JT O’Donnell

Her corporate friends said she was crazy. But she escaped the golden handcuffs, got ahead of a trend and now thrives big.

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Why Entrepreneurship?

“What led me to make the jump to entrepreneurship? Fear. Fear that I’d go back to corporate and be miserable for the next 20 years and have nobody to blame but myself.”


Manager NOT Mentor

“Most managers have not been trained how to coach and they also have a full-time job to do.”


A doctor, a lawyer and a Career Coach walk…

“You have doctors, lawyers and financial planners. We go get experts in every other area of our lives yet it is not common sense or common knowledge yet to seek and retain a career coach. I’ll work for ever to change that perception.”


Biggest Mistake

“Every once in a while a person isn’t a fit. You need to recognize that sooner rather than later. It’s a tough conversation to have but you’re doing them a favor too. This is their career so don’t let them waste months or years with you while hurting your business.”


Conventional Myth

“The idea that the customer is always right. I haven’t adhered to that because often times it can run your business into the ground. Instead I stepped back and said, ‘I’m going to get really clear on who my customer is.’ I’m not going to assume everyone is my customer.”


Paralyzing Fear

“What we are really fearful of when we start on our own is, ‘who am I to think I can run a business? Who am I to think I can actually do this?’We’re trying to find all these ways to legitimize what we’re doing. Nothing legitimizes your business faster than you doing a project and selling it.”

In the audio, JT shares:

— The Magic realization that saved her 20 years of misery

— #1 thing she’d have done differently to upscale her service business

— The big myth and problem with believing you’ll get good coaching from your manager or anywhere inside the company you work for

— The biggest hiring mistakes she’s made despite her over 20 years as a top HR professional

— Her process for being able to hire a top talent for your team in a 30 day time period

— How Richard Branson commented on one of her articles and why she believes LinkedIn publishing is the great equalizer you deserve to take advantage of

— Her #1 thing to do on the front end that almost guarantees you’ll exceed customer expectations

Jeanine Tanner “J.T.” O’Donnell

Jeanine Tanner “J.T.” O’Donnell has 18+ years of experience in the development of professional HR tools and resources. She has delivered 200+ presentations to more than 10,000 professionals on a wide variety of career topics. In addition to that she has managed teams of 50+ with budgets of $35M+.

Launched CAREEREALISM.com, which is now a top 3 career blog with 2,300,000+ monthly page views, 800,000+ visitors/month, 1,500,000+ social media followers, and 100,000+ daily email subscribers.

In high school she was the captain of her cheerleading squad and when the Beach Boys band came through town they enlisted the captains of all the local high schools to get on stage and dance with them. JT obliged them.

She was in HR and staffing for many years and climbed the corporate ladder. By many people’s definition she had it all… the over six figure salary, managing many people and all the perks that go along with the position of authority in corporate America. But she felt the weight of the golden handcuffs in other areas of her life.

She was out of shape and 40 pounds overweight. She had high blood pressure, a husband she never saw, a house she was never at and was out of touch with the rest of her family and friends. She realized she loved teaching. She knew she had to make changes so scrapped the corporate life.

She took a year off to figure out what she was going to do next. The question, “How do people deal with this?” Kept coming up for her. She figured she wasn’t the only one dealing with this. She found out it was an epidemic, we weren’t fixing it and that her HR background could be a big help to fix it. She got certified to be a career coach and launched her business.

Many of her corporate friends laughed and wrote her off.

Not long after those same people would secretly call and ask for her help. They’d of course ask her not to tell anybody. Her business grew but she hit a wall coaching one on one. She decided she was going to build a business. She told her husband she was going to start a blog in 2008 right when the financial collapse happened.

She wanted to do it in a super professional way and offer the bleeding edge career advice to lead people out of the collapse and into the brave new corporate world. 70% of people are unhappy in their work. JT’s business was well-positioned to help these people once they came to this realization.

Some Shareables from JT in this episode…

#1 Path to Growth

“I’m in a service business. If I could go back I would have productized my business much sooner. Every client comes to you thinking they want something different. You feel the obligation to customize it to each client. That is very time-consuming. When I productized, honed in on specific things, built tools and resources to support it and sell coaching in a product type way, the scalability became much clearer and easier to achieve.”


“Now that the recession is changing, most professionals today don’t expect to get any coaching from their manager or company because they don’t trust it. They now understand that management team has an agenda which is the company’s agenda. Smart people now are gonna say they’re a business of one and if they’re going to partner with this company they’ll need to get an outside coach and resources that have their best interest in mind.”

Biggest mistake

“We all make hiring mistakes. It doesn’t even matter how long you’ve been in HR. It’s always easier to see when you’re not the manager nor the owner. I tend to hold on to people too long. There’s a part of me that wants to make it work. I’m not doing that person a favor. I’m lucky to say I can count on one hand how many times this has ever happened to me. Every once in a while a person isn’t a fit. You need to recognize that sooner rather than later. It’s a tough conversation to have but you’re doing them a favor too. This is their career so don’t let them waste months or years with you while hurting your business. When I do make the mistake of holding on too long I try not to beat myself up too much about it because it does happen.”

Favorite part

“My favorite part of the entrepreneur’s journey is getting to work on something I care about every day. We have a process here where the ideal level of career satisfaction is when your core work you have to do every day, your reach work that stretches you and grows your skill, and your passion work that you care about are all fully aligned. I get to do my passion work every day. It doesn’t feel like work. That was done with intention. It wasn’t easy. It took a ton of work but I loved every minute of it because I was in control. If I could bottle this and give it to people, it’s like a high.”

Weirdest thing

“The weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me is the cryptic e-mail I got from LinkedIn. It was from an editor at LinkedIn. It was one line. It said, “JT we really like your take on LinkedIn. We want to approach you about something and you need to sign a nondisclosure but we can’t tell you what it is.” I’ve never gotten a business request like that. Of course, I signed the nondisclosure because I wanted to know what was going on. It was them announcing the fact they were starting the Influencers program on LinkedIn. I remember thinking, ‘Wow this is crazy cool. What do you want me to do? I’ll give it a try.’ Ironically, a lot of people turned it down. A lot of people wanted to get paid. It’s an unpaid thing to write for Influencers.

When I started, they had 140 initial Influencers. Today I believe they have around 400. When they had 140 I was dead last. I was the only career coach and I had 2,000 followers. I said I’ll give it a try. I poured my heart and soul into it. Fast forward to today and it’s really served me well. I don’t know where I’d be today if I’d have ignored that and thought it was too weird to respond to.”


“The idea that the customer is always right. I haven’t adhered to that because often times it can run your business into the ground. Instead I stepped back and said, ‘I’m going to get really clear on who my customer is. I’m not going to assume everyone is my customer. I’m going to build a business model that makes it really clear on the front-end who is the ideal customer for us.’ What the expectations are for our partnership and how that works. This was a way to minimize customer service issues.

If you go to our website, you’ll see we don’t make any empty promises. We don’t say we’ll work with just anyone. Quite the contrary. There’s a really specific type of person we can help. It has a lot to do with their mindset, what they understand, what they’re willing to commit and bring to the table because it is a partnership.”

Conventional Myth

“I think people tend to over set up their businesses. They feel like they can’t get started until they have the fancy marketing material, the perfect website. They will overspend. I’m a firm believer in hobby careers. Start your business small and just try to find a way to make money. Don’t go crazy until you show you’ve got something that can make money and pay for itself.

I’ve seen too many times people will put together these huge fancy things only to have to change them or find out they’re not the right fit as they evolve with their client base and realize their clients want something different. My suggestion is to bootstrap. Think about every single purchase. Go lean and mean. Start generating income first, then you can have all those fancy things later on.”

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