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Recommitting to the Work

We have had the pleasure of working with Jessica Antonen over the past year, and not only is her work impressive, but she just launched a company so that can she achieve even greater impact through fusing her skills in business and design. Below is our Q+A with Jessica, where we learn more about what motivates her, and drives her career vision. Also be sure to check out her spotlight feature in this month's issue of En Root!

This month's theme is all about doing what you love and loving what you do. Tell us about how you stay committed to this in your day-to-day.

When I have the opportunity to help someone else shine, it has a powerful way of recommitting me to the work associated with providing that support. There will always be tasks that are not glamorous in day-to-day activities, however the joy that comes from assisting someone accomplish their goals is a gift and what I love most about what I do.

At OutGrowth, we are committed to supporting the growth of others. What do you think we as individuals can do to pave the way for others to grow into their fullest, most fulfilled selves?

I have heard from my circle of influence, and find it true for myself as well, that it is difficult to truly see ourselves. One of the best things we can do to pave the way for others to grow into their most fulfilled selves is threefold:

1. Pay attention to the talents the person brings to various projects/situations

2. Tell them about the talents you've identified.

3. Support them in amplifying their talents!

COVID-19 has been yet another reminder that there is no telling how long any of us have to accomplish our goals. There is no time like the present to tell those closest to you what you appreciate about them, and what makes them fantastic! Once they know, then help them to grow and become more fulfilled by taking steps to help them reach their next level. Remove barriers to success, open doors to opportunities, and if you aren't able to help them directly, then even just an introduction to others who can help pave the way can makes all the difference.

This can sometimes be hard as what is best for someone else's growth may not be in line with what we have planned at work or home, but it's necessary for everyone's overall success. For example, if there's a co-worker who you know should be leading a team of their own, tell them! Offer to support them in the journey of becoming a team lead and support their success story. Invest in them. Similarly, as a caregiver, it can be hard to encourage a loved one to recognize their independence and growth, but telling the loved one how much they've grown could help give them the confidence to take their next step in life, which could mean moving or trying something new that might seem scary. If they decide to then branch out, then offer to help them plan that wedding proposal, practice interviewing, look for housing in a new city, or whatever support would be most beneficial to them as they become their most fulfilled selves.

Tell us about your most significant professional moment to date.

At one point early in my career, I was in a position where the pay was far below what it should have been for the time and talent my teammates and I brought to our employer. The effect it had on us collectively empowered me to think creatively about how to find a low-impact way of collecting data from my team regarding the work we were doing. Then, I utilized my talent for telling a compelling story through the marriage of data and design to share just how underpaid the team was compared to the shear amount of work being done to support the students we served. In the end, I transitioned to another school, however the school I submitted the report to was moved by my work not only to increase the pay for the staff, but also to add another mid-level position to remove some of the tasks from the entry level team members so they could increase their focus on providing student-centered support!

How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?

This moment showed me the power of leaning into our talents to help impact positive change for the greater good. From then on, I have focused on finding or creating new roles that address the needs of the people within my circle of influence. It has not been the most forward-moving path, but I have followed my passion for helping others through the use of my skills, what has led me to feel fulfilled as I continuously grow in my talents.

What is a step that each of us can take today to start our quest for work we love?

I recommend a two-step approach. First, ask people who are most familiar with your abilities to share what they feel are your talents and how they've been impacted by those talents. This will help you to further learn about yourself and then lean into those talents that bring you the most joy. Next, take action! For example, if that talent is public speaking, consider joining toastmasters or submitting a conference proposal to further hone your talent and open new doors to see where it takes you! Consider who you know that could support you in your pursuit of what you love to do and reach out to them. Even if they decline, you're no worse off than you were before asking for their support.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Believe in and act upon your talents! There is always another way forward- you just need to believe in yourself and take that first step! I still have to tell myself this from time to time.

What is your favorite quote or song lyric?

I love to dance, so whenever I feel down or defeated, dancing to music is my go-to remedy for a quick infusion of joy! As such, one of the songs that lifts me up is "Roar" by Katie Perry. This line in particular always makes me feel more empowered: "I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire 'cause I am a champion, and you're gonna hear me roar."

Based on your experience to date, what are the top three career competencies that you believe are essential in 2021?

Empathy, communication, and creative problem solving are the top three career competencies in my opinion. With the onset of COVID-19 and so many other things affecting us each both personally and professionally, it's becoming increasingly difficult to separate work and home life. Empathy is essential in the workplace to improve relationship management and supporting mental health wellness as we all balance what Amma Marfo calls our "next normal." Communication involves listening, speaking, and writing. It allows us to ask good questions about the world we live in and increases our understanding of our environment, as well as ways to share what we've learned with each other. Creative problem solving helps us to see beyond what is to what could be, driving innovation, especially when combined with empathy and communication!

What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2021?

I will continue to follow opportunities which allow me utilize and hone my talents while supporting others in their quest to become their most fulfilled selves. This could be through the company I started last fall by helping a client achieve a goal, providing helpful feedback to my fellow JHU Carey Business School peers in my role as a Teaching Assistant for Business Communications, or even using data and qualitative information to tell the story of the impactful work my teammates have accomplished in the Career Development Office annual report.

Jessica went to school for a Master's in Architecture, pivoted to Higher Education in which she earned a Master's in Education, and is now transitioning to Consulting while taking classes for an MBA. She started her own business and design consulting firm, is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and has an executive certificate in Innovation & Human Centered Design. ​Jessica also loves dancing, crafting, climbing, gardening, traveling, bunny fostering, NHL Hockey, and using creative problem solving to help people!


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