Monique Kelley, Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and PRSSA Faculty Advisor at Boston University’s College of Communication, CEO and Founder of Monique Kelley Consulting, LLC, and Founding Member of CHIEF in Boston, talks about the “Great Breakup” and its impact on female communicators. Monique emphasizes the importance of self-care and discusses the ways she implements the practice in her daily routine. Monique also shares valuable advice for college students.
DOUG: It’s great to have you back on the show. When we spoke last time, it was one of our most popular shows ever. And we talked about how women in particular can avoid setting their own limits on themselves to be able to break through the glass ceiling. Now we’re going to be talking about change. Why has this been such an opportune time for women to make a change?
MONIQUE: It’s such an interesting time right now. Hopefully coming out of COVID, after I think we’ve lost track of how many years, just seeing the tremendous opportunity in communications in particular everywhere from employee engagement to DNI and culture and to your question around women, I was reading a Forbes article. This whole time has really been deemed the great breakup for women and their current jobs. And I think really what they mean there is that now is a great time for women in particular to reassess what they want out of their careers. Is it still working? Is there something that needs to be fixed in order for them to balance this purpose and sense of self, responsibilities at home as well as their career? And so we’re finding in droves communications and beyond, women really are re-evaluating what they want and are in the power seat for driving change.
DOUG: And you’ve really embodied that yourself. And it’s not from a place of dissatisfaction. It’s more about the opportunity to change. Previously, you were an executive at a top pharmaceutical company. Now you’re moving to a professor at Boston University while also starting your own successful consultancy.
MONIQUE: Yeah, and it’s something pre-COVID that I never thought I would necessarily do so quickly. During COVID, I started adjuncting, and that was a surprise because you can imagine teaching with a mask on to students in the room, students on Zoom, then it became no students at one point and so it just continued to change as the workforce changed as well with COVID and the rules around safety. And so I had been an adjunct at Boston University for two years and then when the opportunity came up to go full time, it was at a place where I was at a ceiling in my career, frankly, at Takeda, where I felt, you know, there wasn’t at this point a real career growth or clear path for what I did. I was already leading neuroscience communications, commercial operations, communications, working closely with our CEO. And whereas, I thought it was a rewarding career, the opportunity really just came up for me to do something where I felt the environment was a little more inclusive and also more equitable for what I really wanted to give back to the industry and society. And so I’m incredibly grateful to be able to be a full time professor teaching media strategies, corporate communication, which certainly is near and dear to my heart and it was interesting that Dean, she came from Scientific American. So she also doesn’t have an academic background. And as we were speaking and I said, okay, full time, so that’s 40 hours a week. 50 hours. I mean, if it goes by, you know, PR it’s 80 hours a week sometime. And so she said, no, no, no, no. Full time professor, at least at Boston University is, your teaching three courses, your volunteering, so I’m also the faculty advisor for our Public Relations Student Society of America. And you’re mentoring students, you’re advising students, but it’s not a full time job. In fact, a lot of professors also consult on the side. And so I really looked at this as an opportunity to be able to keep one foot in the industry and do what I love, which is consulting with life science and pharmaceutical companies on coms. So that’s the impetus for creating my LLC and jumping right in and working with clients.
DOUG: That’s great that you’re in such a humane situation, but still it has to be a challenge navigating both that workload and the work of your successful consultancy. And I know that the students will be reaching out to you because you’re so available.
MONIQUE: It’s taken 20 years and I still am trying to figure out how to say no. So in fact, I just had a student the other day say, I would love for you to recommend me for grad school. And, you know, the deadlines February 1st. And I think typically I would have the time to be able to write these letters. But also I would just if I’m someone, as you know, who loves to lead with adding value, and I feel if I can truly help somebody, then absolutely, I’ll be there, whether it’s a student, a client, coworker, etc.. But juggling two jobs, even though not both are full time, has really allowed me to focus so much on, I need to prioritize to make sure that I give the best to students, the best to my clients, but also the best from a personal standpoint as well and find that time, to the point around the Forbes article and a great breakup, to really make sure that I am prioritizing self-care as well.
DOUG: So how do you manage to juggle self-care with, you know, there’s two demanding jobs that are at least very brain taxing.
MONIQUE: So I’m taking a page from both my agency and my corporate days where I had a very, not by choice, but a very regimen schedule. And so it’s very easy for me now to just let, whether that’s this semester or my class schedule, dictate the flow of the day or my client calls or meetings and etc.. But I find if I do that, then I’m certainly wasting a lot of time that I could spend, whether that’s going for a run or reading a book I absolutely love. I start every morning reading through a lot of different thought leadership articles on LinkedIn and other platforms, and so it’s very easy for that to go by the wayside if I don’t stay regimen. So even if I don’t have to necessarily, I get up at that same time I’m getting myself in that routine and that groove, so that way I find the more that I can just maximize because none of us are going to get hours in the day back. So it’s about how do we make sure that we’re spending that time wisely, not wishing for more time that we know we’re not going to get.
DOUG: So how do we go about sort of creating that discipline and making it work regardless of sort of our discipline tendency, if you will?
MONIQUE: Right. I think what’s helped me is just recognizing first, give yourself grace that your plan and I like to plan, you know, usually the evening before or it’s a Sunday and I’m thinking through, okay, what’s what’s the plan coming up this week? Everything. Not just work, work, personal life, but just what’s the week? And I do I look a week out, What’s the plan? What’s the priority? And so much that I always have as an urgent priority sometimes changes, whether that’s changing school, for the most part, academe is pretty set, but the client schedule, there could be a new milestone or a need or something that comes up. And so I find the more that I’m able to have a plan but be flexible when those surprises or unforeseen things come up, that just helps me to be able to navigate it a little bit better and recognize that not everything has to be urgently done at that moment. So I think in the past where I was someone who very much prioritized just action and getting things done, I’m finding now with the two careers that I’m juggling and also wanting to make sure I’ve got a personal life, to just slow down a little bit and really be intentional about what I’m doing. And so focusing on impact over the quantity of hours has really been helpful.
DOUG: That’s a really smart approach. And I know you’ve been giving advice to PRSSA students who are looking forward to successful careers in the industry. Any advice that you share with them that would make sense to also give to people who maybe have already started their careers?
MONIQUE: Absolutely. So I think it’s never too early to lead with your value. And that is something that when I was a BU student and PR member, I thought to myself, How much value can I really bring? I’m just starting off, I don’t really know too much, but I found my value at that moment was really just networking and being able to connect people, whether connecting a friend to another friend who wanted more information about particular internships or companies where they were, or connecting people with professors. And so this notion of of whether that’s your value as a connector or your value as something specific, a knowledge or a skill that you have, advice, always lead with that. And I think there’s a great opportunity for students in all regions this year, but in particular the Northeast region. There is a conference, Northeast District conference coming up. It will be hosted at BU, but it’s open to all students in the northeast. February 25th. If you would like to learn more about PR and have this opportunity to network with each other. So I think the more you get yourself out there, hey, it’s been two or three years of really shutting in and being alone, now is the time to get out. Network, meet people, learn and grow, and you never know if your next opportunity for PR, you might get through someone you met at the conference.
DOUG: Brilliant how you were able to show by example and show by doing working in the Cloud for your upcoming event. So beautifully done.
MONIQUE: I want to be a good PR person if I couldn’t do PR for the conference.
DOUG: Absolutely. I get that. It’s always such a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks so much for being part of the show.
MONIQUE: Thank you so much, Doug. Take care.