A Wall Streeter turned tech startup junkie - she knows what it’s like to feel stuck in a soul-sucking job and what it’s like to feel invigorated, inspired and excited to go to work every day. Her goal is to get you from stuck to thriving in your job. Jena is also a friend of ours ( thank you social media! ) and she sat down with us on a recent trip to the west coast while she was filming a video series for Linked In! We admire her work ethic, adore her advice and of course - we love the way she wears her Parker Clay!
Where did your journey begin to becoming a career strategist?
A lot of failures and strategizing in my own career! Ha! But really, I had four jobs at three different companies in five years - so you could say that I had some personal experience with strategic career moves. I started my career in investment banking and swiftly learned that that lifestyle was not for me. (Think: 80+ work weeks. Yuck.) From there, I moved to the New York Stock Exchange, where I did some reporting from the trading floor and finally pivoted to a career advice startup called The Muse. Because I had so many career shifts, people started to ask me how I did it. From there, my side hustle launched and has been evolving over the past four years!
We love seeing you sport your Merkato as a business woman ready to make things happen! Can you share a highlight and a lesson since starting your own business?
That bag has held my entrepreneurial LIFE in it the past two years. It’s so sturdy - I love it!
The biggest lessons I’ve learned are:
Jena with our Merkato Tote in Rust Brown
Many of our readers are young, new to the workforce --- the tassel is still in the back seat of their car graduating women, what is your best advice for these ladies to push past the mundane jobs and find one where they thrive?
I love the quote by Jill Briscoe, “Go where you’re sent. Stay where you’re put. Unpack. And give what you’ve got until you’re done.” It applies to lots of areas of life, but I think it’s especially relevant for our work lives. There’s a ton of conversation about, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life!”
Now I am ALL for being in a job where you feel like you’re thriving. But the first 5-10 years of your career should be about exploring, learning as much as you can and working hard. It’s 100% okay to not have your dream job right out of the gate. In fact, if you do, you’re a unicorn! So that means that you may do mundane jobs that just isn’t your favorite. That’s what I like to call your “Soak Time.” It’s your time to soak up as much information as possible - ask questions, explore, raise your hand to go above and beyond the typical scope of your job.
There were really mundane parts of my early jobs, but I knew that was NOT the time to slack off. That was the time to show my manager how I pursued excellence even in the mundane. Once I proved that I was then able to pick my head up, look around at other departments, and raise my hand to explore new things I might be better suited for.
So, don’t worry about getting to the next thing. Learn where you’re at. Stay curious. Always remain humble. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
A lot of our readers are in the career world currently - how do you suggest you keep the passion alive once they have been in there position for a while?
The best way to keep the passion alive in your job is to constantly challenge yourself. When you get bored, you get antsy. When you get antsy, you get disgruntled. When you get disgruntled, you start bringing that discontent home. And that, my friend, is no bueno.
Challenging yourself at work can take lots of forms. Sometimes it means going after that promotion - and sometimes it means taking a class outside of work to learn a new skill. Maybe it means asking a colleague in a different department to coffee so you can learn what they do.
Whatever you do - don’t let yourself hit the status quo. If you’re constantly engaging your brain and stretching to learn new things - you’ll be in a continual state of healthy career refresh.
You talk about the importance of building your personal brand when switching jobs and when you are staying with a company...can you tell us more about this?
First thing’s first: Whether you like it or not, you already have a personal brand. Your personal brand is your reputation, what you’re known for, what people seek you out about. With that, you get to decide if you want to control that narrative (which I recommend!).
When you’re applying for a new job, this usually looks like crafting your elevator pitch, refining your resume, upping your LinkedIn presence, and picking out your interview attire. When you’re trying to move up through the ranks of your current company, you should be building your brand to answer: “I’m the go-to person for _____.” The whole key to building a personal brand is to help differentiate you from others in your industry or company.
You lived in New York as you were starting your brand, then made the move to Tennessee, what are your thoughts about how to know when it’s time for a setting change as well as a job change?
Moving to Nashville was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! New York was a beautiful season where I really got some amazing career experience, but I knew internally I wasn’t going to stay there forever. Nashville has been the perfect balance of slower pace but still has the perks of a growing city.
When it comes to figuring out if you should move or not, it boils down to priorities. For a season, New York totally made sense! I was young, single, and thrived as a “make-it-happen career girl.” I’m still that girl, but the change of scenery is a much better place for me and has allowed more balance between personal and professional.
I’ve had clients decide to move abroad because it’s a bucket list item for them. I’ve had clients move because of personal reasons. I’ve had clients move locations because of the industry and job opportunity. It just depends on each person’s individual goals - personal and professional - when seeing if it’s time for an environment change up!
At our core, Parker Clay strives for the highest standards in our SB offices and in our Addis Factory, what should applicants look for in an office environment when they are deciding on accepting a position?
Ah! I love this question. I’ve coached almost 1,000 folks 1:1 at this point, (Insane! I know!) and I’ve found that about 98% of those people don’t leave job functions - they leave cultures or bosses. So I always tell folks to look for the companies and teams you want to be a part of first. Then, see what jobs they have available. Culture is so important!
Everybody has different needs when it comes to culture. Some people love bigger, more structured environments that have clear career ladders. Other people thrive in high pressure, unstructured cultures. Some people need big teams, and others want to work solo from home. It completely depends on you.
Before you even start applying to positions, you need to get clear on what’s most important to you. Get out a piece of paper and start writing down what you want in your next job - everything from the type of manager you want to the physical environment of the office, to the purpose of the work or company. Then prioritize them into three buckets: “Non-negotiable,” “Nice to Have,” and “Don’t Actually Need.” When you’re applying to positions or deciding if an opportunity makes sense for you-you can refer back to these sheets to get clarity.
I did this right before I transitioned to The Muse. I had gone through a couple of interviews with another company but realized that my priorities and needs didn’t align with their organization. It made my acceptance to The Muse that much easier!
Jena's Podcasting Space featuring our Presidio Laptop Sleeve and Kibreab Folder
What do you do to keep yourself thriving and passionate since you became your own boss?
It’s definitely hard to keep motivated, sometimes! There are seasons where I’m so on fire and passionate, and other times when I’m feeling a creative lull. Both seasons are okay.
But when looking back, I find I’m thriving when I’m engaging with and learning from other entrepreneurs. Whether that’s reading books or listening to podcasts or connecting with people in real life - I know that collaboration and connection is key.
The other thing I’m learning is that it is imperative that I take time to rest. It’s such a challenge for me! I have a tendency to overwork, which leads to burnout if I’m not careful. But I’ve found that if I take breaks, my brain has space to breathe. And when it has an area to breathe, my best ideas come forward.
We're launching our Workspace collection this week! With so many tech options out here - website, social media, online presence - what would you say is the most important one to focus on? What is your own personal strategy?
For the love! I wish more people were utilizing LinkedIn. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a 9-to-5’r or a college student, this tool is amazing for personal and professional development. While I love scrolling through Instagram as much as the next gal, using LinkedIn has been a way better use of my time.
I have used LinkedIn to build a community (find me here!), to learn new skills via LinkedIn Learning, to land more clients, and to connect with some amazing people. I’ve met authors using the platform, got in contact with producers, messaged hiring managers, gotten booked for podcasts, and I even met a boyfriend on it!
There are a zillion ways to use LinkedIn, just hop on and start exploring. Research companies. Connect with old friends and coworkers. Spiff up your profile. The more times you log onto LinkedIn, the easier it will be to use. You won’t regret it!
Work life balance is so important to us as a company - what are three things you're loving right now that help you balance everything out?
This is such a timely question! I’ve been in such a season of go-go-go that I’m in the process of “re-finding” a healthier balance right now. The irony of it all is that I’m actually prepping for season 2 of my podcast, Your Career Story and the entire season is centered around work-life balance!
Currently, I’ve been getting back into my morning routine, and it’s been a game changer! I can 100% tell the difference when I’m having a consistent routine vs. when I fly out of bed and start moving throughout the day. My routine includes yoga, some coffee, porch Bible reading, and some journaling before tackling my inbox. It makes such a difference!
Second, I have been curating my Mondays. For most people, Monday is a dreaded day. They want to fly through their week and get to Friday. For me, I start my week from rest. So on Mondays, I bake in some fun. I call it the #MondayMethod if you want to follow along on Instagram! Some Mondays it’s treating myself to a mani, others it’s having a margarita in the middle of the day, and sometimes it’s scheduling time on my calendar just for reading by the pool. It’s been the favorite part of my week.
Finally, I’ve been planning a sabbatical. I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off this summer to rest, read, and rejuvenate my mind. I’m so looking forward to it!