Final Five

With Carla Jones, owner, CJ Career Consulting

Carla Jones, owner, CJ Career ConsultingCarla Jones is a career coach, author and adjunct instructor at the University of Maryland University College. She earned her industrial engineering degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and her MBA from Rutgers University. Jones teaches career planning to adult students and has written a motivational book to inspire others to work on their career plan.

What drew you to industrial engineering?

My interest in engineering came from my dad. Growing up, I recall watching him repair televisions. He was so focused on his work. I watched him take televisions apart and put them back together using tools I had never seen before. I was fascinated by his passion and dedication.

I also enjoyed school in my younger years, received good grades and even skipped a grade during elementary school. I went on to attend a science and technology high school, which further developed my interest in the sciences and engineering. I chose industrial engineering in college because of its connection to people to help improve operations.

How did your background in industrial engineering influence your career in coaching?

As you can imagine, when most people hear that I have an industrial engineering background they are shocked. They see engineering and coaching on very opposite ends of the spectrum. But in fact, I feel that my background in industrial engineering has helped to develop my skills as a career coach. I am able to utilize the analytical and critical thinking skills I developed as an engineer in my approach to coaching. As an IE, I also learned how to look for more efficient ways of doing things, which also comes in handy when developing career plans with individuals. I combine both head and heart into the work that I do.

What kind of challenges did you overcome to pursue your career goals?

Transitioning from industrial engineering to career coaching took some time, with stops along the way. I had to make some tough decisions, which included relocating and downsizing my lifestyle. At each decision point, I had to consider how the next move would ultimately help me get to where I wanted to be. I had to overcome fear, doubt and uncertainty. I didn't always have the answers, which initially was very frightening for someone like me with an engineering background because engineers always have the answers – right! But over time, I learned how to let things "be" and allow them to unfold as they were intended.

What advice do you have for young people who are planning their careers and people who want to change careers?

For young people who are planning their careers, my advice would be to determine where your true interests and passion lie. What may seem to be the obvious career path isn't always where your heart is. Work with trusted advisors, coaches and counselors to help you figure it out.

For people who want to change careers, have a plan and be open and willing to take risks. And be patient. Changing careers is possible, but it takes time. Surround yourself with people who will motivate and encourage you to be successful in your transition.

What inspired you to write a book?

As a career coach, I come across people who have the best intentions to develop and work on their career plan, but life happens to throw them off track, or fear and doubt sets in – myself included. A coach is there to try to hold people accountable, but I've found that additional reminders and reinforcements are always helpful. My book, I S.E.E. Me, is one of these reminders.

– Interview by Cassandra Johnson