Member Spotlight is our way of introducing you to a freelancer who can offer real insight and inspiration for the community. This week’s spotlight is on JILL OZOVEK, a featured speaker at the next Manhattan Spark!

Thanks for joining us Jill! Let’s kick it off with your “origin story.” Why did you make the switch to freelancing?

I’m a former Corporate America worker bee, having worked most of my 20s in the fast-paced conference industry at a top organization. At age 26 I was promoted to division head, with seven direct reports and a multi-million dollar budget, but it was a tough work environment and I found myself getting sucked into something that didn’t ring true to my values.

I took some time off, and worked to redefine what I wanted my career to look like: through this process, I realized I was meant to coach others in doing the same!

So what’s one instance in which freelancing allowed you to stick to your work-life values?

The first time I said no to a project that wasn’t in line with who I am and with my mission.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to have the impact I always strive to have, so I was clear and honest in my explanation of why it wasn’t a fit. This opened me up to projects and opportunities that WERE a fit, and it was amazing to experience.

Speaking of firsts, what advice would you give to someone new to freelancing?

It’s all about putting yourself out there and connecting with people. When I got started, I naively thought people would find me organically online-- and there are quite a few professionals who say that’s how they get all their business. I’m not saying that can’t happen, it’s just rarer than you might think. Relationships, especially when you’re not tethered to a company with built-in infrastructure and relationships, are key.

Connections are key! What’s a past project you still feel connected to, and why?

I participated in and curated a series of workshops this year around curating your best possible work life. You need to actively consider what you value in a career, and assess whether your current situation aligns with those values. It was truly inspirational to meet so many amazing people dedicated to asking themselves, “How do I make sure my career allows me to lead a more fulfilled life overall?”