“When you do combine your strengths and your values, you will be happier, more productive, you’ll have a better sense of wellbeing”
During this episode of Strivin & Thrivin we talk candidly with Angella Clarke Jervoise, Associate Director of Global Talent at EY, or Ernst & Young, one of the ‘Big Four’ professional service companies with a number of offices worldwide.
Angella has been at EY for the past 25 years, having filled eight different positions within the company, though mainly around recruitment, after being attracted to the idea of working for a large international company. Like many, she fell into recruitment yet found herself in a number of unhappy positions at various companies early on.
It was during this period that Angella found herself confronting the issues she had at work, learning to be honest with herself and accepting that she needed a complete overhaul to find what was right for her. She’s someone who has taken to coaching and mentoring keenly, acting as a coach for others within her professional network as well as having her own coach to guide her.
“I like to liken coaching with: we’re together side by side, on a path in the dark and I’m holding the torch. You’re taking the steps, I’m just holding the torch in the direction you want to walk.”
When sharing her three most important lessons learnt in the workplace, the standout one for her was acceptance.
“I wish I’d accepted that who I am is enough. I would have saved a lot of stress and angst and frustration,“ she tells us.
Angella helps us reframe how we think about ourselves professionally and playing to our strengths. Not only does this make a happier, more positive workforce, but it encourages people to double down on their strengths and build out from there.
Enjoy this emotional and inspirational podcast of Angella’s career and life lessons as she shares her learnings on how to be more receptive to other peoples feelings, her honest struggle of relocating for work and building and putting a greater focus on self care.
Laura: I’m your host, Laura Johnson. And today I’m lucky enough to have Kristen as my wonderful co-host. Today we’re thrilled to be joined by Angella.
To get us started, can you tell us a little bit about your career background and your current role?
Angella: I can, I’ve had about 25 years in Recruiting, and I know one of the questions might be, ‘How did you get in to recruiting?’. Total accident and for the last 15 years I’ve worked with E.Y., So one of the big four organisations. But 15 years, I’m actually on my eighth position with them, so I’ve done different things with them. And mostly in recruiting. Although today I have a fabulous job and I’m working on our strategy, it’s called strategy and transactions.
It’s the part of the business that deals with buying and selling of companies and all the stuff that goes around that. And I’m one of the talent consultants in the global team, and it’s great fun. But most of my history has been in recruiting, both vendor side, in-house and doing in E.Y., doing a regional role, started out doing a national role in the UK and then moved to the Middle East to do a regional role. And then I did an area role covering EMEA and then the being global. So, I’ve done a few different things.
Laura: That’s awesome. So, I guess in terms of that first role, what made you take the first role in HR? What was the catalyst for that?
Angella: I was unemployed.
Laura: Okay. Great reason.
Angella: Most people, do find recruitment, although I, yeah, they do. And I had friends working in recruiting, so I had a basic concept of what it was. But I, it was back in 1996. I moved from Sydney to Adelaide, my boyfriend, who had got a new job with Penfolds, and I’d been promised a role in the business that he was in, and I thought great chance to change careers, new life.
And I remember the day I, and I remember specifically what I was wearing, the suit, the shoes and I rocked up to work and they said, yeah, we’ve had a temp in while we’ve been waiting for you, and you know, she’s really good. So, I think we’re going to keep her. So, there isn’t a job, but we’ll help you find something.
Angella: I know, I know. I was like 25. I really didn’t have a clue about much, but this was, you know, I was in a new city, new house. I’d packed up my life. I’d given up my job. I wanted to change careers. So, I was ready for something new, but I had no contacts. I had no money. I had no friends, and I thought, ‘holy shit, what am I going to do now?’, and that led me on to a job with Morgan and Banks. Which if you were old enough, you might remember that name yet.
Kristen: I was a talent too, girl.
Angella: Were you? Oh brilliant. So, yeah, so I joined them as, as an EA, which I’d never done before and I wasn’t suited to that at all, but I really liked the work they did. And I also really valued pretty quickly, I could see the value of being unemployed going into that business, because I thought, I am talking to people who have lost their jobs, who need a job who are in dire straits. And I have some idea of what they’ve been through. So yeah, that’s how I got into recruiting. And when I moved back to Sydney, I said, I want to be a recruiting consultant. And they gave me a shot. I happened to do really well. And then when I moved to London, I moved with them to London as well, and so, I spent about seven years with them altogether.
Laura: That was awesome. And then I guess country changes, how’s that kind of happened in career with roles and things as well. Can you talk us through that?
Angella: Well, my parents are English. So, when you grow up with English parents, you’re always going to go to England at some point, go back to the motherland and see what all the fuss is about. And I didn’t want to go as one of those Aussies in the bad shoes and backpacks and pulling pints that wasn’t my scene. And by the time I actually got myself over, I was 29 anyway. So, I was lucky enough to be working for this global organisation. And, and I did look around, but I decided to stay with the organisation, although it was a totally different organisation in the UK, which had its own experiences. So that was, that was a kind of a soft landing in a way, culturally chalk and cheese.
But in terms of career move, it was a soft landing for me. So, I was really lucky in that respect. And when it came to working with E.Y., again, I was attracted to working for an international company because I love the fact that you can go in different directions and be faced with new opportunities. And I was engaged at the time we were living in London and I really liked the organisation, but I was kind of done with London after was nearly 10 years. And I just thought to myself, I’m open for something new. I don’t know what, I don’t know where, but I’m ready for something new and pretty quickly a call came to be connected with the Middle East Talent Leader.
And over a series of months, we formed a connection, an opportunity came up. I’d put my hand up and I was selected. We didn’t even know where Bahrain was on the map. And what we also didn’t know is there was a financial crisis about to hit the world, but specifically London. Anyhow, we moved here in January, 2009. We had a quickie wedding on a beach in Cronulla and we moved here as a married couple, which was helpful. And I started my new job. So again, soft landing.
Kristen: Soft landing.
Angella: And my husband had never been to Bahrain. He just packed his bags and came.
Kristen: I love that though, but I think it goes to what you’re saying the other day, like a soft landing, but still so much to adjust to when you get there, right? Like it’s never as easy as you think is going to be.
Angella: No, I have to say moving to London was the biggest shock because I just thought I’d fit right in. I, you know, same language, same heritage. No, no, no. That was really tough, really tough. And I learned pretty quickly that one of the biggest crimes is to be earnest, I was very earnest. It didn’t make me a lot of friends in the office. And, and then I also learned that you need to turn up with a hangover at least three days a week. And then I made some friends. Particularly in recruiting.
Laura: I get that. Well, I guess on that, so lessons learned… What would you go back and tell younger you, that’s just starting out your career in HR. What are the lessons for people today now in that starting out their career?
Angella: It’s less about being in HR and more about being who you are, and here’s the thing, I wish I’d known… I wish I’d accepted that who I am is enough. I would have saved a lot of stress and angst and frustration. And I don’t know that you can actually get that when you’re 25 or when you’re 35, but I wish I’d known that who I am and what I have to offer is enough. And to be more receptive to feelings. I think feelings are a data, they’re information, and you kind of ignore them at your peril. So, if something doesn’t feel right, if you don’t listen to it and pay attention, it’ll pull the rug out from underneath you sooner or later. And similarly, if you listen to them too much and you’re reactive, again, that doesn’t help you either.
So just having a more objective view of what feelings tell you what the data is and thinking about how to respond rather than react. I wish I’d just had that intelligence a bit sooner. I think the other thing, sorry, one more. I wish I had appreciated that focusing on my strengths is going to be far better than worrying about my weaknesses. And this is a real message, I think, to anybody in whatever stage in their career, forget the old school theory about work on your weaknesses. That’s just bull shit. That’s gone. That’s with the dinosaurs.
It’s all about strengths and actually having an appreciation of your personal superpowers, what you naturally do well and how you can use those in the workplace; because you’ll be better, more productive, you’ll be happier, you’ll be more fulfilled and actually, work will be better. And you’ll be a better team member for it. So, for any leaders out there, I will say, forget worrying about people’s weaknesses. It’s a waste of time and focus on their strengths and look at using their strengths in order to make your working world a better place. That’s yeah, they’re my three lessons.
Laura: I totally agree with that. The first time I ever got told, what are your strengths? Work those out and double down on them and forget about your weaknesses. I was like, what? We’ve always been told to work, focus on our weaknesses. I can give you a whole list of things I’m not good at. And then we’re like, no, we’re not interested. What are you good at? And I say, it’s just that reframe for you personally. But also, you do realise when you double down on them, the rest, it’s just not the same, and you’re so much happier and you have a different perspective.
Kristen: Well, we’re seeing hybrid workforces and job sharing and co-CEO roles, and you’re seeing more and more jobs or roles shared over one or multiple humans, which makes sense, doesn’t it? Because then you can fill the gaps in with your strengths or, you know, those that are, you know, for me, admin is my, I’m terrible at admin. I always have been. And it’s something that it doesn’t, it doesn’t, I can do it, but I hate doing it. So, I’d rather spend my time doing stuff that I love. So being able to fill that gap with somebody else who loves admin, and there are people that do love admin.
Angella: And they’re great at it.
Kristen: They’re great at it and they love it. Those people who love being organised because I quite like being unorganised and, you know, it’s-
Kristen: Spontaneous. Exactly. Yeah.
Laura: So, I guess going back to kind of career journey and different moves, have you been quite strategic about the moves you’ve made or is it really just kind of been opportunity, timing, and whatever else has come together?
Angella: I don’t know if I’ve been strategic about anything in my career. I haven’t been strategic at all. Although what I have certainly done is been receptive to opportunities and I think that is different. And I think that is really important. And for me, it’s kind of natural and I think that’s why I’ve done well in recruiting. You just spot a need, and you spot, you know, someone that’ll feel that need. And I just have, you know, one of my superpowers is being a connector. And so, while I’m great at looking for opportunities to connect to others, whether it’s in their careers or in any other way, I think I’ve also seen opportunities myself. And when I think back, so I told you about that opportunity in the Middle East and how that came about. It was literally, I became aware that I wanted something different.
So, I think I just needed to know that I wanted something different. I didn’t know the how, that would have to be presented to me, but I knew, and this was really important. And then you spot these opportunities. You spot this chance to meet someone who happens to be in a different part of the world, and it might lead somewhere. If the worst thing that can happen is you’ve had a nice conversation with somebody interesting. And so, it’s being open to the opportunities and really that’s been my story in the last year. As well when recruiting was hit by COVID, the team that I was leading, global recruiting team.
We hired a thousand people a year. I mean, E.Y. hires 60,000 people a year, but my team was hiring a thousand. That plummeted, you don’t want to lose our people. So, we thought, right, well, none of the other talent teams can hire. Can we put our people on secondments, keep them busy, help the other teams? And when recruiting picks up, we’ll bring them back. So about 11 of my team went on secondments, and I went on as a secondment and it’s completely changed the direction of my career. So that’s to your question. So just an example of being aware of the opportunities available to you and taking them. And sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. But I’ll tell you something…
I had a shocking few years in London where I worked in jobs that were lights on my career. Places I learned lessons, yes, but they were awful. And I kept trying and trying and trying to make it work and they wouldn’t work. And so that’s, you know, a case of not listening to the information around you, not listening to the feelings, not listening to how your energy levels. And I just was a dog with a bone, and they weren’t going to work because I was meant to go in a different direction. And so, I think realising when you need to give up and stop, because if you don’t, it’ll be put upon you as it was in my case. And then looking about what you can do differently.
Kristen: It’s an interesting thing about that feeling of feeling you’re going down the wrong path. Can you elaborate on how that looked? So, for people out there that are in jobs that they’re feeling like, why is every day not working out for me, or I feel like I’m on the treadmill, or can you kind of explain a bit more about this feeling of, because a lot of people, I feel don’t recognise that they’re in the wrong job or they don’t own up to it. They kind of just wake up and do that treadmill. And actually, don’t question it because they know they don’t know anything different.
Angella: Oh yeah. And it’s confronting, it’s a frightening place to look in the mirror or look inside and really consider what’s not right, because you might have to change your entire life. You might have to change your relationships, where you’re living. That’s really confronting. You can find many, many reasons not to look at those things. For me, it was the trifecta of disasters. So, I knew I had to do something different. And my mum always said to me, if you’re just trying too hard and it’s not working, you need to change, you know, something needs to change. And so that was the trying and trying and trying, it just wasn’t working. And I just knew that there was no other avenue and I had to pay attention. And what I, what I did, and I suppose out of a lack of choice or desperation, it was actually really got down to what is important to me.
And that was, that was what we now call values. And I realise that I had to make better choices and my choices needed to be based on my values. So being aware of what was an important value for me at work and also being aware of what were the things that I was really going to have to contribute to make a difference. So, what we now call strengths. I don’t think I had that language back in 2004. And those two things for anyone can be a safe way to explore the question of, ‘why don’t things feel right?’. And if you can focus on, well, what do I value? Is it, you know, for me, it was, is honesty and integrity and actually making things better, you know, amongst other things, and what can I do really well, knock it out of the park every day.
And it was about connecting. It was about solving problems. And look, I can talk with great hindsight now, but it was, it was in a desperate place. I was in, I was in a coercive control relationship. I, or I had moved out of two awful house-shares with just awful situations. And I’d had, like I said, three bad career experiences. And for a recruiter, can you imagine making three bad choices? And the last job that I left pretty much kicked my mental health into the gutter. So, I really didn’t have many choices. I had to sort it out and I could have come home. You know, that was an absolute choice that I had. I could have come back to Australia and started again, but I just felt that I still would have had to work it out. And so, I just chose to work it out.
Laura: That’s incredible.
Angella: You’ll make me cry. Has anyone else cried today?
Laura: You’ll make us all cry.
Kristen: Yeah. Tearing up right now.
Angella: Well, and it’s from those shitty times from those desperate times. And you know, I had friends, you know, my parents were always at the other end of the phone, you know, if I needed, if I needed some money. I, you know, I wasn’t on the streets, but I felt, I was asking myself some serious questions about where I was going and who I was spending my time with. So yeah, and I think, you know, listening to those signs, listening to that sick feeling in this stomach or that feeling of dread, you don’t want to go into the office today.
And actually, not blaming yourself, but making choices that benefit yourself, because I’m sure a whole bunch of this was my fault, but blaming myself, wasn’t actually going to make me feel better. And at the time I didn’t see the fault with the, you know, employer who had the moral fiber of a house brick or the boyfriend who was, you know, displaying, coercive control behaviour.
I didn’t say this, that wasn’t available to me, but what was available was how it was all making me feel. And I think for anyone really questioning why they’re doing what they’re doing, except that it’s uncomfortable and it’s frightening and no one’s forcing you to make any changes, but just take a step back and give yourself the gift of a quiet place to think, or, get yourself a coach or a therapist.
If you need it to help you, that you can’t do this stuff on your own and think through what do I really value? What are those things that are important to me? What am I great at? And then just be open to opportunities that will help you express those two things, because science has told us enough now that when you do combine your strengths and your values, you will be happier, more productive, you’ll have a better sense of wellbeing. You probably live longer. You know, there’s no fail.
Kristen: And the hardest thing is to make that decision, isn’t it? To make that clear decision, I need to quit. I need to get out of here.
Angella: But when you do realise it, it can be so liberating.
Angella: Now, and here’s my thing. I would never have chosen to quit, but it was where I was at, it wasn’t meant to work out. So, no matter how hard I tried, I could never follow through with the, you know, disgusting, illegal and lying practices of the employer that I worked for. Who celebrated, you know, lying and cheating when they were recruiting, I mean it’s just appalling. And that man is still in a leading a recruiting company today.
I… No matter how hard I worked and no matter how much I tried to convince them, I didn’t have to work that way. That’s what they valued, where I, well, you know, this isn’t for me, it is hard, but oh my goodness, it can be liberating. And a dear colleague of mine, I spoke to her she’s she left not too long ago. We spoke last week, and she said, “I feel so great. I just didn’t realise the pit I was in”. Haven’t we all been there.
Kristen: Yeah. We’re just looking at each other thinking we’ve had.
Laura: Yeah, but it’s tough. Do you know what? I’m glad that you brought up coaching at that point. Cause this is a conversation we had the other day. And just realising that, you know, you don’t have to have all the answers yourself and sometimes talking to that person, whether it’s a coach or a psychologist or whoever it is can really help you discover those things.
But for most people, like you’re saying, like, they probably haven’t thought about their values and their strengths before, because it’s not things we’re taught when we’re, you know, going through Uni or growing up or whatever. But actually, a coach helping you go through that and go like, why isn’t this sitting right. And why, and, and they say, why so many times that you cry at them, but at the end of the day you come up with something that you’re like, ‘Oh yeah’, okay, now I get it’.
But I think again, it’s that knowing that it’s not just you and this happens to all of us as we sat here talking about it, but it’s okay to reach out and ask for help. And it’s going to be the quickest way to get you out of it. Yeah, probably.
Angella: You know what? It’s not just okay… Smart. Yeah. It’s smart, you know? Yeah, do it the hard way and figure it out yourself. I mean, most people don’t figure it out themselves. Get some help. I coach a lot of people, mostly in my organisation and they’re mostly the most senior people in the firm. And routinely, they say to me, this is a safe space, and I can be myself, and I can say these things. And it’s different to talking to your manager or your leader.
They’re loaded conversations. It’s always a price, and talking to your partner or your friends, my God, I’ve spent years offloading onto my friends, and they were graceful and forgiving, but it is a different experience talking to someone who is independent and who can guide you to the answers. You can get really meaningful, quick results. And it’s always, what I love about coaching is it’s always a client’s agenda, never the coach’s agenda. It’s always the client’s. And you can get insights far quicker than you can by talking to Dave at the pub, you know, that everyone has a different role and a coach.
I just love connecting people who want to go on this journey of exploration, with ideas and ways of thinking. And I have my own coach, you know. I couldn’t do it without my own coach. He’s brilliant.
Laura: I think you’re right there. I think guide is the best way to put it. Whenever anyone asks, like, what’s the difference between a coach and a mentor? I think it’s that guide. Like, it’s the fact that you probably know the answers. You just don’t know how to get there yourself, so having that person kind of guide you and ask you the right things. So, you get to it until you have that realisation. I think that’s the, that’s the big thing.
Angella: Yeah. I like to liken coaching to, we’re together side by side, on a path in the dark and I’m holding the torch. You’re taking the steps, I’m just holding the torch in the direction you want to walk. And that, that for me, it really epitomises the coaching. And, you know, look, I’ve been doing it for 10 years and I’ve learned a ton along the way. That what I do know is, and people tell me that they can do more in three months working with a coach every few weeks, than they could, you know, banging their head against a brick wall or fighting, or just sitting in a bit of misery, and that’s a place that none of us really needs to be.
Laura: Totally. So, I guess going back to you, so other than coaching, what do you do in terms of kind of personal development and to making sure that you’re, you know, growing as you go?
Angella: Yeah, I’ve been studying a diploma in Positive Psychology now for about eighteen months and I’m due to finish that soon. So, it’s just been just great. Not just things that I’ve learned, but the people that I’ve met along the way, it’s with the Langley Institute, which is an Australian organisation, check it out, Sue Langley’s phenomenal. I am a big fan of psychometrics in the job of recruiting because recruiting is so biased. And the more we can use independent scientific rigor to guide our decision making, the better. And the sooner we all move to AI for sourcing the better as far as I’m concerned.
And so, I have spent quite a bit of time over the years, looking at psychometric tools and how they can help us make informed decisions and how they can help people understand themselves better. And I’m about to start studying something called Appreciative Inquiry, which is a form of positive coaching, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve got a whole bank of stuff I want to study. Actually, I don’t have enough time in the week, you know, cause I do have a family and two wonderful Springer Spaniels and you know, a life. And I, I am someone who needs quiet to sort of digest things and that’s actually become more necessary the older I’ve gotten.
And having a quiet place to quiet time to just digest, not necessarily to ponder too much, but just to be, to give my brain a break from screen time and information overload. I really, I find that necessary. I actually do a lot of exercise just for my mental health. If it’s not an outdoor fitness or bootcamp type stuff, it’s yoga. And between those two things, it’s sort of quiet and the energy from yoga or exercise, that’s just what keeps my equilibrium. And there have been more than many occasions where my husband said to me, will you just go and do some yoga please? You’re really getting on my nerves.
Laura: We were saying that earlier about meditation and I’m suddenly the same with you and yoga just like sometimes you just need to go and have your time and then you’re all good. I would love to dig into that more. And I’ve got a ton of other questions, but just looking at the time and the fact that it’s your Saturday, we should probably wrap it up. So, the last question that we’ve been asking everyone is who would you like to hear from? So, if we’re going to interview more people on the podcast, who would you like to hear from?
Angella: Do they have to be somebody in Talent?
Laura: They can be whoever you want.
Angella: So, I really want you to interview my dear friend, the first love of my life, Andrew Dyer. He lives somewhere down towards Wollongong at the moment. He, we were at school together and he has had the most incredible, diverse career. And I recently reconnected with him after about twenty years, and I just love his story. And he spent a very long part of his career at Centrelink. Can you imagine the people you would meet and the experiences you would have had? And he also, he has his own business now exporting fabulous soaps and bath bombs and stuff. So, he’s an entrepreneur, but he, and he’s a singer and an actor and has, is just an incredibly gorgeous man with some really fabulous stories to tell. He’s someone that I want to have on my podcast, you know, in my future life. But I would love for you to get Andrew on.
Laura: I love that and what a great recommendation.
Angella: And he really was the first love of my life, but he broke my heart. I think we were about 12. Yeah.
Laura: Awesome. Thank you so much for today. It’s been awesome.