After more than 21 years at Allegis Global Solutions, Jessi Guenther has risen to the top of one of the largest and most successful recruitment firms in the world. On this episode of TheEdge podcast, Jessi joins ClearEdge CEO Leslie Vickrey to discuss the many twists and turns her career has taken, the importance of facing fear, and what it means to be a female leader in the traditionally male-dominated recruitment industry.
Skip the Ladder, Go for the Jungle Gym
Jessi shares many stories from throughout her career journey, preferring to describe her trajectory as a “jungle gym,” rather than the traditional corporate career ladder. She has taken plenty of sideways steps amid the forward ones, and even some major steps backward. For Jessi, those backward moves were anything but setbacks; instead she views them as defining career moments that allowed her to pick up valuable experiences.
All of Jessi’s career moves have been during her more than two-decade-long tenure with Allegis Global Solutions. In fact, she illustrates just how long she’s been with the company by stating, “I’ve been working at Allegis as long as I haven’t!” which is certainly a testament to the company’s reputation as a leading place to work. Jessi cites Allegis’ “culture of caring” and diversity as the main reason she’s been with the organization as long as she has. She also truly appreciates how Allegis has allowed her to openly communicate without fear of repercussion, as well as given her the opportunity to grow.
Those growth opportunities were often a direct result of Jessi being a champion of her own career. She shares how she’s had to hide her insecurities and just “go for it,” even when she didn’t have 100 percent of the credentials. She’s proud that, “almost everything I’ve done and raised my hand for, I haven’t been ready for,” including her move abroad several years ago.
Listen, Learn and “Fake It ‘Til You Make It”
Along the way, Jessi says she learned to observe and listen very well, especially paying attention to nonverbal communication. Often the only woman in the room, Jessi quickly picked up on the nuances her male colleagues projected, and embraced them, doing her best to fight off something many women are held back by: imposter syndrome. “Fake it until you make it,” was a popular mantra of hers as well, using her voice and taking risks even when she was afraid.
Jessi’s risk taking wasn’t always easy, but she took them head on and did it with grace. She explains some of the ways she decided to jump into a new opportunity, including:
- Trust in your instincts that opportunity will follow.
- Be confident you have the ability to succeed.
- Always clearly weigh the pros and cons – believe that the positives will always outweigh the negatives, no matter what they are.
Equality in the Workplace
Jessi and Leslie’s conversation then turns to equality in the workplace, and the various challenges women encounter. As the mother of two sons, Jessi shares how she approaches work/life balance with a “making it work” perspective, rather than a “having it all” outlook. She says you have to have an open conversation about the sacrifices and realities that exist, as well as believe it’s possible to have a fulfilling personal life with an enriching professional life; even if it takes a little work.
From there, Jessi and Leslie reflect on the challenges they’ve both faced as working mothers, and how they both believe “you have to be seen to be heard.” In fact, Jessi explains that the advice she would give her 23-year-old self, based on the knowledge she has now, is to “Use your voice and be heard, especially when you believe change is necessary.” Her other advice to aspiring leaders? Be sure to speak up when you don’t agree, make the uncomfortable conversations comfortable by being honest, and ASK. If you don’t ask, you won’t get “yes.”