particular moments that stood out to you as you navigated from one career path to the next?

My first “real” client had spent a lot of time learning her mother’s family history, and had no time to find her father’s history. I learned that his grandmother had an amazing story of love and loss and incredible strength through very hard times.  My client was so proud to have this lady in her family tree, and it helped her understand a lot about her Dad’s family! It was a moment that confirmed I was in the right field.

Did you have a plan for gaining new skills for your new career? 

I took the Boston University course (for the research skills) and started utilizing the resources of SCORE (for small business skills). Since then I participated in the ProGen study group, which helped with both aspects of my business, and have been to several institutes and conferences.  I am continually learning about my new career.

How long did you own The Skeleton Whisperer before you started paying yourself? How did you live through those first few months/years?

I started my business 3 years ago and only took a few clients while I was in school. In my second year, the business broke even and this year, I’m on a positive income track.  I’m very fortunate to have a supportive husband and we made a financial plan before I left my last employer. We reduced expenses and increased savings until we knew that we’d be alright with his income for a while. We've made it work and are enjoying the business's success!

Future Plans

What kind of skills are you acquiring now for the future?

Honing my research and writing skills, and practicing my speaking skills for lectures I give.  I’m also learning more about accounting and marketing activities.

If a Career Changer or Small Business Owner asked for your advice on how to navigate their journey to finding moments of success and you only had a few minutes to give ‘em your best tip, what would it be?

Attitude is a big part of success, but that doesn’t mean you have

to be positive all the time! The truth is, some days will be hard,

and some days will be great - remember that the highs will come,

and the lows won’t last, and you’ll be a success in the end.

Sara Cochran, The Skeleton Whisperer

Couldn't have said it better myself!

Heather Palow, Finding Your Moment

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