She Works with Women to Build a Firm Foundation with Health, Stress Management, & Anxiety Reduction. Meet Success Coach, Business Consultant & Speaker, Holly Jean Jackson
Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?
HJ: My career path has taken an unconventional path. When I left High School, I was in pursuit of a music performance degree. I ended up minoring in music instead to pursue other passions.
After attending a semester at American University and completing an internship in pro bono law, I decided that law school wasn’t the best fit for me. I graduated from Elmhurst College with honors in 3 years and began my job search. I discovered pretty quickly that I needed an additional degree to succeed.
I went back to school part-time at night while working full time for the North Carolina government to get my master’s degree in Public Administration. I knew I wanted to work in business, but I wanted to specialize in nonprofit and government work. I also specialized and chose to get a certificate in public policy focusing on education.
This was just the beginning of my career’s very windy path …
Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
HJ: I started babysitting when I was 14 and shortly after became a junior lifeguard at 15. These first jobs empowered me. They meant I could save money for my future. It meant I could be a first-generation college graduate if I worked hard. It meant that I could earn respect.
Since both of these jobs required a certification in CPR and First Aid, I learned responsibility, attention to detail, and the importance of professionalism at a very young age. I also learned how to work with young people and teams to help them succeed.
Upon reflection, I also learned about the value of an earned dollar … something that I believe many youths today are losing sight of. I learned the value of your reputation, of customer service, and what it meant to succeed in the service industry. I took my work very seriously, even at age 14.
I believe I took my work seriously because my father was a mechanic, building his own business back then. I saw how hard he worked, how dedicated to his ongoing education he was, and how important work ethic was. He was my inspiration back then.
Q: Can you share some of your personal experiences that have led to your success?
HJ: Joining a band in middle school had a huge impact on who I became and the values I developed as a young person. My band director had a mantra that sticks with me to this day. He said, “To be early is to be on time, and to be on time is to be late”. I learned that showing up early meant showing respect to others and to be late was disrespectful.
I spent many summers on the swim team and eventually ended up coaching summer and masters swim team. Swimming on a team taught me the importance of teamwork alongside drive and competition. I learned that to win as a team, meant I needed to invest equally in my teammate’s success, not just my own success.
Four years ago, I experienced a severe concussion. It turned my life upside down. I couldn’t work for nine months. Playing the piano was impossible. I feared that I would never regain my brain’s functions and that I was losing myself entirely. This was possibly the scariest period of my life. My tribe helped me pull through. I took this time off to reflect, get certified as a gentle therapeutics’ yoga instructor, and focus on healing my brain and body. This incident put me on the trajectory to starting my own business, so I consider it pivotal.
These are just a few of the many personal experiences that have shaped me and led to my success personally and professionally.
Q: Tell us about the time you spent in the nonprofit arena?
HJ: While working on my master’s degree, I was also working at the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University. I was a research assistant and intern and then ended up leading their scholar’s council. While leading the scholar’s council, I was responsible for helping scholars, who were leaders across our five key policy areas, develop relevant stories that shaped the history and future of policy in NC and beyond. I was also on the physical design committee to help shape what this future policy hub would look like. I was honored to be invited to come back for a tour just before it opened to the public. It was amazing to see how much the space was exactly as we had envisioned it from four years ago attending the groundbreaking ceremony.
Knowing that I played a key role in building this space that will help future generations engage in policy development and the future of NC and beyond is a huge honor. I am extremely passionate about education and how we can help engage young people in the conversation.
After working at IEI, I took on a role at EDUCAUSE. Educause is a national higher education non-profit that helps keep teachers engaged in the use of technology for education. I worked closely with a team to help transform professional development and engagement of teachers in that space.
Upon moving to California, I left the non-profit space to work at a university. My contacts and Educause connected me with the CIO at California State University, East Bay where I was offered a role as Director of Relationship Management and IT Services.
While I am not currently in the non-profit space, I remain engaged and passionate about work in this sector. My long-term vision is to create a membership subscription site and use the profits from it to build a non-profit to help kids between the ages of 13 and 16 to build confidence and soft skills that are missing from the education system. I will do this by partnering with the system as I believe community is a crucial part of education. I also coach non-profit leaders on how to build successful business models with high impact today.
Q: What are some of the services you offer?
HJ: I work with entrepreneurs, business owners, and companies through various services. I offer 1:1 premier business coaching to help my clients build and scale their businesses in a way that supports their lives 360 degrees.
1:1 Coaching Packages help uncover what’s been stopping you, slowing you down or keeping you from having the business - you want. Develop a powerful vision for your transformation, and what it will mean for you and for your business. Discover which habits, lifestyle choices, and beliefs are holding you back in your business and what to do about them. Get crystal clear on a step-by-step plan to create the thriving business you desire.
For companies, I offer technology, program management, and strategic consulting. Additionally, I offer business workshops and speaking. My corporate packages focus on two areas: team prosperity and employee success coaching to help build a framework for success.
Team Prosperity Program: Leading your team to success can feel daunting especially when you are faced with reorganization, big company changes, a new promotion, or significant stretch goals. Oftentimes, leaders will turn to a consultant for a team strategy day as a solution. In doing so they uncover key insights, build new inspiration, only to discover months later that nothing has really changed.
This is because you need more than a single strategy day. A coach is the partner that keeps you in action and holds you accountable.
Instead of a one and done strategy day, why not build a partnership and program with an objective and experienced coach? My team prosperity coaching program will help you hone your leadership skills while elevating your team to the dream team status you have been envisioning for years.
Employee Success Coaching Packages for Companies: Attracting and retaining the best employees and talent your organization needs is a big challenge. With services like Glassdoor where employees can openly share feedback on your benefits, there has never been more pressure to provide excellent benefits for your employees.
To differentiate your company, you must create an amazing employee experience. How can you provide a competitive advantage today? Holly Jean Jackson LLC provides professional development and career coaching calls to help your employees grow, thrive, and succeed in your work environment.
If you want to boost your employee feedback, retention, and work culture experience, then coaching is an excellent and unique benefit you can add to your employee experience today. Providing this elevated service for your employees shows them your investment and commitment to their success.
To learn more about these services, visit www.HollyJeanJackson.com/Services
Last but not least, I have an online class called From Confusion to Clarity which includes group coaching. This class is targeted towards women and moms who want to build a side gig to generate income for their families. To learn more, visit www.HollyJeanJackson.com/Learn/Masterclass/
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
HJ: I used to live in fear of my own life. I had been married and every time I faced something scary or daunting, I would simply ask my husband to handle it for me. I could hand off my fears and avoid them. This habit led to a strong codependency tendency and ultimately a divorce.
Over the last several years I had been having some success climbing the corporate ladder. However, I found myself face to face with continual layoffs one after the next. I was struggling personally as well. At 23, while my peers were celebrating life, I was trying to figure out how to live mine with a newly fused spine from shoulder to hip. To say I was crippled with chronic pain is an understatement.
Year after year, I kept repeating the same insane patterns expecting a different outcome. And surprise, nothing changed.
One day, I decided to turn this into an adventure and go backpacking solo at Lassen National Park. Honestly, I thought the scariest thing I was going to face on this trip would be myself… my mental chatter and the noisiness of my mind.
On my third day, I reached the densest part of the forest … I had not seen a human for hours. I looked down and noticed some fresh paw prints and then a second smaller set. Oh no! There’s a mamma bear out here with her cub. Coming across a bear in the wild is a very real fear for any hiker.
As I turned the corner, I came face to face with mamma bear. She immediately began charging me. As luck would have it, a fellow hiker in crossing just a few hours ago taught me how to C-H-A-R-G-E a bear.
After my life flashed before my eyes, I took a step forward and charged her back with all I had. She stopped, stunned, then walked away. It worked!
I realize most of you have never faced a bear and I hope you never do. We all have bears in our life. We all have fears that keep us from action and keep us small or stuck.
Perhaps your fear is leaving a relationship that is abusive. Or perhaps you have a really awesome idea, but you are terrified of taking action because you fear it will fail. Whatever your bear is, I am here to tell you, you CAN face it. If I can face a bear and live to tell you this story, I guarantee there is no fear that’s too big for you to charge head on.
I believe that in facing our fears we can discover freedom. Because on the other side of fear is freedom. On the other side of fear is clarity. And in facing our fears and gaining new clarity, we can then begin the journey of healing our lives and living to the fullest.
I used to face life from a stance of inaction, fear, anxiety, and staying small. Even after facing pattern after pattern, like big health diagnoses and at the same time getting laid off, I still wasn’t able to break free. I was still playing small, afraid to step into my true passion, helping others get clear on their big dreams and taking action to achieve them.
It’s taken me nearly a decade to figure out the secret sauce to creating the ultimate financial and lifestyle freedom in business and life.
Now I take big action, face and tackle my fears, know how to cope with my anxieties, and play a big game in life and business! That’s why I want to share these strategies with you, so you don’t have to struggle with these challenges for years.
For the past 12 years, I have been building profitable, unstoppable businesses. I take my clients from failure to prosperity.
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments your career?
HJ: My most memorable moment was touring the new policy hub in North Carolina knowing that its existence will educate, empower, and change the face of policy in North Carolina and beyond. With how polarized politics has become most recently, I believe it is crucial to have safe spaces where you can ideate, share, and debate important topics. Spaces like the policy hub created by the Institute for Emerging Issues is one of these spaces. I hope it becomes a model for other states and countries to replicate to inspire critical thinking and discussion of solutions.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
HJ: It’s very difficult for me to choose one woman. My mother, Heather Surratt, is my biggest cheerleader and a huge inspiration in my life. Her creativity, out of the box thinking, insightfulness, and wisdom has always been a constant reminder and guiding light on my journey. I often refer to her as Yoda as she offers such sage advice. I wouldn’t be nearly as creative or driven if I had grown up with a different mother or family. I am grateful to her for teaching me the importance of creativity, passion, compassion, and unbounded generosity.
Additionally, Brene Brown and Gabrielle Bernstein have inspired me because of the challenges they have faced and how vulnerable they have been in sharing their journeys. In a world where we are taught to appear perfect, we need more women like Brene and Gabrielle leading the way. I believe there is power in vulnerability and sharing our failures.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
HJ: I believe women have the difficult task of learning how to support each other versus looking at each other as competition. Sadly, I have seen too many women tear one another down in the workplace due to fear of losing. We need to ban together to gain the leadership roles we seek, the pay we are worthy of, and to help each other navigate the unique challenges we face.
There is also the difficult balance between career and family. If you want to land a C-Suite role, there are sacrifices you need to make to get there. Find your tribe of men and women at work and share your goals because it takes a community and a successful team to rise to the top.
We need to work on our negotiation skills. It’s been proven that women are much less likely to negotiate for a raise, for a promotion, or for a shift in schedule. Educate yourself, find a mentor or coach, and negotiate for what you need in your career. Then pass it on to other women so they can do the same.
There’s also this interesting shift I see at women’s conferences where the topics all focus on helping women gain C-Suite leadership roles. While I believe this is a great cause, I find that in speaking with most women attending these events, it’s a relatively small percentage of women that seek this high-level role. I think we need to rethink what success looks like and define it for ourselves.
Sometimes success is finding a shared part time role with leadership impact. Sometimes it’s being on a board to exhibit influence. It isn’t going to be landing a C-Suite role for every woman. That’s ok. We need more conferences that support these other routes that women are interested in taking to find their professional success.
Finally, we need to build our relationships with our male counterparts at work. The only way we will succeed is by banding together. Too many women’s conferences that I attend end up bashing our male counterparts. Yes, there are certainly cases that are frustrating and inappropriate, but the solution isn’t to exclude them. The solution is to find ways to work together and appreciate our differences.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
HJ: Begin by really identifying what your passion is and what success would look like for yourself. Don’t let anyone else define it for you. The sooner you do this, the faster you will hit your goals and the more you can clear out the remaining clutter. If you fail to do this, you are giving away your power and allowing your boss, mother, or other person of power to define your future for you. Take the power back and do the work to define your future.
Find a coach and a mentor. You will need both if you want to do big things. Having an objective and experienced voice to guide you will reduce your stress, keep you focused, and keep you on track.
Find and build your tribe. You will need community to thrive in business and life. Find men and women who inspire you, uplift you, and help you grow. The five people you spend most of your time with will influence the level of success you achieve. Make sure you are surrounding yourself intentionally with people of the right caliber.
If you choose to take action on the above, ultimately, you will expose yourself to new ideas, fresh perspectives, and an abundance of possibility. This is the foundation of success.
Five Things About Holly Jean Jackson
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
Bill Campbell, aka the Trillion Dollar Coach of Silicon Valley because he is famous for his compassion and unique abilities to coach people for high achievement. I would have loved the opportunity to work with him and learn his methods.
2. What were you like as a student?
I was a very serious student. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. I studied a lot. I was deeply passionate about writing and music. I threw myself into music, participating in youth symphony, marching band, band, and orchestra. I joined the debate club and every leadership group I could. I also worked as much as I could to save money for college. In high school I applied to over 25 private scholarships to help fund my education.
3. If you were a superhero, what would your special powers be?
Well my nickname is Jetpack so I imagine one of my special powers would be similar to that of the Flash and having hyper speed. But also, growing up I always wished I could be Bionic Woman so that my body would never hold me back. I imagine I would have healing powers to help my body recover fast.
As a coach, a lot of what I do has to do with healing people’s lives so it would be amazing to have the superpower of healing others to fast track the process.
4. What app can’t you live without?
Spotify. I LOVE music and having playlists for every part of my life. I have a playlist for focusing, a playlist for biking, a playlist for happiness, etc. Music helps me boost my mood and focus. I love that Spotify allows you to share the gift of music with others and listen offline while traveling.
5. If they made a movie of your life, who’d play you?
Jennifer Garner. She was a nerdy outcast in high school who wanted to be a librarian when she was younger (also one of my potential careers due to my love of reading and getting lost in a good book). She also played a CIA agent in one of her earlier shows which I was obsessed with because I wanted to become a CIA in-field agent. She has a beautiful personality and is not afraid to be a little goofy. I think she would do an excellent job playing me in a movie about my life.