"Figure out what your values are before you do anything else." That's just part of the advice author, women's leadership coach and founding psychotherapist Jenny Maenpaa has for women who want to be successful.
Maenpaa started her own psychotherapy practice after realizing she was working under toxic leadership that left her burnt out and withdrawn from the public service career she once loved. She refocused her work on helping people who's struggles hit close to home — women who faced anxiety, imposter syndrome and career burnout — and founded a practice that preaches the inherent strength and power of women to achieve anything. Now, her new book "Forward in Heels" aims to guide women towards finding a career path that lights them up and unleashes their potential.
Maenpaa told us more about her journey through social work to her own practice, while also cluing us in on how she overcame her own entrepreneurial imposter syndrome. Then, she shared how she unwinds to avoid burnout and just why finding a values-based career is so critical.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Jenny Maenpaa
Founding Psychotherapist, Women's Leadership Coach and Author of "Forward in Heels"
New York, NY
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
I started as a social worker in public service programs (early childhood, special education and juvenile justice) for almost 10 years. When I found myself under toxic leadership that was causing me to withdraw from the work, I reassessed how to remain in the helping profession without burning out completely. I pivoted to coaching, using similar skills I had built as a therapist in a new context with new types of clients. I was able to refocus my work on women like myself who faced anxiety, impostor syndrome and career burnout, and help them craft the dream life they had been envisioning but didn't know how to achieve. I've been able to hybridize therapy and coaching in a way that feels like it covers the entire spectrum of my clients' lives, from how the past informs the present to where they want to go in the future.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
I built a profitable business committed to helping people that also values my own skill and time. The field of social work is built on the idea that you have to give every part of yourself every second of the day to the work, otherwise you're not doing enough. I have been able to change lives while also living a life that fulfills me, makes me happy and continues to give back.
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
When I started building my business, I did everything wrong at first. I spent money on the wrong investments, I believed that I needed more external credentials to prove myself and I doubted my ability to be taken seriously. I was able to fight those inner mean girl voices by focusing on evidence and results.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? And why?
Nina Fiddian-Green, founder of Winning Worth and a mentor who always saw a bigger vision for me than I was sometimes able to see for myself.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Travel, work out, read and take pictures of my cat in various sleeping positions (in the hopes that one of them will be cute enough to make him Instagram famous and he can start buying his own catnip!).
If you could have dinner with one person—dead or alive—who would it be?
My nana. She was my ultimate champion.
What is your karaoke song?
TLC's "No Scrubs."
What is your favorite movie?
"How to Steal a Million" with Audrey Hepburn. So many classic movies pair a teenaged ingenue with a grown man in a position of power, or paint her as helpless and naive. But in this film, she is a witty, wily woman who plans to embark on her caper with or without the handsome stranger who suddenly appears.
What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
The collected works of Jane Austen. I could reread her books over and over and still feel like I've only barely scratched the surface.
What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
I'd buy real estate and pay off my remaining student loans! I have everything I need materially and would love to feel like no matter what happened, I'd have a roof over my head and no debt to worry about.
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Figure out what your values are before you do anything else. If you are able to design a life where everything you do is in pursuit of your values, you won't sweat the small stuff. You might get frustrated, you might have hard days, but you'll never question why you're doing the work.
Why do you love where you work?
I am so grateful to have built a practice that believes in the inherent strength and power of women to achieve anything, while also acknowledging that the world can be a hard place to navigate, regardless of mental health diagnoses. We believe in a "yes, and..." approach which affirms that we can hold multiple truths at the same time and not see them as conflicting but, instead, complementary facets of our complex beings.
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