Jennifer Ong: BlackRock to Style Theory GM to Life Coach, Career Transition Advice & Reframing Success Narratives - E321

· Founder,Mentorship



“It took me a long time to rebuild my confidence, my mindset and my narrative around my career. I told myself, 'It's not that you're bad at working, it's just that you were in a job that didn't utilize your skills.' One analogy that I always tell my clients is that a water bottle can be sold for $0.50 in a gas station or a supermarket, $2 at a cinema, and $5 on an airplane, and it's the same water bottle. It's just being placed in the right conditions and in the right context. So I really had to unlearn that for myself back then to recognize that I just wasn't utilizing my strengths, and I needed to find a job where I would be able to do so.” - Jennifer Ong

“If you don't look out for yourself and your career, no one else is going to do it. If you don't figure out what it is that you want, no one is going to tell you what you what your career should be. We have to learn to be a bit more selfish and really put ourselves first. Don't feel bad about leaving your boss behind or worry that you’re letting your team down.” - Jennifer Ong

“The been biggest learning in my business so far is don't reinvent the wheel. Someone out there has already figured this out. It is so worth it to pay for knowledge especially in the early days of your business whn you are so fragile, the business is so fragile and you need momentum, because if you spend months hitting wall after wall, at some point, you're going to want to give up, whereas if you just pay for someone to teach you all the things that they've learned, and you could get there much faster for yourself, then you're probably going to stick it out. You're actually going to be able to build something for yourself instead of give up and pivot into something else again.” - Jennifer Ong

Jennifer Ong, Founder & Career Coach at Ctrl Alt Career, and Jeremy Au, discuss three main topics:

1. Personal and Career Journey: Jennifer shares her career transition from finance to the tech industry, eventually becoming a career coach. Six months into her tenure at BlackRock, she realized that she needed to leave. However, it took her 6 years to reflect and eventually pull the trigger on moving on to a new chapter in her career. She shared her struggles with following societal and parental expectations vs. pursuing her own path, and emphasized the importance of unpacking these pressures when making significant career decisions.

2. Coaching Insights & Approaches: Jennifer shares her structured coaching method and her belief in setting clear frameworks to guide her clients. She highlighted the value of both personal and business coaching, and how her seeking guidance from a coach has accelerated her business and personal growth. She also explained the trade-off between time and money, advocating for the proactive seeking of expert guidance to avoid long-term pitfalls.

3. Reframing Success Narrative: Jennifer introduces the concept of reframing one's success narrative. She emphasized the importance of aligning one's career and life choices with personal values. She discussed various elements that contribute to success, including financial stability, external validation, passion, and professional achievement. She stressed the idea that it's not a black-and-white choice between money and purpose, but finding the right balance that aligns with one's unique values and aspirations.

They also talk about the misconception that coaching is solely about resume and interview preparation, the challenges of reinventing oneself in new professional roles, the criteria in choosing a good coach, and the value of support networks in one’s career journey.


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[00:01:56] Jeremy Au: Hey, Jen, I'm really excited to have you on the show. You are somebody who has both been in finance, then tech, now career coach and podcast host, really fascinating journey. And I'm really excited to have on show.

[00:02:08] Jennifer Ong: Thank you, Jeremy, for having me on. So excited to be talking to you guys.

[00:02:13] Jeremy Au: Yeah. So, tell me about yourself real quick quick .

[00:02:16] Jennifer Ong: Yeah, So I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Basically spent my entire life there until university. Went to the U. S and studied Economics at Columbia University. After I graduated from university, I started my career off BlackRock. in New York, spent a couple of years working there in New York, decided New York was really fun, I think it's time to move closer back home, so, eventually actually moved internally within BlackRock back to Hong Kong. And a couple of years later, and I'll go in detail to share why I left finance, but eventually decided to leave finance, moved to Singapore and joined a fashion startup called Style Theory here, had so, so, so much fun. It was honestly as close to a dream job as I could have for. Had the best time, and I'll also go into detail around why I decided to leave, but eventually leave after three years working at Style Theory. I did a bunch of roles from business development all the way to helping them set up and run the Hong Kong office, which was super cool. And yeah, four years later, I am now a career coach and set up my own career coaching business where I very much help people who are high achievers, stuck and unhappy in their perfect on paper job, get clarity and actually pivot and build a career that they're truly passionate about.

[00:03:31] Jeremy Au: Amazing. So how did you get into tech? I mean, you know, obviously it's a big move, right? So, how did you get into tech? I mean, finance, you're at Columbia University. There's a very strong career arc that's there. Stable, it's nice, it's straightforward. It's warm and cozy. So, you know, why tech?

[00:03:48] Jennifer Ong: Yeah. I think that was probably one of the hardest decisions I ever made in and I remember the day I quit my job still so, so, so clearly because I was so nervous to quit my job because I really thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life, right? I had this comfortable, cushy job. I had the brand name, the prestigious company. I was doing well at work. My bosses really liked me. And the crazy thing was I actually quit right after I got promoted. And right after he gave me an insane pay raise. So he actually gave me a I don't know if I should share this, but hopefully he doesn't listen to this or colleagues don't, but he gave me like a, like 30, 40 percent pay raise. So it was like a raise. I was like, wow, I can't believe I am really doing this. And as I remember, I knew I needed to quit my job and I wanted to quit my job, but I actually delayed my conversation with my boss for an entire month.

I was just so scared to actually make the decision to quit. And I think it was crazy cause when I went into that conversation, I was so nervous and I was really on the verge of tears. And he was just like the nicest, most supportive guy. He was like, you know, I totally understand where you're coming from. I always knew you were meant for bigger things than working here. I always knew that there was other things that you were interested in life. And I always knew that you were more capable and could do a lot more things than you are doing here at BlackRock. And so he was the most supportive manager in the entire process. And honestly, I think I've been so lucky. I think he was so supportive in my entire career journey. And also in terms supporting me in my decision to leave. But anyway, back to your question, which is why I decided to leave. Well... So the story is, I actually knew I wanted to leave BlackRock six months into the job, but I stayed for seven years, which is absolutely insane if you think about it.

[00:05:36] Jeremy Au: What? Are you missing some numbers here? What?

[00:05:39] Jennifer Ong: No, you heard me right. So really six months into the job, I knew this wasn't the right job for me. But it took me seven years to figure out what exactly I wanted to do next, because I was someone who was really good at following instructions. And so basically, my entire life, I've been told to do certain things, and I was really good at doing those things. And so I was told to get good grades. So I got good grades. I was told I needed to get into an Ivy League university. Okay, so I go and apply and get into an Ivy League university. Then I was told, okay, you should probably study Economics because it leads to a lucrative career path. And so I did. So I actually wanted to study art history, but my parents were like, Well, what are you possibly going to do with an art history degree when you graduate? How are you going to

[00:06:22] Jeremy Au: a fair

[00:06:22] Jennifer Ong: money? And I was like, you know what? Yeah, I guess you're right. I also don't know how to answer that question. And so they strongly encouraged me to rethink my decision to pick maybe a more practical major. And so I did.

I studied Economics because I know it leads to a very, stable, lucrative career path. And many doors can open with an Economics degree. And so when I graduated from school, everyone around me was applying for jobs in finance. And so I was like, well, okay, I also have to get a job in finance and looking back, obviously I would not be happy at this job because I did not really choose to study the major I chose. And I also did not really choose to be in finance but I think I got into that job and I was just so shocked. I think it was really the first time in my life where I was like, wow, I've reached the thing that everybody wants, right? It's like I have accomplished all these things that everybody would want to have on their resume. And I've got this fancy first job and, this is what people want. So why am I unhappy? And I think that was just such a jarring experience to me.

It was such a shock and it was really the first time where I realized that society's definition of success is not my definition of success and that's okay. But the big question mark I had for myself is, okay, well, if I don't want this, what do I actually want? What is actually my definition of success? And I had no clue. And it's because I basically spent my whole life delaying gratification, right? I was always told that I should do this and not do the thing that I was actually interested in. And so there were always goals in my life that I had to achieve. And I thought, okay, I need to achieve it because it's like the right thing to do. It leads to good outcomes, et cetera. And it was always at the expense of doing things that I really enjoyed. I always had a more creative side to myself where I really liked drawing. But I remember growing up, it was very much like, don't waste time drawing things that don't really lead to much. Like maybe you should go back to studying. And so, yeah, so I guess I was your kind of stereotypical, obedient child growing up. And so I never really pushed back, right? I was not a rebellious child. I never really pushed back. And so my entire life, I never really did a lot of self reflection in terms of figuring out what it is that I wanted to do for myself. I was just very good at following what people told me was the right thing to do. And so, I hit this crossroads in my life where I started my job at BlackRock and a couple months in, I was just absolutely miserable. It just was not the right job for me in terms of skills, I think it was Honestly, still today, I make a joke out of this, but, I truly feel like they hired the wrong girl. There were two Jennifers that had both graduated-

[00:09:00] Jeremy Au: Wait, how did they, they kind of hired a wrong Jennifer? I mean, they gave you a pay raise they didn't fire you up to six, seven years. Wait, wait, wait. Okay. I just, I feel like I got to give some affirmation here.

[00:09:10] Jennifer Ong: Thank

[00:09:10] Jeremy Au: You're telling the story about how there's two Jennifer here..

[00:09:15] Jennifer Ong: But I think the first job I had at BlackRock really was a very bad fit for me. So basically it was like a data analytics type of role. I graduated with a liberal arts degree. I didn't know the first thing about what a database was, let alone how to query databases. I had no clue how to write code. And this job was all about querying databases and writing code. I guess the joke that I used was there were two girls, both called Jennifer, both graduated from Columbia. The other girl was an engineer, and I was not.

[00:09:43] Jeremy Au: Wait.Same last name?

[00:09:44] Jennifer Ong: They just forgot who they were no.

[00:09:46] Jeremy Au: Oh, see? Come on!

[00:09:48] Jennifer Ong: I know.

[00:09:49] Jeremy Au: They totally picked you. Come on. You said, Oh, it was Jennifer Ong. I mean, the same Mandarin name.

[00:09:55] Jennifer Ong: Well, I guess it's Jennifer Huang, so technically we probably had the same Chinese last name.

[00:10:00] Jeremy Au: it actually. No, no wait. There we go. Maybe. Okay. Wait, wait.

[00:10:04] Jennifer Ong: So I, it was just not the right fit. I think it was just a job that wasn't necessarily the best fit for me. And so it kind of sucked because every day, I went to work, doing something that I was not naturally good at. And it really took a toll on my self confidence during that period of time, because it was my first job. So I was like, Oh, maybe I'm just really good at studying. And I'm just not really good at working and I think it was really tough because I think that was really the first time in my life I really experienced failure and it was usually if I work hard for something, I tend to get positive results and I think this was really the first time in my life where I worked really hard and I continue to work hard, but it just came so much. I just compared to all the other people around me, it just came so naturally for them. And it was just such a struggle for me. And yeah, I think my self confidence really took a massive hit during that period of time. And I think I created this narrative in my head that like, Oh Jen, you're just not a good corporate worker. And, you know, you're just someone who is, good academically and, and you can actually do work.

[00:11:08] Jennifer Ong: And so I think it took me a long time to unravel that and rebuild my confidence and rebuild my mindset and rebuild my narrative around that. And just to attribute it to. No, it's not that you are bad at working and all kinds of work. It's just that you, unfortunately, were in a job that didn't utilize your skills. And so 1 analogy, I always tell my clients a water bottle can be sold for $0.50 in a gas station or a supermarket, $2 at the cinema, and $5 on an airplane, and it's the same water bottle. It's just being placed in the right conditions and in the right context. And so I think I really had to unlearn that for myself back then to recognize that I just wasn't utilizing my strengths and I needed to find a job where I would be able to do so.

[00:12:00] Jeremy Au: Right. And what was it like, you know, obviously during those six and a half years? Where you were at this job and in full knowledge, you were not in the right fit for this role and job. What was going through your mind? How did you rebuild that narrative that you shared?

[00:12:19] Jennifer Ong: Yeah. So I did switch jobs within BlackRock. So, I stayed in the analytics role until I got promoted, and again, looking back was so arbitrary, like I could have left earlier, but I think I just had all these preconceived notions like you can't possibly switch until you're promoted to an associate, otherwise, people are going to look at your resume and think that you're very fickle and can't hold down a job and anyway,

[00:12:43] Jeremy Au: But, and then you stayed seven years.

[00:12:45] Jennifer Ong: Yeah, because I, and I'll explain to you why I stayed as well. So, so I moved to a different department within BlackRock where it was, more of a sales oriented role. So that's definitely something that I am much more in my wheelhouse. It was more on the investment side of things. So I was actually really interested in learning about how companies are run and learning about how to invest in companies. So I got to sit in on all the meetings where the investment analyst would be meeting the CEOs of these massive fortune 500 companies. I got to sit in all the portfolio managers who really understand what they would be buying. Why are they buying this? Why are they selling this? So really much better fit and way more fun than my first job, which is why then I stayed for another three and a half or so years there because I think it was a better fit and I really wanted to give myself the chance to see if I truly didn't like finance, or it was just one part of finance that I didn't like. And so I didn't want to necessarily give up on the entire industry just yet. I wanted to give it one more shot to see, hey, if I got into a different role where I'm more interested in it and I'm better at it, would I be happier? And I was, temporarily.

[00:13:55] Jeremy Au: So you've gone through this experience and you made a decision to go into technology instead, but also change geography as well and enter Southeast Asia, right? So kind of walk us through, like, you know, did you already have this job offer, but you quit or you were like quit first and then you had some time and space to go find something. How does that work?

[00:14:12] Jennifer Ong: So I decided to leave. And I'm a very risk averse person, which I think a lot of people who don't know me and just see my resume are shocked to find out that I'm very risk averse. Cause it sounds like I'm someone who's super adventurous and try different things, but I should know every single time I make decisions, it's very, very calculated. So when I left BlackRock, I knew I didn't want to leave until I got promoted to VP. And the reason I didn't want to leave the industry until I got the VP title was because I wanted to be able to come back as a VP and I didn't want to come back as an associate. And I wanted to give myself a couple of years to really test this out. And I know that by then, I'll probably be in my thirties and I didn't want to be like. A 30 some year old associate, but I know that there's a lot of VPs who are in their 30s. And so I thought, okay, I can with a VP title, leaving BlackRock with a VP title, I can likely come back into the industry with VP title with a VP position as well. And I worked really damn hard to get the VP title for myself because I knew I wanted to leave.

And so I did. And so that's why when I quit my job, I felt really bad because my boss had really stuck his neck out to help me get the promotion and to get me the pay raise and everything. And so I did feel bad for leaving him at that point in time, but I think at the end of the day and this is something I also always tell my clients, right? No one's going to look out for your career except for yourself. If you don't look out for yourself, no one is going to look out for you and your career. If you don't figure out what it is that you want, no one is going to tell you what you should want for your career. And so we have to learn to be a bit more selfish and really put ourselves first. Don't feel bad leaving your boss behind. Don't feel bad about this and that, which I think is the mindset I used to have and the mindset that a lot of my clients usually have as well. Oh, I feel bad, what if I let my team down? Or, Oh my God, we're so short already et cetera, et cetera. So yeah, so I did leave. I did not actually have a job offer on the table at that point in time. I was in final stages with Style Theory at that point in time. I guess I did have a job offer from Grab at that time. I was definitely much more keen on working for Style Theory than I was Grab.

[00:16:19] Jeremy Au: Ooh. Why?

[00:16:20] Jennifer Ong: And for Grab, actually they matched my BlackRock pay, have been really similar to Black Rock in terms of like culture, the type of the caliber of people that would be working with, you know, very multicultural, et cetera. And so that would have been a logical next step, but I was way more excited about Style Theory because I knew at that point in time, I really wanted to be able to learn how to build a company from scratch because I wanted to be able to build a company for myself. So basically in those seven years where I was really struggling at BlackRock to figure out my next steps, I did a lot of self reflection and I really found out two things about myself.

One is, I was always interested in building a business. Whether it was like a side hustle, I always had random side hustles, like whether it was like a fashion blog or I was like selling eye masks, I was like selling pencil skirts, like really random small things on the side. I always had something on the side going on. And the other thing I found out about myself was I was always interested in fashion. A lot of these side hustle ideas were relating to fashion. Actually, when I thought about leaving BlackRock, there were two options I was seriously considering for myself. One was build my own company in fashion, doing something in the fashion space, or go learn from someone else. So that when it does come time to me building my own business, I would have a higher likelihood of success because I know that nine out of 10 businesses fail. And I was like, well, I don't really want to be that nine out of 10. How do I make myself more valuable so that I increase my chances of success when I do decide to start my own business?

And I knew going from the corporate world into the startup world, there was a lot I had to learn. And so I thought, you know what? Let me learn on someone else's dime rather than me trying to fumble around and figure this out by myself.

[00:18:05] Jeremy Au: Yeah. Wow. And there you are, you're building Style Theory, and then eventually you decide to leave again. It's time to build out the podcast and become a podcast host. So how did that career transition happen from your perspective?

[00:18:17] Jennifer Ong: Yeah.

[00:18:17] Jeremy Au: Were you more practice this time around? Did you wait another couple more years of this?

[00:18:22] Jennifer Ong: no, it's a no, no, no. It was easier the second time around. So I guess the podcast came about because of Circuit Breaker. So it was during COVID in Singapore. I'm an extrovert. And so I really struggled, frankly speaking, during the Circuit Breaker because I couldn't go outside, couldn't see anybody, couldn't really talk to anybody. And so I thought, I love podcasts. I listened to so many podcasts. This is a great excuse for me to go and talk to people. So that's why I decided to start a podcast. And at that point in time, I actually had two topics in mind. One was to talk about sustainable fashion, which is something I'm always, I've always been passionate about. And the other thing was around careers because I personally struggled so much with my own career, and my own career decisions that I wanted to be able to share with other people that, hey guys it's possible. You can find a dream job out there like I really can't believe I wasted seven years at BlackRock when I could have had this. And it was just a message that I felt strongly about.

So at that point in time, I actually ran a Google survey. I put together a Google form, I sent it out to a bunch of friends, because I couldn't decide which one I wanted to do, right? And so I sent out a Google form, and the results came back saying people were more interested in the career topic. And so I was like, okay, cool. I'm going to start off with career topics and see how this goes. And it's funny because actually at that point in time with Circuit Breaker I had so much free time, right? So, at the same time I was also starting a side hustle which was designing phone cases. And it's really funny because I started them both at the same time and one died so hard, so fast. And the other one actually took off and was able to translate into an actual business. But I think that's the thing. I actually think so much of, or I guess not so much, but a lot of my life decisions have been kind of just A/B testing things, or even just getting the market to tell me what is the right direction to go into, like running this Google form or just A/B testing. I run both of these at the same time. I just see which one has better traction and then just go with the one that has more traction. And I think that method has worked well so far in terms of, me being able to build a company and a business.

[00:20:32] Jeremy Au: Amazing. So know now you're also a career coach. What do you think differentiates good coaches versus bad coaches? Do you have personal experiences? How do you think about it?

[00:20:41] Jennifer Ong: So I don't want to put anyone down, but I think my style is, I'm very structured in the way that I coach. I know some other coaches out there and some other people out there in general prefer a more fluid style where you sign up for one hour and you chit chat with them for an hour and you hopefully get the clarity you need during that hour of time. And so when I was struggling with my own career myself, I did also hire coaches for myself to help myself see through a lot of my blind spots and unpack a lot of the limiting beliefs that I had, and that was the type of coaching style that they had, where it was much more fluid in nature, but I always felt really stressed out doing those sessions, and it's probably a personality thing, where I just felt like, okay, I have 60 minutes. This is precious time that I'm paying for. How do I make the most out of this? And I didn't even know what questions to ask them sometimes to be able to get the right answers for myself, or sometimes I would feel like, Oh, I told you the story, but I feel like maybe you didn't have the full context. So is this conclusion really the right conclusion that we're drawing? And so I used to get really anxious and stressed out about these sessions that's why when it came down to me designing my own program, I knew that I wanted it to be very structured. So every single time we meet, there's a particular topic that we're going through together.

So there's a very strict framework. You can say where I guide you through step by step, how do you actually identify what your dream career looks like? So basically, every single time before we meet, I get you to watch pre-recorded videos that I've recorded for you and also there's a workbook with a lot of questions for you to do a lot of that self reflection on before we actually made for our one on one session to chat. So that's how we're able to really be productive during our sessions. And we're able to get results for my clients in a pretty short amount of time.

[00:22:25] Jeremy Au: Yeah. What do you define as results?

[00:22:29] Jennifer Ong: So I think for me, the first milestone that I hit with my clients is being able to clearly define what your dream job looks like. So for most of my clients, when they come to me, they're really unhappy with their jobs, even though their resume looks amazing. So they really resonate with my story. Usually I, and I didn't do this on purpose, but it turns out that a lot of my clients are really similar to me. And I think that's the power of personal branding as well. So Usually the people come to me have a perfect on paper resume, whether they work in big tech or consulting or law firms, investment bankers, And they know that they don't want to do this, but they have no clue what they actually want to do. So the first milestone and the first outcome we hit is getting you clarity on what exactly your dream job looks like. And the second milestone that we hit is getting you offers in that role.

[00:23:17] Jeremy Au: Interesting. So not just career coaching, but also actually working on what resume, working on the interview. Is that what you work on as well? Wow, now that's interesting, right? Because, you know, it feels very disconnected. You have these you know, resume and interview coaches, but they're very disconnected from your career side, right?

[00:23:35] Jennifer Ong: Exactly. And I think that's the key thing, right? There's so many resume coaches out there, so many interview prep coaches out there, but no one is really helping you figure out, is this even the job you want? People are so focused on just getting into a high paying job that they don't really spend that time upfront to really think about, is this really the right job I want to be doing?

[00:23:54] Jeremy Au: I don't know, not an Asian parent side is coming, the inner voice coming out. It's like, it's a bear market. You should be grateful for any job. A high paying job lets you do something that you just suck it up and do it. And if you love doing something, do it as a hobby or teach your kids how to do it and go have your sound kids.

[00:24:11] Jennifer Ong: Exactly like my parents. I got that so much. When I first transitioned into fashion, they were like, why can't you just do this on the side? And I think the hard part for me when during my transition was they didn't take my job seriously for a really long time. They were like, what are you done playing?

Oh, one thing I didn't share with you was I had to convince myself and convince my parents why I was to quitting my job because obviously they were not thrilled about me quitting my job. And the way I framed it for myself and for them was instead of paying for business school for two years, I want to do this for two years and so I felt like I would learn more from working for a startup than I would going to get a business school degree for myself. And so that's also how I justified the pay cut. So I took an 80 percent pay cut, which was absolutely insane. And I think when I first got that offer, I was like, Wow. Can I survive on this amount of money?

[00:25:07] Jeremy Au: Yeah. A hundred percent.

[00:25:09] Jennifer Ong: And I think that was how I justified the pay cut. So I was like, okay, instead of be paying several hundred thousand dollars to go to business school, I would be learning from them and I would be getting paid a sum of money to learn. And so that's how I present this to my parents. And that's how I presented it to myself to convince myself this was the right decision. And I think that's the thing, right? A lot of people think that if you need to take a pay cut, it's forever. But no, actually, things change. Things are fluid in your life. You can always put a timeline and a timeframe around this. You can always just say, Hey, I'm going to give myself a shot to do this for six months, one year, two years, whatever it is that you feel comfortable with. And then at the end of two years, maybe it's time to go back to a corporate job. If it's not really your thing.

[00:25:51] Jeremy Au: Sounds scary. Boo scary.

[00:25:58] Jennifer Ong: And I think that's why it's hard to go through this alone. So I think that's why people like to I keep them out of their comfort zone. Cause it's really hard for you to be able to rationalize this yourself and be able to convince yourself Take that leap of faith to put yourself out there, right? And so I had help along the way I'll be very frank and very honest. I've always had coaches for myself whether it's career coaches or business coaches I've always had coaches to help me the way and I think that's really been one of the quote unquote secret sauce. I think a lot of people like look at my journey. And they're like, wow, that's so amazing. And yes, like to a certain extent, it was my hard work. It was whatever, but it was also my ability to invest in coaches and experts along the way who have helped take me to the next level.

[00:26:43] Jeremy Au: How has coaching, being coached, I guess, fundamentally helped you in some of these previous decisions that you mentioned earlier?

Hmm. Yeah.

[00:26:50] Jennifer Ong: So much. I think I used to be someone who was very hesitant to pay for my own education because I think I've always been in a lucky enough position in that my family has always paid for my schooling all the way up until university. So I never had to really pay for my own education. So the very first time I paid for a career coach, I was like, Holy moly, this is a lot of money. And also when I paid for a business coach, that was even more money. Right. And I think both times I was like, I'm resourceful. I can figure this out. There's tons of resources out there. Books, YouTube videos, blah, blah, blah. I could just watch those and figure this out by myself. And so I tried, right? I really did. was like, I don't need you.

But the thing that I learned was you either pay with time or you pay with money. And so I paid with time at BlackRock because I was like, no, I'm not going to hire a career coach. I'm just going to figure this out by myself. And it took me several years, like five, six years to really be able to figure this out for myself. And I still didn't get really the clarity I was looking for until I really caved and finally hired my career coach. And within literally three months, I got the clarity I needed. And I think that was such a big wake up call for myself. Cause I was like, Holy cow, I could have saved myself from five years of misery if I had actually just found this coach and had gotten help me, in a couple of months, and the same thing happened with my business, when I first decided to pivot from doing podcasting into career coaching, I also was like, you know what, I can figure this out. I've been able to build a business for Style Theory in Hong Kong. I can take the learnings there and just figure this out for myself. And so I tried for, I think, nine months, six to nine months to try to get something together, and I didn't get any clients, it was crickets. And I was like, you know what? I think I need to hire a business coach. And actually found her before and I had a call with her before, but then I was like, nah, I'm going to try this myself.

And I went crawling back to her. And then again, within a couple of months, I got my first client. And so I think that's been biggest learning I think in my business so far is don't reinvent the wheel. Someone out there has already figured this out. It is so worth it to pay for knowledge especially in the early days of your business, you are so fragile, the business is so fragile and you need momentum. In your business, because if you spend months hitting wall after wall, at some point, you're going to want to give up, whereas if you just pay for someone to teach you all the things that they've learned, and you could get there much faster for yourself, then you're probably going to stick it out. And you're actually going to be able to build something for yourself instead of give up and pivot into something else again.

[00:29:19] Jeremy Au: You know, as you think through, all these coaching and so, so forth, if you are a client, a prospective client, how would you tell the difference between a good coach and a bad coach? How do you pick one? Because everyone calls themself a coach, right? And everyone's got this certification, that certification.

[00:29:36] Jennifer Ong: So I'll tell you, I don't have a certification, and I I think people are always like at the beginning. I think I used to feel like I should probably get a certificate, but I was like, you know what, no, I've been able to get clients without having a certificate. I've been able to get results from my clients without a certificate. So what the hell is the point of me going and spending all this time learning the book knowledge? I really don't want to put people down, so I'm going to rephrase this and I'm going to say when selecting a coach, I think number one is chemistry, because you're going to be having a lot of one on one sessions with your coach. You want to feel comfortable and you want to connect with them. So I think chemistry is number one. And I think number two is do you resonate with their story? And do you resonate with the results that they've been able to get in their own life and also in their clients lives?

So when I go search for coaches myself, I also look at have they been able to deliver the things that they promised? or they're selling in their own personal life. Are they someone that I really admire? And do they have the life that I actually want for myself? So that's how I assess the coaches.

And then the third thing I look at is testimonials. Then I go see, okay, have they been able to replicate their own framework to the successes of their clients? So that's how I usually assess coaches.

[00:30:58] Jeremy Au: And what's the process? Do you just go on a bunch of dates with them in the sense of like, go through all these child calls? How do you go about going for it?

[00:31:06] Jennifer Ong: Yeah, so for me, I don't actually do a really extensive process. So for example, when I was looking for my first business coach, I knew I didn't want to spend money on Facebook ads and I wanted to just try putting out an MVP, getting my very first client, testing out if I'm even good at coaching or if I can even get results for clients, like I knew I'd been able to do it for myself, but I wasn't sure if I could actually get results from my clients at that point in time. And so I knew I wanted to be able to find clients using social media. And so I then went looking for. I don't think I even really went looking for her. Her content just popped up on my page, and I was like, well, if she's good enough that her content is showing up randomly on my page, then she's probably figured something out.

And then I basically read through her content and I was like, okay, I really resonate with a lot of what she's saying. And these are exactly the same struggles that I am facing today that I want some help on. And so that's then when I hopped on a call with her to really understand, what her coaching style was like a chemistry, kind of more of like a chemistry call. And then, I ultimately didn't decide to work with her on the spot then, but I did go back to her a couple months later. I did assess one person, but it wasn't like I did like a ton of research on like, okay, I'm going to find like five. And then from there, for me, I'm always, I've always been someone that's sometimes having more options is more overwhelming, and you can end up being stuck in this overthinking, overanalyzing mode when half the battle is just executing and getting stuff done. Any coach out there will be better than no coach. So if you're gonna spend six months figuring out what is the right coach for you, why don't you just spend that six months working with a coach, get the results you want, and move on with your life. Cause finding the right coach isn't the most important, thing in in the formula. It's actually just start taking action. Yeah. Okay. I think relationship was a little bit different cause that's, you know, very long term, hopefully.

[00:32:59] Jeremy Au: Okay. So, there we are. And could you share about a time that you personally have been brave?

[00:33:05] Jennifer Ong: Honestly, the hardest thing that I've had to do was probably quit my corporate job. And I think, yes, like building a business is hard and I think getting rejected time and time again in coaching days was really hard. I think that was probably the second hardest thing. You hear that like 9 out of 10 times people reject you, but for you to physically feel that 9 times, I think that's really a whole other thing. I always prided myself in being someone who was mentally strong. But really, because in these calls, you really are giving it your all, right? Like you're putting your heart and soul out there. You're really trying to see how you can help the other person. And I remember in the early days, I was like, not closing many clients. So I would be basically having 10 calls and only closing one of them. And so for me to constantly go through that and want to put yourself out there for that 10th time, I think that mental willpower to really there.

So that was really tough, but nothing really, truly nothing comes close to when I had to quit my job. I think really, truly for anybody out there who is thinking about leaving their corporate job, who's scared about doing it, trust me. Every other thing afterwards is way easier than this decision that you're making for yourself. Cause truly, I really felt like that was the scariest thing. Cause I really felt like I was. Basically turning my life upside down and I was giving up everything that I was taught was the right thing to do. And I was giving up everything that society said is like the right thing to do. And I was really going into path that was quite uncharted for myself because I didn't have a lot of friends who were like entrepreneurs or I didn't really like my network was really just people who were like corporate life, finance, you know, like I just didn't really know that kind of people. And so I think for me, that really was the hardest think a lot of it was unpacking a lot of like societal pressure, family pressure, pressure and even just pressure on yourself, right? Like I think I always viewed myself as like, okay, I am someone.

I guess I viewed myself a certain way. I was like, I'm someone who going to work hard and be successful. And I think I always viewed myself as having a corporate job and climbing up the corporate ladder and to give all of that up and reframe all of that to. A completely narrative was really hard. And I remember the first day I joined Style Theory or maybe the first month, let's say the first month of me being at Style Theory, where I didn't have to wear corporate clothes. I could go to work in whatever was such a weird feeling for myself, and I actually felt so uncomfortable. Usually people are like, Yay! I can wear t shirts and stuff to work. I was so uncomfortable, because I was like, Who am I? I don't dress in corporate gear anymore. I don't need to wear shift dresses. I don't need to wear blazers. I could just show up in flip flops and sundresses and I think that really was the hardest thing I had to do, to reinvent, almost, myself.

[00:35:55] Jeremy Au: Yeah. You said about reframing into a different success narrative. What is your success narrative today from your perspective?

[00:36:05] Jennifer Ong: Yeah. So I think for me, it comes back down to my values. And I think this is what I always coach my clients on, right? For you to be able to figure out what your dream job looks like, you need to know what you're actually looking for from a career and what your values are. So for me, I think number one is time flexibility, being in control time. Number two is helping others and being able to actually see the direct impact of And then number three was financial And number four, and so this is something that I don't love admitting, but I always tell my clients, you have to be truthful to yourself, even though you feel like it's not the right thing to say, is external validation.

I think that's still something that I'm trying to unpack for myself, and it's still something I recognize. Yeah, I shouldn't necessarily care how other people view me, but I still do care how other people view me. And so I think those are probably for me in terms of definition of success.

[00:36:57] Jeremy Au: Well, thanks for being so open about that. And, you know, frankly, I think external validation is okay. I mean, my kid loves external validation. She's just playing this and she's pulls out the string, injection. And then she's like, look at me. And I'm like, yay, clap clap. I mean, I think it's great. And she's like, Oh, I love external validation.

I think humans are social animals, right? If we were not social animals, we wouldn't be creating society and external validation is a normal thing. If all of us were only internally validation required, then we wouldn't build a community we would be building, right?

[00:37:28] Jennifer Ong: It's true. You're right. Thanks for making me feel better about it.

[00:37:32] Jeremy Au: I mean, you can't have a village if everybody is as totally like 100 percent self reliant. you had to give validation and you want to receive validation and that creates a village, right?

[00:37:41] Jennifer Ong: Yeah. Exactly. And actually, one more point I wanted to add on the values part is I think a lot of people think it's always either money or passion or money or purpose, right? And I always say it's never black and white. There's always shades of gray for us to figure out. It's about what ratio is the right ratio for you.

So I think a lot of times people think it's either 100 percent I go into a job where I make money and I sell my soul or 100 percent I go into non profit and I don't make any money. But no, there's literally like millions of jobs out there that could potentially be the right ratio for you where you still have some sort of financial stability, but also you're not completely soulless and miserable. It's about finding what that balance is for yourself.

[00:38:22] Jeremy Au: Yeah. So, we, I like to sell 60 percent of my soul and keep 40%. Yeah.

[00:38:28] Jennifer Ong: Exactly.

[00:38:30] Jeremy Au: And that's how we wrap things up here. All right. On that note, I'd love to say thank you so much for sharing. I think these are three big key takeaways I got. And first of all, thank you so much for sharing about your own personal career journey. I thought it was really fascinating to hear about, obviously from finance to tech, to being a career coach. But really, I think I love that. Frankness and vulnerability you shared about how you knew six months into BlackRock that you were not going to be there and you spent six and a half years figuring out or trying to figure out how to say and figure out how to get out and figure out how to do the next steps. So I think a really fascinating, I think, portrait of what you were actually feeling, but also I think unpacking the root causes of that, right? About how you had previously felt like you were following what your parents wanted, you were following what was the right thing to do, you were following what your expectations of yourself were. So I thought it was a really raw and vulnerable sharing. I think a lot of folks would probably resonate with that myself included, right?

The second of course is thank you so much for sharing about coaching, about what your practice as a coach is, what your preferences are to be structured as a coach, and what the results are that you expect to deliver, and also how you approach those conversations with clients. But also I think it was nice to hear about how you yourself have utilized coaching both on the personal side for your own personal life decisions, but also business coaching to accelerate the business. And I love what you said about time and money and being thoughtful about what you need to do to make it happen.

Lastly, thank you so much for sharing about the phrase, I think reframing success narrative. I thought that was a beautiful phrase about and obviously we talk about it multiple times about how you frame your own success narrative, how you frame the success narratives for other people. I think it was nice to talk about how for example, you shared about how there's financial upside, external validation, there's also professional success, there's also personal passion. So I thought it was interesting to hear different vignettes about how you saw that in the context of art, how you saw that in context of extroversion, how you saw that in context of not wearing a uniform, but feeling awkward not wearing a uniform. So I thought that was really fascinating to hear that story.

On that note, thank you so much, Jen, for sharing your story.

[00:40:35] Jennifer Ong: Yeah, thank you so much. It's been an honor being on your podcast.