Our Team

Experienced Career Coaches & Specialists


“The Cheetah embodies many of our principles at Priority Candidates. Fast, decisive, adaptable, and tenacious — that’s the way we approach every client’s job search.” — Lesley

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Founder & Career Coach

“We will do whatever we need to do to get you where you want to be. We treat your job search as if it is our own.” — Lesley Mitler

In 2009, after more than 20 years as a successful executive search consultant, I founded Priority Candidates and shifted my focus to helping college students and recent graduates transition into their careers. Having so much experience placing senior level executives, I was uniquely poised to advise younger clients on how to look at their career in the long term.

In 2015, I co-founded Early Stage Careers, and built a team of professionals specializing in career coaching for college students and recent graduates. In 2022, we rebranded as Priority Candidates.

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Career Coach

“I help students and graduates form their job search strategy, move through the execution of the many steps, and serve as their accountability partner.” — Judy Panagakos

Judy is a senior coach who works with 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. She mentors and guides them as they as develop solid habits for their initial job search while also building life-long skills in networking and navigating career transitions.

Judy spent four years working with Lesley and the Early Stage Careers team as a private career coach, before joining Priority Candidates.

She has 31 years of experience working at JP Morgan Chase. There she worked in a variety of specialized roles in Human Resources. recruiting, global onboarding and off boarding, as well as counseling employees, and helping students and young grads successfully navigate the job search process and the corporate environment. Judy recruited college students for internships and training programs, and advised employees through all stages of the career life cycle.

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.

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Interview Skills & Career Coach

Advertising / Media / Communications Specialist

“I am a pathfinder and guide. Every objective can be mapped to ultimate success.” — Deborah Carroll

The work of launching careers for college students and new college grads is Deborah’s passion.

Before Priority Candidates, Deborah worked with Lesley and the Early Stage Careers team as a interview skills coach. Prior to that, she was with MediaLink, a global group of industry experts in the media, marketing, advertising, entertainment and technology sectors. She built their Retained Executive Search business. Deborah successfully recruited for clients ranging from AT&T and GE to Maker Studios, Twitter, Machinima, Funny or Die, The Guardian and scores more.

Prior to MediaLink, Deborah was Vice President, Executive Recruitment & Talent Management for WPP, the global marketing and communications company. Deborah worked across WPP’s operating companies in North America. Deborah was Chief Talent Officer for Chemistry, the bespoke WPP agency formed for Johnson & Johnson. She also acted in a leadership capacity for the WPP MBA Fellowship, a highly competitive and esteemed international program.

In her career, Deborah has identified and recruited talent in consumer products, management consulting, worldwide financial services, manufacturing, publishing, telecommunications, healthcare, as well as domestic energy (gas, electric, nuclear).

Prior to WPP, Deborah worked for the global executive search firm, Heidrick & Struggles. There she recruited for Boards of Directors, Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officers across global brands.

After the 9/11 attack Deborah took a hiatus from the corporate world and spent three years as a New York City Teaching Fellow. That is another story…

Deborah holds her Masters’ from Columbia University with honors in Organizational Design. She is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College. She has been a Speaker in the Harvard Business School’s Webinar Series: “Interviewing Tips.”

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Management Consultant Career Specialist

“In my work, I always strive to help candidates hone and amplify their unique, existing skills while finding opportunities to build a complete set of talents and abilities that employers are seeking.” — Matt Essert

Matt specializes in helping college students and young professionals demystify and prepare for the management consulting interview process. Matt’s career journey provides him with the experience and understanding needed to crack and conquer consulting interviews. Matt has conducted hundreds of hours of case interviews and worked with numerous students and graduates to help them break down the case interview process and effectively prepare to secure internships and full-time roles in both major and specialized consulting firms.

Matt began his career in the digital media and communications industry before earning his MBA at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. While completing his MBA, he was a career coach for the Tuck Business Bridge summer program, working one-on-one with college students and recent graduates to help them think through career options, workshop cover letters, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles; as well as held webinars about recruiting/interviewing for various industries, and conducted mock interviews. At Tuck, Matt pursued post-graduate employment in management consulting and joined EY-Parthenon’s New York Office. At EY-Parthenon, he was active in on-campus recruiting, both in identifying potential candidates as well as the interview and hiring decision process. He is currently Director of Strategy & Transformation, Global Commercial Services, at American Express. Matt also holds a BA in Philosophy from McGill University.

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Career Coach

“I guide clients based on my understanding of the search process and ability to identify the best roles for them.” — Terry Walton

Terry has over 25 years of experience in executive search, career coaching and development. She spent 10 years as a Partner and Consultant with Heidrick & Struggles, an international executive search firm, where she focused on the Consumer, Media, Industrial, Manufacturing, Education, and Not-for-Profit sectors.

Terry understands how to prepare candidates to stand out in the hiring process, providing her coaching clients with professional resumes, outstanding interview preparation, and targeted job sourcing capabilities to help them secure their desired role. Terry focused on early career development as Manager of College Recruiting for First Union (now Wells Fargo), and as founder of 20’s Empowered, a non-profit focused on educating young adults to improve job opportunities, hiring potential, and career success. Terry has her BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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Career Assessment Specialist

“I want you to love your life! Finding your career path is a critical step in your journey.” — Sarah Birdsong

Sarah is a career assessment specialist who focuses on college students and people who are beginning their careers. She is certified to administer the ProfileXT Select career assessment, and has years of experience administering the Pathway Planner assessment. Sarah’s expertise in evaluating these assessments helps our clients determine how they fit within an organization and to match their natural talents to work they enjoy.

Formerly a member of the Early Stage Careers team, Sarah joined Priority Candidates as our Career Assessment Specialist in 2022.

Sarah’s 15+ years of experience includes working as a senior consultant to the office of the CEO for Korn Ferry. She also worked 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.

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Interview Skills Specialist

“Having interviewed countless individuals in my career, I know how to prepare you to have a winning interview.” — Cheryl Lambert

As a communications expert, Cheryl provides focused interview skills training for Priority Candidates 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 to develope talent.

Cheryl completed Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development, and leads the Harvard Club’s Public Speaking Special Interest Group. She 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.

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Director of Operations

“A career can be (and should be) fulfilling and compatible with other life goals that are important to you.” — Esther Wolf

Having experienced her own significant career change from Construction Management to the world of Mental Health Counseling and working with Career Coaches, Esther knows first-hand the importance of working in an industry that you are passionate about and meets your lifestyle needs. She comes to Priority Candidates with prior experience in the career coaching field, having worked with Lesley at Early Stage Careers as an HR/Administrative Support Specialist.

Before Early Stage Careers, Esther interned at a company that provides vocational and educational guidance for young adults with developmental disabilities. During her time there, she provided trainings for employees with disabilities, coached individuals one-on-one in interview and job search skills, helped clients create professional cover letters and resumes, and did marketing. She also had an internship at a private therapy practice where she completed new client intakes, co-led a therapy group, and performed administrative and marketing duties.

She received her BA Summa Cum Laude in Psychology from Adelphi University and is currently completing her MSEd in Mental Health Counseling at St. John’s University with the goal of attaining LMHC licensure.

“Uniquely qualified, skilled, and experienced…”

“We have all chosen this work because of our dedication to helping young people start their careers in the most positive way.” — Lesley

“The job search, interpersonal, and career management skills I learned through working with them helped me succeed far beyond my first job.”

Charlie, George Washington University