Holistic Life Coach for Authenticity
By Melanie Morrissey Clark
Photo by Ron Coleman, C4 Photography
Like many human resource professionals, Candi Jones has had to deliver bad news to people about losing their jobs many times. No matter how kind and empathetic she is, the recipients of this message are usually—understandably—very upset. On one such occasion, however, Jones had an epiphany that eventually led her into an uncharted, exciting career territory.
“I was terminating a man who was working in a production role that clearly didn’t fit him,” Jones says. “We got to talking, and he told me he was in school to become an IT professional while raising his daughter. This man was in his third year of school and had lots of IT knowledge. He could have thrived in that department, but was working in the completely wrong area, and all I could do was terminate him. This really made me rethink how we coach and help people in their careers.”
Jones now serves as a Professional Career Coach and HR Consultant in Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DEI) for Mutual of Omaha, which means she gets to coach employees more holistically. “I call this performance management and development,” she says, adding that she suggested the creation of this area within Mutual’s HR department. The company, she says, embraced the idea and is already seeing its benefits.
“Now I have the opportunity to work with people on where they want to go in the organization, with how they’d like to get involved in their communities, and beyond. I also work in the DEI space, so I’m hyper-focused on Black and Brown employees having a voice in our organization. It’s all so much more than I ever thought it could be, and I absolutely love it.”
But Jones’s journey wasn’t solely professional. At around the same time as the epiphany in her office, Jones was embarking on a personal journey of reflection, beginning to open up about the sexual trauma and rape she experienced at age 12. “I was walking this path and wanting to own what happened to me, so I started getting more involved in community work and being more vocal.”
All of this led Jones to creating “Coaching with Candi,” her side business centered around advocacy and business development. “It’s about understanding why it’s important for people to show up authentically, and how sometimes that means dealing with the messy stuff, because we can’t just turn that off. Everyone from CEOs to kids just out of high school has something they need to deal with.”
This, she says, has been her most fulfilling role yet, and she often sees 10 clients a day. “Sometimes it’s hard to convince people to do the ‘heart work,’ but you can’t deny your passion and heart,” she says.
Jones should know. She has overcome her own challenges and can guide her clients from experience. A single mother raising three children ages 9, 15 and 21, Jones had her first child at a very young age. “For all intents and purposes, after having a child at a young age, you wouldn’t think I’d be doing the things I’m doing in my life now. That’s why I like to send a message that with support and love, people can do all kinds of things. I had to pivot, and they can too. The life you want may have gone in a different direction, but no matter what happens, you can still have a successful life.
She credits her mother, Lenora Salts, with providing the support she needed as she recovered from her trauma and in the years since. “We went through that experience together—just she and I—and having that sort of partner is the reason I can do the work I’m doing today. Not once did she make me feel like my experience defined me or what I could do. She let me know there is still love and goodness in people.”
At the moment, Jones is most excited about her advocacy work in the community, including in corporations. “I like to advocate or people—I want voices that aren’t normally heard to be heard. I represent the folks who aren’t always considered because they’ve gone through some things, but they are actually brilliant.”
When working with companies, Jones focuses on healing in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space. “I do this with the intention of getting to a better place, so we talk about healing from historical trauma. How do we get to a place where we are doing better? I offer healing circles where we just talk about how you can heal as a company, with grounding work, journaling, talking and building trust. Businesses can benefit from this because it facilitates closeness and caring, and this ultimately helps people work better.”
Jones is also focusing on her writing. In addition to the blog she writes on her website, www.CoachingWithCandi.com, Jones is also writing a book about how she navigated through trauma, documenting her own personal journey in hopes of helping others. She also plans to expand into doing more speaking engagements.
At the end of the day, Jones says, it’s not about what degrees you hold or what your title is at work. It’s about how you show up. “I think we need to create a world of authentic leadership,” she says. “I lead with who I am and the type of leader I show up with today. We all change and we all grow and we should be trying to be better people. I might come across someone who has made some mistakes in their life, and I want to be able to see who they are today. That’s what matters.”