About Us

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Early Stage Careers' career coaches are not only experienced in the art of launching students and young professionals into flourishing careers, but founders Lesley Mitler and Jill Tipograph are also parents of millennials who have been, and are still going through, the process of building their own professional lives. So they have a unique perspective on what both parent and student are going through during this difficult transition, and the means to get everyone through to the other side successfully.


Lesley Mitler


In 2009, after more than 20 years as a successful executive recruiter, Lesley Mitler founded Priority Candidates and shifted her focus from placing established professionals to helping recent college graduates transition into careers. Since she had so much experience placing senior level executives, she was uniquely poised to advise younger applicants on how to look at their career in the long term. She works closely as a career coach with our young adult clients to navigate the multiple steps needed to get hired. Lesley graduated from Duke University with a BA in management science and accounting, and started her career as a CPA.


Jill Tipograph

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Jill Tipograph has been a nationally recognized youth expert and educational consultant for more than 20 years, and she is a professional member of the IECA and NACAC, and a selected certified member of the Forbes Coaches Council. Jill is the founder of Everything Summer, a boutique consultancy service that guides families through the summer planning and enrichment process for their children, from elementary school through early college. Given her experience helping young students and their families design the right summer and school-year experiences, Jill organically began aiding these students in their transition into young professionals. She teamed up with Good Morning America’s Tory Johnson to produce the Career Boot Camp NYC for new graduates. Jill works directly with our clients as a career coach, and manages the business and operations sides of Early Stage Careers. Jill holds both a BA in Psychology, and an MBA in Marketing from New York University, and was formerly a marketing executive in both corporations and advertising agencies.

Early Stage Careers Coaches

Judy Panagakos
senior career coach


Judy is a 30+ year Human Resources executive who spent her career at JP Morgan Chase. She coaches our clients to create customized and well-executed career decisions, helping them best position their educational and leadership experiences in a manner relevant to today’s employers. Her senior roles as the Head of Recruiting, global onboarding and off boarding across a spectrum of departments, as well as counseling employees, helps students and young grads successfully navigate the job search process and the corporate environment.  Judy has recruited college students for internships and training programs, and served as an advisor to employees through all stages of the career lifecycle. At JP Morgan Chase, she worked with thousands of candidates and hiring managers to find the best fit jobs, and counseled employees on making internal transitions.  She has reviewed thousands of resumes and cover letters personally from Undergraduate, Graduate, PhD and experienced professionals. Judy is a graduate of Lehigh University with a BA in Economics/Urban Studies and has a Master’s in Information Science from Rutgers University. 

Neal Wendel
senior career coach

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Neal is a 30+ year HR Executive that spent his career in Training & Development and HR Business Partner roles in the Financial Services industry. He has provided career coaching to entry level employees at Citibank, American Express, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse and Marsh. Neal has served as a mentor to early career employees, helping them navigate and integrate into corporate environments.  He has recruited college students for internships and training programs and advised employees through all career stages.  He works with our clients to execute career plans that align to their interests and skills, and guides clients on how to best position their education and work experiences to become the first choice of hiring managers.

Neal is on the Board of Directors of NYHRPS, a professional organization of senior HR professionals. He is an Adjunct Instructor at Baruch College, teaching Business Communication and Advanced HR with a focus on Career Development. Neal holds an M.B.A. in Organizational Behavior from Pace University and a B.S. in Computer Science from Brooklyn College.  He also completed a Certification in Training and Management Development from NYU.

Deborah Carroll
career coach

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Deborah’s experience in executive search has been spent coaching candidates and hiring managers to make strategic career decisions. Her background in executive search, notably with Heidrick and Struggles and WPP, includes recruiting for finance, digital media, marketing, advertising, data & analytics, publishing, and not-for- profits.  Deborah’s clients seek her expertise to source and identify ‘right fit’ candidates to meet their hiring needs. She has helped companies like Twitter, The Guardian, and Live Nation hire their ‘first of its kind’ in new niche business areas. Deborah coaches candidates on how to focus on and deliver the right message to secure the job. She creates resumes to emphasize the qualities and experiences that optimize their chances to be selected. Deborah has her BA from Marymount Manhattan College and her MA in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. She has been a panelist on the Harvard Business School’s webinar, “Interviewing Tips.” 

Matt Cynamon
career coach

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Matt’s work has centered around helping people launch and build careers within technology startups. He developed this interest while at Northwestern University where he founded his first business. Like many Millennials, Matt jumped into a career in the startup world after graduating. He was one of the first employees, and managed all European operations, for New York based startup General Assembly. Additionally, he was a founding team member of a venture backed learning and development company whose clients included Harvard Business School. Most recently, Matt has advised foreign governments on how to develop local tech economies. Matt continues to help people who are just breaking into the startup world by coaching with Early Stage Careers, writing books, and teaching classes.


Sarah Birdsong
career assessment specialist | transition & life coach

Sarah is a certified executive coach from the ICF accredited Center for Executive Coaching. She is a career assessment specialist, focusing on assessments for people beginning their careers. She is certified to provide these specific assessments, evaluate results and channel job direction.  Additionally, she specializes in career coaching, guiding career and life focus, for people in a career transition phase. Sarah is a strategic partner with Early Stage Careers, determining how a person fits within an organization and helping clients match their natural talents to work they love. She brings 15+ years of internal and external executive recruiting experience, most recently as a senior consultant to the office of the CEO for Korn Ferry. Additionally, she has experience in academia in both Development and Undergraduate Admissions. She holds a BA in Psychology and a MEd in Counseling with a specialization in Higher Education from the University of Virginia. 

Cheryl Lambert
interview skills specialist

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As a communications expert, Cheryl provides interview skills training power sessions for Early Stage Careers clients. In addition, Cheryl teaches presentation skills at Fortune 500 firms as well as not-for-profits. Previously, she held top-level executive positions on Wall Street where she was responsible for creating processes that developed talent and increased responsibility for 600+ personnel. Having interviewed countless individuals, she knows what it takes to have a winning interview. Cheryl completed Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development and earned her BA at Rutgers University. She served as Chairman of Boys Town NY Board of Directors, and created and leads a workshop at the Center for Employment Opportunity in New York City. 

Janine Rowe
neurodiversity specialist | career coach

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Janine is a nationally certified counselor with a track record of supporting the career success of neurodiverse young adults. She is adept at assisting individuals with invisible disabilities such as autism spectrum/Asperger's syndrome, NVLD, social anxiety, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome, and dyslexia to find success in the job search process. Janine coaches job seekers in skills specific to job searching with a disability including navigating disclosure, identifying work environments that leverage strengths and minimize challenges, and building executive functioning and self-regulation skills. In her current role as career counselor and assistant director of careers and disabilities at Rochester Institute of Technology, she is a frequent consultant to employers on disability inclusion in the workplace, a liaison to the Autism at Work consortium, and frequent speaker and author on neurodiversity in the workplace. Janine holds a BA from Hamilton College in Psychology and an MSEd in Counseling with a specialization in higher education and college counseling from the College at Brockport, SUNY. 


Jake Schwartzwald
director of communications & operations

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Jake maintains the Early Stage Careers website and systems; helps design, produce, and curate Early Stage Careers' digital content and communications; and brings a millennial perspective to the Early Stage Careers team. He has experience in communications and non-profit work. Jake works with clients who are seeking to strengthen their social media skills for the workplace on a request basis. Jake graduated from Middlebury College with a BA in Theatre. He has an HBS: Core certificate of readiness from Harvard Business School Online.

Shana Greenblatt Janoff
client services

Shana helps manage each step of the Early Stage Careers process for every client, to ensure that schedules and deadlines are met. She assists in identifying ‘right fit’ internship and job opportunities for clients. Shana’s background in education includes: trustee to the Board of Education, creating learning and experiential opportunities for students as they rise from classroom to career; she helped create the first-ever Parent Guidance Committee, offering parents and students a forum for dialog and understanding of student emotional growth.  A parent of two adult children, Shana has personally navigated the process of college and career readiness. 
Shana received a BA in English from Boston University.  

The job search, interpersonal, and career management skills I learned through working with them helped me succeed far beyond my first job.
— Sean C., George Washington University