Our latest feature Jessica Fearnley, business coach and founder of Jessica Fearnley’s Business Coaching. In this blog, she talks about her trials and tribulations she has faced throughout her career. How she got to where she is now and what she would tell her younger self.
My name is Jessica Fearnley. I currently work for myself as a business coach. I aim to bring my own personal career experience to help women who offer consulting services to corporate clients. My day always starts with dropping my kids off. My husband takes our older son to school and I take our younger son to nursery. I only work certain days in the week, so my schedule depends on what day it is. I have 1-2 days in the week that are set aside for coaching clients. And on my office days, I create content, coordinate with my team, and there’s also space for podcast interviews and social media posting and engagement. I’m experimenting at the moment with taking my afternoons off and spending more time outdoors. I love looking after my garden or walking in the local countryside.
My day ends at around 3 pm when I pick up the kids and we have family time until their bedtime. This year I’ve got much stricter with myself around evening working – it’s very easy to fall into the habit of working every evening after the kids go to bed but I’m doing much better at switching off my computer at 3 pm and leaving work until the next time I’m in the office.
I started my career in project management, business planning and business development. I left my corporate career after going through burnout 10 years ago. From there, I began working for a start-up consultancy firm and ran the company for several years. During that time we built the company from 6 to 7 figures and began the process of preparing the business for sale. Around the same time I left to go on maternity leave with my first son, and it sparked the idea that I wanted to find a new way of working that fit both my ongoing health issues and my family commitments.
I started my coaching business 5 years ago and it was a steep learning curve initially. I had a lot of mindset obstacles to overcome, but it has been a process of self-discovery and I think has connected me with the person I always was. That person was buried under a lot of self-doubts! At the time it wasn’t at all clear, but I can definitely see as I look back to the start of my corporate career that I was an entrepreneur the whole time.
Throughout my career, I have faced many setbacks, I’ve always believed it is important to invest in your own development and that has come from different places along the way. At times I’ve had a therapist, at others, a mindset coach. It’s an ongoing process as we are always learning and growing.
I’ve always been very determined! And that’s one of the key things that has made me good at what I do. I wasn’t happy in a role where I had a manager who had sign-off on all my decisions. I’m much happier being able to make my own decisions and embrace that accountability and responsibility – but it was hard at times stepping into this mindset when I first started my business.
It wasn’t enough to succeed – I wanted to do it on my own terms. Corporate working demanded a high price from me in terms of the space to take my work at the right pace and safeguard my emotional and physical health. I like being free of expectation and not being compared to peers in the workplace. I set my own bar on what I want to achieve and I don’t have to wait until it’s ‘my turn’ to apply for a promotion or anything like that.
Unfortunately, not enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance while I appreciate that it’s a complex issue to resolve, but of course, they aren’t doing enough. They are estimating that it will take more than 100 years to balance the gender pay gap. This is true of the corporate workplace but for women who work as independent consultants for corporate firms, they are closing their own gender pay gap right now. This is why more and more women are turning to this way of working.
However, we are at the start of a female revolution. The working world is super exciting at the moment women are redefining work and the way we want to work. Women my age have opportunities for flexible working and self-employment that our mothers and grandmothers never had. I’m so grateful and so proud to be able to do meaningful, engaging work that allows space for life outside work and helps me to be present for my family. My biggest achievement in my life is definitely my family and being the mother of my children. I love my work, but bringing new life into the world has just been mindblowing. (And exhausting at times!)
Throughout my journey, I have learnt many things, one being you are capable of things you can’t even imagine. My 20-year-old self would not believe the path I’ve been on. I had such a small view of the world at 20. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunities I’ve had. I have learnt so much every year of my life since then. Although it has had its low points too gender has brought many unnecessary challenges it is hard to be a woman in a corporate workplace. One of the hardest things is being judged by your appearance and attractiveness. I have known capable and brilliant women sidelined because they were ‘too attractive’ and other women overlooked because they weren’t ‘attractive enough’. I’ve never felt it should matter what women wear to work or what colour hair they have.
It is also complicated for corporate firms to know how to cope with the fact that women want to and do have children. Mothers are often between a rock and a hard place if they are trying to maintain a corporate career with children of any age, and I think that’s why it is such a great thing that women are able to create their own work through self-employment and business-building.
In my first job out of school I chose to work a low-paying administration job even though I had good grades. A new manager arrived in our department and saw that I had potential – I wasn’t even aware of this at this stage of my life. She promoted me to a senior position and then a while later created a role for me. This was my first project management role and it meant that I started university later that year with project management experience. This was such an amazing role to be able to put on my CV when I was later a graduate and then a post-graduate starting my career in London. I am extremely thankful that she saw that potential in me, at a time when I didn’t see it in myself. It is important to stay motivated. I find that working with clients that light me up. Working the hours I choose. Lots of space in my schedule to catch my breath and be present for my kids. Making the money that I’m happy with, from the minimum hours help to keep me motivated and ready to work.
If I was going to give three tips to any young females at the start of their career it would be don’t apologise for wanting to start a family, if you want to start a family, always see the value you contribute and make sure you’re standing firm in it and last but not least always know that you are free to choose, and make choices that you know will lead to the result you want for the long term.