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Meet Gayle Petrillo of First Impressions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gayle Petrillo.

Hi Gayle, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story. I was an outgoing, girly girl as a toddler. After I tipped a fresh pot of coffee off a table, and all over me, causing 40% of my body to be burned, my life changed drastically in moments, I became afraid of everyone and everything.

While I’m very fortunate not to have scars visible to others, my hidden scars caused me much distress throughout my life, from physical pain and itching that tormented me, to trying to keep from drawing attention to myself, at all cost.

My fears and phobias (rational and irrational) ran my life, for years. I am now 67 and have finally come out of hiding to tell my story in hopes of self-healing and helping other heal as well. And, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Having had my story recently published, The Accident and El accidente (March 2021) I’m hearing from my audiences how they relate to many of the stories of growing up. I was bullied, had body image issues, and lacked self-confidence and trust of others. I share how I overcame many of them, some with the help of professionals, others on my own, using techniques and tools I’ve acquired.

It’s an exciting time for me. I know I occasionally still suffer from PTSD, all burn survivors do; but, being aware of my triggers and sharing my story, in and of itself is healing — for me and for others. I am learning that no matter our ailment, we all need to know that we are not alone. Someone, somewhere is struggling with something.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

My journey has not been easy. For years I saw myself as I thought others saw me, from the outside in and disfigured. I felt “different”. My fears and phobias prevented me from being and doing so much. For instance, I wouldn’t, couldn’t, light a match (and still won’t) so as a teenager cooking on a gas stove at a friend’s home was a nightmare. Other nightmares included slumber parties, shopping for clothes with friends and swimming. Being afraid of snakes and spiders kept me from exploring the woods and my fear of heights refrained me from walking along streams where I might encounter a bridge.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?

About four years ago, after ‘retiring’ from corporate healthcare gigs, I became an entrepreneur. With many years in leadership, particularly in the human resources arena, I had seen the good, bad and ugly in resumes, interview preparation, and image. First Impressions was born out of the desire to assist women, in particular, to land their ideal jobs. To land one’s ideal job, you need a resume that stands out, in a good way.

Job candidates must have self-confidence to ‘sell’ themselves and be able to relate their strengths and identify how their skills are transferable from one role, one business, one industry to another. I help my clients by working with their image (body language, active listening, eye contact), in person and on screen. We prepare with mock interview scenarios. We build networking skills and talk about negotiating strategies. In addition, I will conduct a wardrobe analysis and transition closets. I am very proud to say that my clients, in Arizona, across the country and globally, have improved their self-image, built self-confidence and landed phenomenal positions, some never thought they could achieve. As women, we earn less than men in the same role.

That, in part, is due to women not speaking up, not asking for more initially and not at evaluation time. Why? Good question!

We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?

During my early career, as a secretary in a large medical center, I was identified as one of the ‘up and comers with potential’ and was sent all expenses paid to attend a series of Dale Carnegie and Disney leadership trainings. I was totally shocked because I had no self-confidence and didn’t see what they saw! Those classes were instrumental in pushing me to get my Bachelor’s and later my Master’s degrees. I still use some of the basics I learned in helping my clients.

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