Career coaching and why you need it! A conversation with Jennifer Tardy
Career coaching and why you need it! A conversation with Jennifer Tardy
By: Olivia Jackson
Jennifer Tardy is a career expert with over 14 years of experience working in HR and recruiting, and is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a bachelors in business management and an MBA. Jennifer has focused on helping black professionals break through the knowledge barrier and understand how to get the jobs they want and negotiate the pay they deserve to earn. With her educational background and career expertise, Jennifer centralizes on the challenges black professionals face in the job market and provides solutions on how they can overcome them.
How did you decide to make the transition into entrepreneurship after over 14 years in the human resources field?
This work is a passion for me so my transition was a natural one. Recruiting is my expertise within Human Resources, so I’ve been known among family, friends and networks as the person to talk to for transparent recruiting advice. I emphasize the term “transparent” because most people are not used to it and they remember me because of it. My professional work in recruitment often coincided with diversity matters, so it was an expected part of my career path to continually hone my expertise in diversity and inclusion. And finally, with a natural interest in coaching, I decided to learn more which eventually led to my coaching certification. Ironically, the opportunity to merge the three interests—recruiting, diversity and coaching—did not even dawn on me until about three years ago when I noticed a major gap that needed to be addressed (explained later). This lead to the birth of BlackCareerSuccess.com.
When would you say is the best time for college students to begin searching for a career?
I wish someone would have shared this information with me when I was in college, but career planning starts as a freshman. I don’t like to place this much pressure on young professionals, but this is a must know! You literally have at least one thousand four hundred sixty (1,460) days to build a competitive resume. This number can be greater or lesser depending on whether you graduate earlier or later than the four-year standard. Here is what I mean by this. When you graduate, your resume speaks on your behalf. Your resume must tell the recruiter that you are the best fit for the role. Your resume should be chalked full of internships, student organizations (where you serve as an officer), and good grades toward a solid degree program. If you wait for your senior year to consider internships, grades, degree programs, and student organizations, you are already less competitive than your peers. Your career starts with all of the decisions that you make as early as your freshman year. The most competitive graduate that an employer can interview, for example, is one that has at least one or more internships in that employer’s industry, is a part of professional organizations associated with that industry, and has a degree that is in demand for that industry. When you are a freshman, odds are, you will not have a clear idea of what you want to do as a career. That is the hard part. If that is you, I would recommend that you do not focus on what type of job you want, rather consider a broader question. What industry most interests you? Align as many of your decisions (i.e., degree program, student organizations, and internships) to that industry and I promise that you will have employers fighting over you.
How can young professionals who chose not to attend college, compete with those who did in the workforce?
Most people without degrees who are successful, become so as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are able to create something of value and sell it to the world for, hopefully, a profit. Now, for those of you who would prefer to work in Corporate America, there are two things working for you if you have opted out of college. First, founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have changed the narrative on degrees. They have proven that degrees are not needed for success. Secondly, laws are cracking down on companies that require degrees for positions without a clear link to the necessity for that degree to do the work. So, degrees are not needed to be competitive in the workforce, but education, on the other hand is a necessity. Whether one becomes educated through on the job experiences in a certain skill set, or one becomes educated through certifications and licensing, the demonstration of a skillset is key to being competitive. If you opt out of getting a degree, perhaps you can consider a trade school or an apprenticeship. Both will give you the education that you need to be more competitive. Or consider career paths where you can become successful without a degree, such as within the software industry.
What is the biggest challenge you think young black professionals face in the job market? What are some ways they can overcome that?
There is a gap in feedback that young Black professionals just do not receive. Things are happening during the application and interview process that are causing Black job seekers to be less competitive than their non-Black peers. It could be something as simple as an inability to make eye-contact, or mispronouncing the word, reiterate (commonly mispronounced as reINerate). The challenge is that employers are not going to share this transparent feedback with the job seeker due to liability and our tribes (i.e., family and friends) are not present during the interview and won’t know this feedback either. As a result, young black professionals are being rejected for offers and promotional opportunities and don’t know why. Too many rejections can begin to make one doubtful, insecure, and downright skeptical of their chances to land a great job. And these negative personal feelings begin playing into future interviews causing the cycle to continue. There are too many young Black job seekers locked into this negative loop today and do not know how to get out. Getting out of this loop involves intervention and course correcting.
To overcome this feedback gap, young Black professionals must take the opportunity to ask courageously probing questions during the interview to get feedback—and there is a proper way to do this. If they do not solicit feedback during the interview and are rejected, ask the hiring manager for direct feedback at the time of the rejection. Share with the hiring manager that you want to make sure that you course correct for future interviews and any feedback they are able to share will help you do just that.
Another option is to work with a Career Success Coach, like me. Coaching helps job seekers to discover their blind spots, overcome barriers to employment, and utilize best practices when networking and interviewing. Many young professionals feel that coaching is too expensive, or just for more experienced professionals, but there are many coaching programs out there targeted for young professionals, like our group coaching platform launching this April called BlackCareerSuccess University.
What do you see being the biggest motivator for young black professionals to be successful?
Young Black professionals are motivated to help their families. The more I talk with them, the more I hear stories about how they want to get a good job so their mom/dad will not have to struggle. They also want to be an inspiration to their siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. They are willing to do what is necessary to be the one that “made it.” Also, activism has made it appealing to want to help shape perspective on Black culture and the Black race. From #BlackLivesMatter to #BlackCareerSuccess, the more successful any one Black person is in life, the better their home will be, the neighborhood, the community, the state and ultimately our race and culture.
How do you motivate those professionals whom may be settling or complacent in a job and do not know where to start to be promoted or switch gears?
In the labor force, there is a title called a “discouraged worker.” Discouraged workers are not counted in the unemployment rate. These are individuals who are able to work, who want to work, but have not applied for jobs within the last year or so because—for whatever reason—they have not been successful with securing a job. The highest population of discouraged workers happen to be Black. I do not believe that people are unmotivated, complacent, or settling. I believe that they are simply discouraged. The feeling of constant rejection is enough to create an emotional block that prevents action. As a Career Success Coach, I spend more time learning about what happened to my client that made them discouraged. Emotional barriers like discouragement are the first items that we address in a coaching relationship. Once we work through those emotional barriers, they become naturally motivated because they feel that they have a better shot to land the desired job.
What is the biggest benefit of a career success coach?
A Career Success Coach helps job seekers to identify emotional barriers, blind spots, and negative thinking that has prevented their success. In addition, they help job seekers to navigate the job seeking process. The biggest benefit of working with a Career Success Coach at BlackCareerSuccess is that the advice is tailored to the experience of the Black job seeker. Interviewing while Black creates an entirely new reality that has to be cleverly navigated. We address barriers that stem from unconscious biases of hiring managers and we plan our approach to navigate these barriers proactively.
Are career success coaches only valuable for those unemployed or those looking to get into a new/different industry?
No, Career Success Coaches are valuable to those at any point in their career. We first find out what your ultimate goal is. Is it a high salary, a solid position, experience that you can gain quickly before exiting to become an entrepreneur? Once we understand your ultimate goal, we create an approach catered to you and your needs. Some clients are unemployed and work with us to find employment, others are ready to leave their current job and want our help to transition, and some choose to stay at the same company but want a promotion. We also have clients that have successfully landed a job while working with BlackCareerSuccess and then decide to partner with us as they enter a new organization in order to set their selves up for success. We help people at any point in their career. I would recommend that everyone speaks to a Career Success Coach at least once. At minimum, it can be a great thought partnership about your career.
What keeps you motivated as the person expected to be there and guide others?
The most motivating experience for me is watching a client who was once very negative and doubtful about their career outlook soon become excited after each of the small wins turn into one big win—a new career opportunity. So far, I’ve heard two clients call our process, “magical.” But we know that magic is not involved. Our clients set the vision for their career, we just help them to navigate to that vision using clear, expert, proven techniques.
What do you believe is your businesses competitive advantage to the other career guides and coaches that are available?
There are four advantages that align well to create one huge competitive advantage for BlackCareerSuccess.
I’ve led recruiting departments across several industries that have allowed me to see patterns and trends across recruiting.
I’m a trained and certified diversity and inclusion leader, so I understand how to place into context what Black job seekers perceive and feel with what research and data suggests.
I speak two languages, one as an experienced, Black, female, job seeker and one as an experienced hiring manager in Corporate America. Because I often sit on both sides of the table, know exactly how both think.
I’m a trained and certified coach which means that I can use best in class strategies to help job seekers overcome emotional barriers to career success.
Most Career Coaches can offer one or two of these advantages. Blending all four advantages for my clients creates a full circle experience acknowledging all of their career needs in one place.
To find out more about Jennifer's expertise visit www.blackcareersuccess.com.