Jelena Radonjic is an award-winning Career & Leadership coach, helping conscious, aspiring professionals thrive in the careers they love. With over 25 years in international recruitment and education management, Jelena has held managerial roles with P&L accountability, working with corporate clients from all over the world.
Her powerful blend of personal, career, business and leadership development coaching has brought transformational results to 300+ clients whether it was to progress in their career or navigate a radical career transition. Her clients are senior and mid-senior professionals looking to realise their leadership potential and at the same time, achieve fulfilment in all areas of their life.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
Originally from Serbia (Ex-Yugoslavia), I was industrious and liked to study as a child. My curiosity grew as I matured and began to explore the works of Erich Fromm, Carl Jung, Paolo Coelho, and the Eastern philosophies. I always loved languages and had an early hunch that I’d live abroad.
At 18, I took up transcendental meditation, I was mesmerised by Zen Buddhism, Japanese haiku poetry, and anything spiritual I could get my hands on. My search for meaning and the unknowable was incessant.
Attracted to the Far East, I chose to study Japanese alongside English. After four and a half years of hard work, I graduated at the top of my class with a double major. This led to a corporate job in Tokyo, an opportunity that was practically unheard of in 1991 pre-war Yugoslavia. I was actually the first woman to land a corporate job in Japan from Ex-Yugoslavia.
I left on the wings of excitement and anticipation. My job in recruitment aligned well with my passion for connecting people and it was a catalyst for work-life fulfilment, which led me to become a career coach many years later.
Tell us something about your initiative/business. What is it about and how is it helpful for people?
I started WhatWork, my Career Coaching business in 2016, inspired by the idea of bringing together my commercial background, love for human development, recruitment, business, spiritual practice and personal development, and the world of work and careers. I then qualified as a coach with CTI (Coaches Training Institute) and continued with my spiritual and personal development work of several decades. In 2018 I won the ‘Coach of the Year Award’ amongst 200 other coaches and consultants and continue to serve my clients tirelessly, through individual and group coaching, covering career transitions, career development and leadership development.
I also joined Forbes Coaches Council and have published several thought leadership articles. I also speak in public, delivering talks and workshops at events and major corporations like Amazon. I am very passionate about connecting what truly matters to us – our values – with skills, strengths and motivation, to help career changers and those who want to progres in their field, find fulfilment, success and purpose in their work. I also work with those moving into self-employment, helping them shape their business and overcome initial fear and doubt.
I am also a co-author of JOY – Recipes for Abundance, a book in which I share why joy and hope are so important in my life, inspiring many other women to be the best versions of themselves – on their own terms.
When talking to my potential clients, I stand on truth and integrity. This is the most important ingredient of a successful entrepreneur or any professional for me: authenticity. It attracts clients who share the same values with me – trust, truth, authenticity, integrity, joy, courage and love. I see myself in a unique position to bring together business and spirituality, material and emotional fulfilment, as I believe that a whole person does not separate material and spiritual abundance. Seeing my clients achieve fulfilment and growth by stepping out of their comfort zone brings me immense rewards and the sense that I am impacting many lives for the better.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
I have certainly experienced a surge in client numbers and overall increase in interest in career coaching. En masse, people were made to stop and reflect – often about crucial things such as the meaning of life and what’s truly important. Many realised that they hadn’t been aligned with their career. Others told me they wanted to work for companies that shared their values. Some realised that they wanted to see a more direct impact of their work – and a positive one too! For example, choosing to work for companies that help reverse climate change rather than contribute to it. Yet another population segment consisted of those who lost their jobs or were in peril to lose them. They also sought my help. Overall, people engaged in reflection, re-evaluation, and change, and that’s the silver lining of the pandemic and its aftermath. Much like in individual lives, when we experience adversity – we grow, so did we transform collectively during and after pandemic.
What has been the response of the users/consumers towards your venture?
My clients’ success is my success! I have numerous stories of changed lives, career dreams fulfilled, salaries doubled, countries and continents moved. I work with mid-career and senior professionals helping them navigate career progression and career transition, there’s no career scenario that I haven’t handled yet. Many landed new roles in their dream companies, or advanced to the next level within the same company, moving into Director roles, Global VP roles, Executive Director roles….some returned to work after (longer) breaks, some overcame the stress of redundancy or burnout and achieved what some time in the past seemed impossible – landing roles bigger, better, and more suitable than those they previously had. I have received awards and nominations for my work, but as I said, what makes my heart sing is when a client calls me excitedly to tell me that it’s finally happened! This gives me incredible satisfaction and motivation to keep going and keep growing.
How has your life changed because of your initiative/venture?
Ah, to an indescribable extent! I feel that I have found my purpose and living it through my work, which in a way qualifies me to help others do the same. Even though I work many hours and often at “unusual” times, I am fortunate to have the flexibility to work when I want and from wherever I want. This is a gift for which I am grateful.
Do you have anyone who is the biggest support system in your life? Please let us know.
It is not just one person. Rather, quite a few…my parents and my sons, my friends and relatives, my business coaches and various communities of entrepreneurs, including fellow coaches with whom I connect and often share ideas and information.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity? OR Share a motivational message for the audience/women who are reading this.
I am truly passionate about elevating and promoting women. I’d say work on your self-belief and mindset, empower yourself with skills, knowledge, AND a strong network, and always make sure you take excellent care of your well-being. Be unstoppable. But also, be kind and generous, give and receive, support other women, and ask to be supported. More than anything else, be true to yourself. Love your life and it will love you back!
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