Dr. Kim Burns

I am excited to share an interview with my friend and colleague Ashley Moore. Ashley and I collaborated often when we were in our campus-based positions. Currently, Ashley is the Director of Client Sales and Service at FlexProfessionals in Boston. We talked about her transition from higher education to a corporate setting, what flexibility looks like as a mother of young children, and what the job market is like right now. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Kim: You recently pivoted out of higher education and into industry. Tell us what your current role is and what it is like transitioning out of higher ed.

Ashley: I am the Director of Client Sales and Service at FlexProfessionals Boston, which is a niche staffing and recruiting firm. We are mission driven and we work to place seasoned professionals into flexible roles, including full-time flex (remote or hybrid), part-time, or project-based. When I decided that I wanted to make a change, I had been in my role for quite some time. I loved higher ed, I loved the mission, particularly that of community colleges, but I found myself wanting a new challenge and desiring more flexibility and the ability to work remotely. As a mom of two small children, I got a taste of how remote work served my family life during COVID and I really wanted to maintain more of that balance moving forward.

Making this decision to leave higher education was scary and exciting all at the same time. It is hard to leave an organization that you have been with for so long. There is comfort in having an established reputation, understanding of the organization’s dynamics, and working with amazing co-workers. However, I knew that if I wanted to grow and expand my skill set, sometimes it is necessary to pivot in a different direction, out of that comfort zone. I started by sharing my goals with a few key people in my network. I also started to network as much as possible to explore the best next step for me. I really wanted to work for another company that was mission driven where I knew that I could continue to make an impact. I wasn’t going to just take any role in corporate. If I was going to make that leap, it had to be something that I really believed in.

Kim: Tell us about your skills and strengths that were easily transferable to your new setting at FlexProfessionals.

Ashley: At my core, I’m always going to work as a connector of people, helping others to figure out their next career step and to connect them with meaningful opportunities. I am drawn to this type of work. I’m also strategic. My job is highly collaborative, and we work together to set the strategy, goals and outcomes for the year ahead, and then to execute and achieve the goals of the organization. I have also found that my experience in building out the internship program has helped with my current role in business development. I’ve always enjoyed the employer relations piece of my job in higher ed and now I get to work with our current clients and prospects, helping them to understand the value of our services and candidates – similar to what I did in the past with highlighting community college student interns. We are a fast-paced and small team, which lends itself well to my past experiences in higher ed, working as a small office, innovating, and getting creative with limited resources. I like it a lot!

Kim: What have you learned about yourself during this transition?

Ashley: Initially in my search I found myself questioning how I could apply my skills into a different industry. Naturally, feelings of doubt crept into this process. I started to really think about my skills and what I enjoyed most. Then, I started to connect with people (like Kim) for coaching to map out a plan and help me figure out where else these skills could be applied.

The whole process of making this career transition has given me confidence in knowing that, yes, I can make this change. I committed to being open to challenges, learning as much as possible, and to remain humble as I went into this new opportunity. Knowing that I still have so much to learn, I had to be willing to receive constant feedback to learn and to grow.

Kim: What impact did coaching have as you were making this transition?

Ashley: Coaching was a game changer for me. I was at a pivotal point where I knew that I needed to make a change, but needed clarity on my career goals and also how to  sell the transferability of my skills.  I decided that it was time for me to face some of the difficult questions that I was finally committed to answering. I approached you and shared my goals, asking if you would be willing to coach me and I was so thankful for this opportunity. We ended up working together over 6 sessions.  I liked the questions you asked, which were designed to probe into my thought process, reasoning, excuses, and more. You never offered advice, you guided me on a path, letting me figure things out over time. In between sessions, the homework was helpful and held me accountable for my goals and next step actions. I was the driving force behind each session, and you were the catalyst for getting me to clarify my thoughts and goals. Additionally, you gave me solid tools that I could use such as PowerSheets, which made me actually sit down and say, what are my goals for the upcoming year? What do I want to do? Actually writing out, I will have a new job in 2022, set everything in stone for me. All those pieces – getting direction, being asked tough questions, getting the tools that I needed to be successful, and then being held accountable really made a huge difference. The coaching process and the accountability of our sessions had significant impacts, including landing an interview with FlexProfessionals!

Kim: What does flexibility at work look like for you as a working mom?

Ashley: Flexibility for me looks less like “face time” and more like having the flexibility to shift my hours if the kids have a doctor’s appointment or an event at school. Our team has the flexibility to set their own schedule and there is a level of trust built in with the design of our team. We are numbers focused and we all know what we need to do within our roles. Beyond that, each individual determines how that work gets done.  For me, I like to get the kids from daycare around 4 PM each day and have that special time with them up until bed time. As a tradeoff, that can mean that I log on for an hour after they go to bed. This flexibility is so valuable to me and allows me to have that balance with my family. Working remotely is something I value at this stage of my career and life. However, as a team, we must be diligent about collaborating, connecting, and building relationships. I love the flexibility of remote work, but this piece requires creativity, carving out time for connections, and collaborating whenever possible, using tools like Zoom and Google Docs to do so.

Kim: Can you say more about how you create a sense of belonging amongst your remote team?

Ashley: We have weekly 2-hour in-person team meetings. We have a Workbar membership for co-working space for these meetings. I also have one-to-one phone calls with my team each week. We work on collaborative projects and we host team outings which allow us to bond and have fun together. In May we did a clothing drive for Uncommon Threads in Lawrence. We had different drop off spots at local women-owned businesses, collected the donations, and then sorted the clothes at Uncommon Threads.  Having a team that is dispersed throughout the state makes these touch points so important.

Kim: What trends are you seeing in the world of hiring?

Ashley: Up until recently, we have seen a candidate-driven hiring market. Flexibility is top of mind for job seekers, and they are not budging on this requirement. We’ve seen many job seekers who are looking to leave their current positions for a role in the full-time flex space for a variety of reasons, including growth, increased flexibility, and salary. Additionally, we continue to serve candidates who are looking to scale back or return to work after a career break. We are well positioned to help these candidates find part-time or project-based roles, along with opportunities to relaunch.

Additionally, given the current economic uncertainties, we have been promoting our value to clients and prospective businesses as a talent solution that will enable them to scale their businesses in a cost-effective way through part-time, contract, or contract-to-perm solutions, which can be safer in uncertain times.   

Kim: What advice do you have for women who are considering a professional career change?

Ashley: I would say do your research, but don’t overthink it. Take the time to invest in yourself and figure out what it is that you want to do so that you’re not making a reactive change. Sometimes we’re frustrated with our current situation, and we are tempted to make decisions that may not be well thought out. The more that you can have a plan in place or just an idea of where you might want to go, that’s going to really help. Consider working with a coach to talk through what your next step could look like.

Speak with people who are in the field or at the organization. If you get an interview, request an in-person meeting during the process to get a better sense of the culture and team. Don’t hesitate to request an additional interview with a different team member to gain additional insights. These are ways that you can make sure you’re making a good move and not jumping into an opportunity that might not be a good fit.

Additionally, many companies share information about their values, culture, and the salary for the position. This information is incredibly valuable throughout this process.

Kim: Are you ready for the lightning round?

Ashley: Yes

Kim: Dogs or cats?

Ashley: Dogs.

Kim: Dark, milk, or white chocolate?

Ashley: Dark chocolate.

Kim: Recent book you read?

Ashley: Oh, crap! Potty training

Kim: Who is your most favorite teacher?

Ashley: David Missirian, Associate Professor, Law and Taxation, at Bentley University. He was an amazing instructor and really challenged me as a student. He cared about his students and made me want to minor in Law while at Bentley. Susan Marine, Vice Provost and Professor at Merrimack College is another person who completely changed my life during my M.Ed. program and my career transition to higher education.

Kim: Favorite outdoor activity?

Ashley: Biking

Kim: Most satisfying achievement to date, either personal or professional?

Ashley: Having my kids!

Kim: Favorite way to practice self-care?

Ashley: Yoga.

Kim: What advice would you give your younger self?

Ashley: Don’t be so worried about what everyone else thinks.

Kim: What is your definition of a woman who is a badass?

Ashley: Someone who is empowering other women, and someone who in a room full of other people takes the opportunity to lift other women up.

Kim: Who do you admire for her badassery?

Ashley: Kim Burns! I really admire women who go out and start their own businesses. I think it takes guts and it is empowering for me to watch women succeed in this capacity.  

Kim: How can people find you?

Ashley: LinkedIn and email at ashley@flexprofessionalsllc.com are the best ways to connect with me.

Thank you for sticking with us and learning about Ashley and her career transition! If you feel you would benefit from coaching, schedule an exploration session to learn more.

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