We love this month's featured Rockstar, Jenn Walker-Wall.
Like, big puffy paint finger hearts love this lady.
She's whip-smart, incredibly passionate about the work she does, super curious about life and the world, and is just plain fun to talk to. Also, we have some serious #girlboss envy as to how she manages to get it all done while balancing a full-time job and a side hustle. Of course, we had to ask Jenn. And to our (complete LACK of surprise and utter) delight, she gave a really fantastic answer to the question of finding balance and fitting it all in.
We hope you enjoy getting to know Jenn as much as we have. And if you'd like to connect with her on the regular, you may want to consider joining the Rock It! Community. #justsaying
Name: Jenn Walker Wall
Business: Work Wonders Coaching + Consulting
Job title: Lab Manager and Research Associate // Instructor of Sociology // Founder + Career Strategist at Work Wonders Coaching + Consulting
For those that may not know, give us the low down on what you do and who you work with.
By day, I run the Behavioral Research Lab at MIT.
I am also the founder and Lead Career Strategist at Work Wonders Coaching + Consulting where I help mid-career professionals make meaningful transitions and work through work-life balance issues.
I also teach sociology at Lesley University.
Was this work always something you wanted to do, or was it more of a natural evolution based on your training and experience?
Yes and no.
I took a sociology class in high school and fell in love. I knew that I wanted to pursue that and teach and do research. But I had no idea that the “other” work I do now — the business I started — was even an option for most of my life!
Recruiting and hiring was something I fell into once I started working full time after college. When I went back to grad school, I continued to work managing job searches, and I loved the opportunity to get to meet people and hear them talk about their experience and their passion.
After graduate school, I ended up doing research and teaching, just like I planned, but I started my business because I actually missed looking at resumes and cover letters and talking to people about their work! Friends were always coming to me, looking for advice and I knew that I could help people in a competitive job market.
Talk to us about the balancing act that goes into working full time job while running a business (or, as we like to call it, having a side hustle).
I actually love my day job. I’m not one of those business owners that hates the 9-5 and is dying to get out. I spend all day working with really smart, thoughtful people. The best part of my role at MIT is that it’s energizing. I often leave feeling inspired by the people around me, which makes it feel easy to go home, meet with clients in the evening, and still show up happily to work the next morning.
As my business has grown and I get more and more clients, I’ve definitely had days and weeks where I felt stressed and overwhelmed. I take advantage of my vacation days, I try to set reasonable goals for myself and I recently hired an assistant for a few hours a month. I shouldn’t have waited so long to do that!
I pay really close attention to the people and things that fill my life and my superpower is the ability to say no to things that don’t resonate totally guilt free. A lot of people struggle with that and, I have to say, it’s really key to fitting everything in!
It’s true that my schedule is full but I focus on how the work makes me feel — which is productive, clear, excited, and energized.
What do you do to fill your days with fun and not just obligations?
I love group exercise classes and get a ton of use out of my ClassPass membership. Working out really helps me turn off my brain, it helps me sleep better and gives me more energy in the long run.
I also always carve out time to hang out with my husband during the week and on the weekend. He’s super chill and laid back (the total opposite of me) but we like to eat out, grab drinks, head to the beach, and travel together.
It’s hard to see my friends as much as I would like but email, Google Hangouts, and social media makes it easy to stay in touch and even just hopping online to chat for a few minutes can be a really lovely, restorative break.
One of the topics that comes up most frequently when talking with women entrepreneurs (and, let's face it, pretty much every other person on the planet) is around time management. How do you help your client realign their time and energy so that they are able to focus on what really matters to them?
Because I’ve always been interested in a million different things, I’m pretty obsessed with this topic.
It’s frustrating and draining to feel like you’re not making progress on things that are important to you. One of the first things I do with clients is talk, instead, about how it would feel to make progress. What would that mean for the rest of your life and for your relationships? It usually means that you have more energy and you feel excited and energized. It also means that you feel less resentful of the obligations you already have. And those are good things, of course.
Once the client is able to shift their focus from frustration to possibilities, I usually recommend two things: 1) Paying really close attention to how various tasks, people, and obligations make you feel and 2) start making small changes in your schedule immediately.
And I do mean small. If you really want to write a book and you’re not writing at all, five minutes a day adds up to 2.5 hours a month. That’s a significant chunk of writing time!
People underestimate the power of small and consistent action over several weeks or months. It creates a solid foundation, sets you up for more realistic goals, increases your confidence, and turns time into an ally instead of your enemy.
Then over the course of several weeks, we’ll try to increase the amount of time the client spends in pursuit of their goal, in this case, writing a book. We’ll also try to minimize commitments that feel particularly draining and practice creating boundaries by identifying places where it’s easy to say no!
It’s an ongoing practice so I encourage my clients, and everyone else, to be gentle with themselves. We have to constantly pay attention. And we also need to give ourselves permission for important things that come up, but we also need to plan to re-commit to our own goals.
Gone are the days when staying at a company for your entire career is seen as a good thing. Can you talk about career changes and the impact of having multiple interests on finding a J-O-B?
Yes! People often feel like their interests and work history are all over the place and they’re afraid to explore new things because they may look like a chronic job hopper without direction. There’s always some continuity or compelling story there, if you dig deep enough.
And it’s really all in how you tell that story to a potential employer. There’s no shame in trying something and changing your mind. You just have to take the time to think about what didn’t work, why, and how it helped to shape your path going forward.
You have to take ownership of your interests and experiences. A career strategist or coach will be able to help you do that, but you can also make the time to journal about your work experiences. What you love, didn’t love, who you loved to work with, what responsibilities you’d love to let go of and what you’d want to do more of are simple questions and those answers can give you a ton of insight into how to apply all of that in your next job.
Famous last words... What advice would you give to women who are unhappy in their careers and looking for a position that is a better use of their time and talents?
Start before you’re ready.
The clients that spend the most money and require the most time and the ones that are the most burned out in their current job. I recommend checking in with yourself, answering the questions that I discussed above, looking for patterns and updating your resume and LinkedIn profile quarterly — even when you’re still happy in a job — so that you’re ready should a great position come along.
It’s also easier to network and use relationships for information when you feel like you don’t need a job. It feels less transactional and more like a learning experience or a “real” relationship.
But if you are truly unhappy, commit to figuring out what’s not working for you and then commit to finding a new position. No matter how unhappy you are, don’t skip a serious assessment of your current mis-matched position or you might find yourself in a similar situation!