On the Move with Ashlee Tolman
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
In 2017 I met Ashlee and she had just completed her degree at University of Oregon with a major in Journalism-Public Relations. We immediately agreed that her skills, curiosity and passion matched up with our goals to plan and curate meaningful learning experiences for HR executives. Since those early days, Ashlee has developed recruiting consulting skills and is managing client projects for TalentWell, an Orange County talent and search firm owned by Kate Kjeell (earlier, a part of S. Benjamins & Co.)
Ashlee has mastered remote work and balancing work and life in a way that offers us some new insights. I decided to re-connect with her and learn about her view of mentors and moving.
Sherry: Tell me about your first mentor?
Ashlee: My first mentor, was you, Sherry (I did not expect that and am honored). I recall when I first started on your team that you shared the importance of finding top talent for organizations and the value of supporting and getting involved in professional learning groups. Given my role as Learning Event Coordinator, I could see that hosting and organizing the learning groups facilitated positive change. And you were asking the hard questions, encouraging people to think outside the box. I worked closely with this group and your network. You helped me see the importance of asking tough forward looking questions with lots of curiosity.
Sherry: What do you think you learned about yourself through our relationship?
Ashlee: I learned about the ability to sit in and listen, hear a variety of thoughts and ideas. It really helped me realize that I could make a career in connecting with others to find a great fit. Recruiting became my focus. I also saw that you have a quality about seeing something in others that allows them to be stronger and more confident. You taught me not to take on a project unless I see it as a success for everyone involved. I have learned that in the world of recruiting, it is best to say "yes" to projects that align with my values. When I sat in on those learning sessions, I saw the power of knowing yourself and what you value and the impact on results.
Sherry: How do you describe your values?
Ashlee: The first ones that comes to mind are honesty and being genuine. That means both in work and life. Another value I embrace is being open-minded. As a Recruiter, I find myself going into different projects and realizing that there are so many unique needs, different perspectives and it requires me to listen and adapt. This allows me to pivot quickly.
With a new client, there is a period of educating each other, so that we can answer the question, “What can we do to bring talent to your team?” My boss, Kate Kjeell and my early experience with you and Kate, has been that you had our back and sincerely wanted me and my colleagues to be successful. If we had to say no to something, it meant that the client needed to find their clarity first. At this point in my career I value learning and I get plenty of that with each new client. I love what I am doing.
Sherry: Was remote work part of your plan after college?
Ashlee: Remote work was not the plan after college. I thought I would go to a PR agency, because my degree was in Journalism. I was not closed minded about working remote and matter of fact, my mom was a wonderful role model for how to do this successfully. She had a professional career she loved, raised our family and worked remotely. She balanced it all.
I was attracted to the virtual position because of the flexibility. I love the ability to make and adjust my work and life schedule. My husband is a professional baseball player so remote work has been ideal. We are in one spot for six months and then have to move again. I have found a way to make it work and I have grown to enjoy each new city with the chance to meet different people in every new state. Being young, I am able to travel and take it day by day with the freedom to move when we need to. It makes sense for us now. I have incorporated work and life in a way to allow my professional career to grow along with my husband developing his baseball career too.
Sherry: What is the greatest challenge for you in remote work?
Ashlee: I think the greatest challenge has been the loss of having in person meetings with clients or colleagues. With COVID I have had to be more intentional about building relationships. Sometimes, it feels like we have to over-communicate with our team members and especially our clients. I find it best to have consistent check-ins and reach out more often. I do this with the client but also with the individuals we have placed. I never thought that virtual on-boarding would be effective, but this does allow an early and great way to engage new employees and have them learn about the culture of their new company. Many organizations are successfully moving from hiring to on-boarding and then engaging their team using virtual tools. I am not sure how we will see people returning to work offices when they see that working from home is effective.
Sherry: What is your learning agenda now? How has this changed during COVID?
Ashlee: My learning agenda now is to learn from others on my team. Kate has given me the chance to grow, she is my trusted advisor. She understands the value of freely sharing her knowledge, and asking how we can each be resources for one another. She is a thought partner to me and encourages collaborative thinking as a team. Frequent check-ins are valuable and Kate allows us to see the big picture and why we are doing something that connects to a greater good. All our group sessions are over zoom now and we have adjusted to virtual and not in person. I am learning from online sources so that I can see organizational trends and what others are experiencing.
Sherry: What do you recommend for other early career professionals as they navigate decisions on work from home, moving to other parts of the country or creating a work and life experience that fits their vision of success?
Ashlee: Everyone’s situation is so different. I always challenged myself to find new ways to connect with people, whether it is building personal relationships or professional ones. Take or plan a virtual meeting with new friends and you never know where the opportunity will take you.
I recommend early career individuals to be creative and open to building new connections. It means we need to be intentional and to make our reach out more tailored and personal. I found that stepping outside my comfort zone usually produced personal growth. Moving to different cities and states has allowed me to accept discomfort and grow personally. I think we can all do really hard things and we may not realize that at first. I believe that there are so many great options for living and working today. One size does not fit all. So much has changed with the pandemic, which might encourage taking more risk and surprising yourself.
Sherry: I have to ask about your moving and organizing skills. Have you adopted the no clutter, “Marie Kondo” approach?
Ashlee: Well we do move light. There is not a lot of stuff that comes with us as we move so I agree with less clutter. We have some storage in CA, our home base, but we pack light. If the climate is summer-like, that is what we bring, if it is colder, we adapt the packing to that. We also make decisions about renting or buying furniture from a practical perspective. The important stuff, like photos come with us and of course the dog!