Mike Jeans joined New Directions, an executive career development firm, in 2001 after being a client of the firm for many years. He served as its president from 2007 to 2013. Before New Directions, Mike was CEO of Roxy.com, Inc.; CEO of the Photo Division at Nashua Corporation; and President of Wesson/Peter Pan Foods, a Conagra Company. Mike developed New Directions’ Board Directorship program and supports The Boston Club as a member of our Corporate Advisory Board and a valued partner in our Board Education Seminar Series.
Q: In your many years of working in this industry, what changes have you noticed?
A. Over the last couple of years, I have witnessed that people truly understand that the company they work for is not controlling their career. They need to do that for themselves! Today’s professional environment is not about just working hard. Leaders and people who want to become leaders need to be proactive and direct their career with a thoughtful understanding about the aspects that give them satisfaction and make them truly happy
Q. If you could give one piece of advice to women, what would it be?
A. Think like a chess player. Think about your next two or three moves down the road. Create your personal board of advisors to help you plan your next steps.
I did this myself after a career change and my move to California—I invited a couple of colleagues I had known for a long time to lunch and asked for their perspective on a new job opportunity. The discussion with my ‘advisory board’ was tremendous in helping to visualize my next moves on the chessboard.
At New Directions, we have developed the concept of a “life portfolio.” In our work with clients, we plan every step of a career, for the time our clients work their day job and – even more important – for their next steps after their day job has ended. It is important to plan for the time after your ‘active duty.’ What are your interests? Do you want to serve on a board or do you want to travel and spend time with your family? Do you want to be engaged in philanthropy or start another career and work for income?
Q. Why are you a member of The Boston Club’s Corporate Advisory Board?
A. What motivates me to serve on the CAB is my strong belief that women actually do make a positive and unique contribution to corporate boards. I've seen it demonstrated on several of the boards that I’ve served.
Q. Tell us about a pivotal moment that helped lead you to the work you are doing today.
A. I faced a couple of pivotal moments in my career: I was ‘downsized’ from a position, I lost a job, and I sold a company I was the CEO of. Every time these pivotal moments came up, I used the services of New Directions to get clarity about my next steps. The work with the ND team was critical for me to develop my new career path and pivot into new things.
Q. Who was the most important role model in your life? What lessons did they impart on you?
A. My dad was my role model. I just watched him in his job, which set the tone for how I conducted business.
I was also influenced by Charlie Perrin, the president of the food division of Chesebrough-Pond's. He taught me the importance of authenticity. For him, it was very important that his team always knew what he stood for, and to show this in his leadership.
Q. Tell me something most people don't know about you.
A. In the past year, I have revisited an earlier part of my life. I became a ski instructor for disabled people at a Gunstock, NH ski resort. I wanted to do a lot more skiing "with a purpose.” This has been really gratifying for me. I have worked with kids with Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and stroke victims. It has been lots of fun, as well as a very rewarding experience. It also forced me outside during the cold winter that we all endured.