“My career at Robert Half and in the music industry constantly remind me to dream big, and that no goal is out of reach for anyone who’s willing to put in the hard work,” said Sarah Cotner, a regional vice president in Denver who is also a recording singer-songwriter. Cotner released her second full album last August, titled "Breaking Silence."
Her success in music parallels the accomplishments she’s achieved during her 11-year career at Robert Half. Cotner started as a marketing intern in preparation for working in advertising after college. “I was so impressed with how motivated, energetic, polished and driven the people in that office were,” Cotner says. “Watching the impact they had on the candidates and clients they help daily made me fall in love with staffing.”
Long before relocating to Colorado, Cotner was hired as a staffing manager in Minnesota. She then advanced to division director, branch manager and metro market manager until taking on the role of OfficeTeam practice director for North America. “I absolutely loved that role,” she said. “It gave me an amazing opportunity to travel weekly, work and learn from the incredible network of people within our company, and to partner with offices all over the United States and Canada.”
A friendly push on stage
Cotner, who grew up playing piano, had always kept her music private. It took a friend pushing her to play her music on stage for her to get over her stage fright. “My friends and I had just finished a long hike in Colorado and afterwards, we stopped at a wine bar to grab a bite to eat and listen to some live music,” Cotner said. “When the musician’s break started, my best friend went over to the manager and said, ‘See that woman over there, she can sing and play guitar — you should get her to fill in and play during the break.’ Next thing I know, I’m being called up on stage and have no choice but to grab the guitar and give this a shot.
“I was a nervous wreck because I had never performed on stage or played music for an audience,” continued Cotner. “I remember the venue being extremely loud with people chatting with one another. When I stepped on stage and started singing, the whole place went immediately silent. I’ll never forget that moment. I played for the performer’s break, and as I was handing him back his guitar, he said, ‘No, you close out the show from here.’
“I played for another hour. People came up to me at the end of the night and asked where I was playing next and where they could buy my CD. It was the first time I thought, ‘I should do this. I can do this.’”
That Robert Half discipline
Sarah’s side passion takes a tremendous amount of discipline on top of her workload. Her daily routine looks something like this:
- 5 – 6 a.m. Focus on music operations (answering emails, fulfilling album orders, updating social media and websites)
- 7:30 a.m. – 5:30/6 p.m. Work at Robert Half
- 6 – 7 p.m. Catch up on life and exercise
- 7 – 11 p.m. Studio time, tour management and music practice
“Of course, music has a lot of different cycles,” said Cotner. “Writing is the first step. When a hook or melody comes to mind, you have to just stop, drop and roll with it so you don’t lose the lyrics in your head. The management pieces are the producing, recording, booking and business operations. The touring and shows consume most of my weekends for about six months after the album is released.”
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Passions fuel you
As a leader, it’s important to Cotner to model balancing work and personal life for her team. “There is a general feeling that when you work at a corporation, the job can be your only passion,” she said. “My music fuels my career at Robert Half. I get so much energy from performing on the weekends that when Monday rolls around, I’m charged! Working here has enabled me to accomplish so many financial goals and career development goals. I’ve learned to run a business because of Robert Half, which also helped to shape my music career, and I am so grateful. I can honestly say I love both my career at Robert Half and my career in music equally.”
Most of all, Cotner encourages her team to find their “why” both inside and outside of the office. “I want everyone on my team to have passions outside of work, whether that is family, training for a triathlon, a side hustle, art, et cetera. Passions motivate and fuel you to work more efficiently and effectively, which helps to drive a higher-performing office culture," she said.
Check out the music video for the song “Like the Movies.”