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Featured Consultant: Jill Harmon

Former Executive Recruiter Loves Learning, Motivating Others, and ‘Genuinely Making a Difference in People’s Lives’
Executive consultant Jill Harmon seated in her home holding her mandolin musical instrument.
Executive Consultant Jill Harmon

Jill Harmon supports senior leaders who are in career transition, considering an encore career, or preparing for corporate board seats.

A former human resources executive and executive recruiter, she brings an assertive yet empathetic attitude and a spirit of collaboration to all her engagements.


When did you join Navigate Forward?

I started in August 2011. I’m one of the originals! I began part-time, conducting practice interviews, while I was still working in executive search.

What do you enjoy most about your work as an Executive Consultant?

It’s the best job I’ve ever had! And I tell our CEO Anne Sample that all the time. It’s all about the clients. We’re genuinely making a difference in people’s lives at a time when they need it most. I’ve never had a job before which felt as meaningful.

After a decade of guiding executives through career transition, what have you learned? What guidance do you share with senior leaders at these pivotal points?

I’ve realized a key part of my job, of being a successful coach, is emotional support. You have to be 100 percent behind your clients. No matter what’s happening in their lives, I’m there for them. That’s critical. I tell them all, “You will land, but so much of it is about keeping your psyche up, keeping yourself motivated.” That is the hardest part of transition.

I try to match my client’s intensity with empathy, but I’m always about driving, making progress, moving forward—and landing that next job!

Any memorable client experiences?

I’ve had more than 130 clients, all across the U.S. and some as far away as China, Australia, Israel and the United Kingdom. I have memorable experiences with each and every client! I love learning: hearing people’s stories, what they do for a living, and all about the different companies and industries they work in.

Every client has a unique style and unique set of skills—some are better at interviewing, some at networking, some are really good writers. So they all have unique gifts and unique challenges, and for me, that keeps it interesting. The most memorable experiences are the landings. The joy and celebration of every landing is what keeps me going.

Jill Harmon, black and white photo from 1980s, standing in business suit outside a steel mill, holding a cello and bow.
Jill Harmon in the 1980s while working in industrial relations. Playing the cello has been a passion since childhood.

You started your career in industrial relations, then moved into executive search. How do those experiences inform your work at Navigate Forward?

My background in HR and executive search really helps clients because I understand the hiring process from start to finish. I get the importance of a strong professional narrative. I get the importance of a robust networking strategy, and I really get the nuances of the interview process. I can help clients present themselves in a compelling way.

What’s it like working with you as a career coach? What should clients expect?

I’m originally a New Yorker, although I’ve been in Minnesota for 40 years. So I’m a little more assertive—frankly, type A—and definitely a driver. But I’m also empathetic and motivational. I try to match my client’s intensity with empathy, but I’m always about driving, making progress, moving forward—and landing that next job!

We’re genuinely making a difference in people’s lives; I’ve never had a job before which felt as meaningful

I’m also creative and flexible. If something’s not working, let’s pivot. If we’re not getting traction in this market channel, what else can we do? Or how can we meet new people? I like to figure out different ways of networking.

But it’s also a team effort at Navigate Forward. I work with a great, smart group of executive consultants and we work collaboratively, relying on each other for help and guidance. We bounce ideas off each other, like, “This person is struggling—what do you think?” or “Have you ever seen a situation like this?”

Executive consultants KC Foley and Jill Harmon in California.
Executive Consultants K.C. Foley and Jill Harmon in Palm Springs, California. Collaborating as a team is a central to the Navigate Forward approach.

Often, your clients are making plans for corporate board service, either to complement their full-time leadership roles or in preparation for an encore chapter. How does board work fit into your own life?

I’ve been on boards since the 1990s, typically two at a time. I rotated off the Second Harvest Heartland board a couple of years ago and continue to be a longstanding board member with Beyond Walls, where we partner with city schools and offer after school academic, fitness and community service programs. The difference we make in our students’ lives is transformational.

It’s super important for executives to do board work—You’re using skills differently, and it’s a win/win for everybody

I believe in giving back and I tell my clients the same. It’s super important for executives to do board work. It’s brain-building. You’re using skills differently, and it’s a win/win for everybody.

Jill Harmon seated on modern white bench in art gallery looking at artistic book of photos.
When not helping executives discover and reach their career goals, Jill enjoys art, history and architecture.

When you’re not working, where can we find you? What hobbies and activities do you enjoy?

One theme in my life is music. I played the cello since childhood, always in orchestras or ensembles. During COVID, I picked up the mandolin. I’m studying with the goal of joining some local bluegrass groups.

I’m also big historic preservationist. We lived for 28 years in an architecturally significant 1914 Tudor revival in the Crocus Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. We lovingly restored that then downsized. Recently, we bought a historically designated mid-century modern house in Palm Springs, California. My goal is to become active in the Modernist movement out there.

When we travel, I love museums, history and art. And I have a fantastic husband of 40 years, three kids, one grandchild, and another on the way. I’ve loved my professional and personal journey and am grateful for it all.

Meet last month’s Featured Consultant: Patricia Hamm and the rest of Navigate Forward’s powerhouse career coaching team.

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