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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

Why I Became a Speaker

The question I asked myself before I became a speaker was, “How can I help people in the biggest way possible?”

Before I became a speaker, I had a successful career in the military. But after twenty-seven years of service, I felt like there was more. I loved what I was doing and I loved being an engineer in the Navy, but I had this feeling that there’s more people I could help and I was open to a different way of doing it.

My “ah-ha” moment came through a friend.

She helped me to realize that I have so many stories and experiences worth sharing. She mentioned sharing my stories on stage.

At first, I thought the idea of becoming a speaker sounded crazy! And then as I warmed up to it, I realized that she was right. I do have a lot to share. And my lessons learned can really help people in a big way.

Then I saw how many more people in the world I could impact than if I just stayed in the military.

Many leaders set out to achieve great things, but sometimes they forget why they are even doing it. Remembering the WHY behind your mission is crucial to longevity and sustainability in your career.

When you know your WHY, every action and aspect of your business naturally aligns with it. You feel good about what you’re doing and how you’re going to get where you want to go.

Here are some reasons why I decided to become a speaker.

A Lack of Leadership in Industries That Needed It

I realized there was a real lack of leadership training that was not being given to those who could use it the most.

In the military, we started talking about leadership and teamwork on day one. We learned these “softer” skills alongside the “hard” skills.

Right after college, I was deployed to Guam. I was in charge of four civilians and sixty million dollars at the age of twenty-three.

When I got out of the military and went to work for a corporation, I noticed there were no leadership opportunities for young professionals. Likely because people weren’t expected to have any leadership training until they had already made it to middle management. (And by that point, they’ve already picked up some leadership skills that maybe aren’t so great.)

For me, this became a real calling. We need to start early. We can teach leadership skills alongside technical skills.

Emerging leaders and young professionals are actually craving this.

I started to realize there’s so many others that can benefit from this too. Even middle management and leaders in the C-Suite need more leadership training.

I know that the lessons I have to tell can help provide some insight into what it takes to be a great leader at any age or stage of someone’s career.

It is My Purpose to Help People

It is my purpose to help people and I wanted to choose a career where I could impact as many people as possible. I want to help create a new generation of leaders who feel confident in their leadership style.

There are others that can benefit from my own mistakes and what I’ve learned in my career. And as I’ve progressed, I’ve realized that there is a lot of new information on “How to be a leader.” It’s almost like a checklist. But what I want to give people is, “How to think and act like a leader.”

For me, this starts with overcoming our fears and learning the skills to navigate change. And then we can learn how to make ourselves a better person and leader.

I’ve been able to give lots of talks and my goal is to always change one person’s perspective. If I can just help one person, then that idea will start to grow. If I can plant the seeds of insight and wisdom in others, then they can take that knowledge and grow it on their own.

There are so many people in the world that you can help. And my focus is on doing what I can every day to help as many people as possible. It is my mission to do this by speaking, authentically leading others, providing training, mentorship, lessons learned, and new ways to progress from wherever you are.

I am Committed to Growth

My husband jokes that I can’t hold down a job. And that is because I tend to reinvent myself about every five years.

It’s not entirely intentional to do this, but it seems to be my average growth rate.

I have always been committed to growing, changing, and evolving so that I am expanding into new versions of myself. What keeps me grounded through all this change and transformation, is always being able to return to my WHY behind what I choose to do next.

I have this manifesto I wrote when I was in my early twenties and it is something I still continue to reference. In it, I describe the type of person I want to become, the type of impact I want to make on the world, and what I value most in life.

This manifesto has been guiding me throughout a few decades of careers and leadership positions. And it always brings me back to myself and who I am at my core.

Find Your WHY

Deciding to become a speaker came with the decision to leave my career in the military. That wasn’t easy. But to me, it has been totally worth it.

Now I get to treat my true passion like a business. I have a business plan for helping people. I don’t know if I’ll ever have fully achieved my goal of helping the most people possible because there are always more people to help. But I can see that when I put in the time, I start to see the rewards.

If you are already in a leadership position, a rising leader, or a workplace warrior ready to make a difference, write down your WHY for doing what you’re doing.

Make sure you know what you value most, what is important to you, and who you want to become as you rise in power. When you have a strong WHY behind your goals, you’re more likely to achieve great things.

If you or your organization needs inspiration in finding their WHY, reach out and let’s talk!


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