As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Hargreaves. Jennifer is the Founder and CEO of Tellent. Jennifer is an entrepreneur and problem solver committed to making work, work better for women in the new economy.
Driven by a passion to make meaningful connections and generate new opportunities for growth, she launched her company tellent in 2016 and built and supports a network of over 8,000 professional job seekers, freelancers and employers that understand, value and promote flexible work.
Jennifer is a thought-leader and enthusiastic contributor on topics pertaining to the progression of women in the workforce and the rise of the gig economy. She recently represented Canada at the Canada-US Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders round table in New York. She has also designed and facilitated several roundtable discussions with representatives from companies such as #Movethedial, TD Bank, LoyaltyOne and Randstad Canada around topics such as innovation, leadership and talent planning in the future of work.
Jennifer’s professional experience spans three continents across brand strategy and international market development. While her primary school teachers didn’t appreciate her questions challenging “why”, she embraces that curiosity and the perspective that comes with challenging the status quo to create impact and lasting change.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my company Tellent in 2016 when I couldn’t find work that worked for me. I was looking for a career that would allow me to pursue my professional ambitions and live the kind of lifestyle that I wanted. For me that meant professional growth and leadership and raising my young family. I couldn’t understand why companies who desperately wanted more women in leadership didn’t have better flexible work policies. It seemed bonkers actually. especially as a culture of work life balance and flexible work is the number one consideration that experienced professional women look for when considering a future employer. tellent was started to help women find those flexible work cultures and opportunities.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
What is the word limit on this article? Mistakes are part of everyday life. It is fundamentally how we learn as humans, by trial and sometimes, by a lot of error! My key takeaway from the many mistakes I have made over the years is not internalize it. Accept responsibility, learn from it and move on quickly.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Kirsten Stewart’s book Our Turn made me feel understood — that all of the challenges I was facing in the workforce were not unique to me or my circumstances. That is a powerful feeling and it was a catalyst to me launching the company to help other women.
I am a personal development book junkie… In the past I underestimated the power of gratitude, mindset and self-love. Now, I listen to the audio recordings any time I am in the car, out for a walk or cooking dinner! A few of my favorites are Think and Grow Rich, The Power of Awareness, Psycho-Cybernetics and How to be a Bad ass!
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My mission is to make work work better for women. To give women more equal opportunity to live, lead and earn equally to men. Everything I do is to this end, increasing professional flexible work options, launching a return to work program, building a network of change-makers and advocating for greater equity within organizations and households. It is why I jump out of bed every morning!
I want women to have more choice.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Absolutely. Any time it gets too hard, I experience disappointment, or am faced with a challenge I ask myself a question… “do you want to keep going?”. I know that I always have a choice. At any time, I can stop. I can go get a more traditional job, become a consultant or not work at all. I am grateful for the privileges that I have and the awareness that if at any time I want to stop, and do something else, I can.
I choose to learn, get back up quickly, reach out for help and keep going.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I am the primary parent in our household, have the more flexible job and am the lower income earner. As we shelter in place with no childcare, school and / or support services and face the possibility of a global recession, my partner’s job has been prioritized. My physical and emotional workload doubled virtually overnight.
Two-weeks in, I asked myself what I wanted. Did I want to stop working so I could focus on my kids or did I want to keep going with my business? I felt like I was failing across all fronts and understood that my mindset had to change as this temporary situation was likely to last months, not weeks.
Well… I wanted to do both, better. There has been a lot of negotiation in our household and we have all had to get creative, let things go and work together.
I am grateful to have two children who like each other and who are young enough that missing school right now isn’t going to impact their long-term success.
My dedicated work hours are early morning and late afternoon. We’ve shifted bedtime so they sleep in until 8 am and we have dinner together as a family at 7 pm. My work hours are non-negotiable and my partner has learnt to cook. Both of these things were an adjustment for him. I also work a full-day on Saturday and have conditioned the kids to “ask Dad” on the weekends.
I’m doing a double shift at the moment and am very tired but without hesitation I get out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5 am because this is important to me and it’s my choice. Is this sustainable… absolutely not! As the rules and regulations loosen, we will find new ways to adapt to make it work but as long as I keep choosing yes, we will find ways to keep going.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
When the pandemic hit, my 2020 “plan” and revenue channels were disrupted. I went into overdrive, thinking up a variety of ways my business could pivot and finding opportunities for new services. I had a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and it not only took up a lot of my energy, it distracted me from my core service offering and vision.
I lost clarity and direction for a good six weeks and had to take it back to basics and realign my expectations for the business and myself. Why do I do what I do? How can I add value to my customers and clients right now? What is going to pay the bills?
Having a mindset coach and practicing gratitude helped me to get that clarity and focus back and into a place of business confidence.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
This comes up in my social circles and talent network a lot, the anxiety of looking for a job or finding new clients in the current economy all while home-schooling children, managing a household and uncertainty about the future. There are so many reasons to feel bad and focus on the negative right now and it is easy to do because of the dramatic jolts in the news cycle.
So, I am choosing to focus on the good and encouraging others to do the same. The core values in our network are gratitude, abundance and generosity. Values I also try to live by. There is good in everything if you look for it — I simply encourage others to look for it.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-COVID economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-COVID economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-COVID growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-COVID economy?
Whenever there is massive market disruption, there is opportunity for innovation. We are going to experience a whole new way of living that will evolve into a new normal. How we travel will change, how we learn will change and how we work will change. New products and services will emerge to cater to the new normal. Human beings are resilient and innovative.
We are witnessing a massive disruption in the supply of unpaid care work. Work that is often undervalued and underpaid and often done by women. Until now. COVID has shown us how much we value that work, and how little we pay for it.
There is no such thing as secret parenting or care giving anymore.
Routines and work-life boundaries have dissolved completely. Gone are the days when we enter the office and politely pretend that the children, we care for the other 16 hours of the day don’t exist, and that work is 100 percent our main priority 24/7. Now that the children are popping into Zoom meetings to say Hello, sometimes without pants, employers have no choice but to adapt.
One silver lining of all of this might be an increased recognition of the women’s work in the care economy and the knowledge that we can’t sideline so many contributors to the paid economy again. We need better systems and work policies in place to support the unpaid work more equitably in the household (having conversations with both parents) and to shift our perspectives on how we measure and value work. The introduction of flexible work and remote work policies for all will better enable both parents to meet the demands of work and family and greater equity.
I think if we pay attention to the lesson, we are being offered by COVID, we have an opportunity to create more equal access to paid work for everyone.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Life as we have known it has changed. I don’t think it is a bad thing. People are resilient and we will adapt to whatever the new normal ends up being like. Some, no doubt, will adapt faster than others.
I think we will be more open to do things differently in the future. At home, at work and in our daily lives. Whether it is how we onboard new hires or celebrate a birthday party, what the pandemic has shown us is that there are alternative and multiple ways to achieve the same results. I think that is exciting.
During the pandemic, we have seen increased empathy and understanding for our family, our neighbors, our colleagues and our fellow citizens. I would love to see this increased connected carried on in the future and encouraged in the workplace.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-COVID economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-COVID Economy?
The traditional system of work has been disrupted with the arrival of COVID-19 and social distancing measures. I think we have a real opportunity to think differently about how work can work better for everyone — because it makes sense for business, for the economy and for people.
The work that we are doing here at tellent is more important than ever. My plan is to stay focused on why I started my business and evolve how to suit the shifting needs of the marketplace in the new economy.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Always come back to your why. Reconnect with why do you do what you do or why you started your business? There are so many ways you can adapt and evolve the “how” to meet demand. Knowing why you built your business will help you navigate the storm and give you clarity in your navigation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Someone once told me that I am both the cause and the solution to my problems. This resonates strongly with me in that the choices I make, consciously or unconsciously, have brought the results I get — be it in life events or work events. By accepting responsibility for those choices, I have the power and ability to make different ones.
I apply this life lesson often, especially when I am not getting the results that I want! That is the beauty of being human! We can choose our thoughts and actions to get different results.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Follow us on social at @wearetellent or connect on LinkedIn.