Read what my former clients have to say about our work together.


“To tackle my time management concerns, she worked with me to break up my ‘to-dos’ into manageable pieces and to develop realistic and measurable goals. I was able to make a workable plan to finish a manuscript. The plan was one that I could accomplish, feel good about and build upon. The plans we made were so easy to integrate into my life that I was able to start building sustainable habits. This increased my productivity to advance my thesis work in an efficient way.

“Every step of the process with Jen was positive and encouraging. This allowed me to be free to explore what I really wanted and find the clarity I needed. Of course, everyone’s needs are different and Jen works with people on their own goals. This is why a coach like Jen is a great addition to your team of teachers, friends, mentors and advisors.”

– Nadia Ayala-Lopez, pharmacology & toxicology PhD candidate, in “Need Clarity? Hire a Career Coach,” Pushing Your PhD, 16 Feb 2016.


“When I first started thinking about where I’d land, I worked with Jennifer Polk, a coach who specializes in postacademic careers. She listened well, let me verbalize what steps I wanted to take, and kept me on track as I sorted out my strengths and weaknesses. She was especially great at helping me to articulate what I wanted (a job with some flexibility but not necessarily the terror of freelancing) and what I didn’t want (a low-paid position at a nonprofit) without any sort of guilt or emotional attachment. (I felt a lot of guilt at first for not wanting to work in the nonprofit sector. Jen made me feel like I was under no obligation to go into any particular career. This was what I needed at the time.)”

– Elizabeth Keenan, ethnomusicology PhD, in “Ph.D.s Do Have Transferable Skills, Part 2,” Vitae, 10 Aug 2015.


“I am writing, belatedly, to say thanks for the work we did together a few years ago. The sessions we did together were really impactful in helping me think about what I wanted to do with my career. Focusing on what I love (research) helped me feel good about career transition, though it did take me a year to find the right fit.

“After our sessions I started to look in earnest for a new job (and went back to work in a university in the meantime). I did a series of information interviews with private sector health research companies and museum folks. I also worked to re-do my resume. In the end I am working as a museum curator. I truly feel so much better off in this role. I think it was the process of reflecting on what I wanted that made my transition go so smoothly (and relatively quickly).”

Jenny Ellison, PhD


Cathy’s Story

Goal: Get Writing and Build Sustainable Work Habits

My biggest challenge was in my head; I was preventing myself from addressing the real issue that was the instigation for the intense writer’s block I was experiencing with my dissertation.  With one simple question, Jen inspired a process of deep reflection within myself, one that took me to a place I had not consciously wanted to go.  I was instantly able to address the real challenge that was preventing me from moving forward.  It was truly an epiphany for me.  The clarity was freeing!

While this realization was the true challenge behind my writer’s block, I still felt a need for reassurance that I am capable of building sustainable work habits, and I had to realize that only I have the power to keep myself on this forward path.  Jen was instrumental in helping me see the real problem, and inspiring me to find ways to keep the motivation attainable with a strategy that works for me.  Jen’s ability to ask the right, and real questions was not only invaluable, but I feel it was also priceless!

I see this as Jen’s greatest gift; her ability to ask the right questions, at the right time.  I needed to solve the problem in a way that fits into my life, and the simplicity of what that looks like for me developed from the gentle, yet provocative questions posed by Jen.  Not only have I been able to free myself of the excuses I was making for not moving forward, I have been able to feel the excitement about writing, and the research that has eluded me for over a year.

– Cathy Coulthard, PhD candidate


Kate’s Story
Goal: Launch business website

“Working with Jen helped me think beyond jobs into how I wanted to shape my career. I knew that I wanted to develop career goals outside of the tenure track but beyond vague ideas about starting to consultant after work hours didn’t know what to do.”

– Katharine Bullard, PhD, https://katharinebullard.com/


Joseph’s Story

Goal: Greater Career Clarity

“I didn’t know what to expect from a career coach before working with Jen, but a friend recommended her and I liked that her approach is grounded to some degree in positive psychology. I wasn’t necessarily wedded to leaving academia, and I liked that Jen took a more holistic approach to helping you figure out your career future.

“In working with Jen, I developed some more clarity about what my goals are and what steps I can take to get closer to them. I won’t say I have everything figured out, but I think it really did help to have someone pushing me with focused questions, helping figure out what my goals are and what steps might help get there. Her process is centered around asking directly what you hope to achieve in each session, and then hashing that out as clearly as possible so that you can achieve it. Mostly, the answers end up coming from you. Jen might offer a few ideas, but mostly she helps guide your own thinking, helping you answer your own questions.

“I think people who are looking for a more general approach to what their career ambitions are could benefit from working with Jen. Someone who wants specific help on updating a resume or crafting a cover letter are better off with someone who focuses more on that. But if you’re puzzling through what it is you want to do, Jen can be a helpful, positive voice in that process.”

– Joseph Tyler, linguistics postdoc


Rachel’s Story

Goal: The Right Next Job

“Jen kept me on task, gently prodding me out of my ‘Woe is me!’ hyperbole, and urging me to productive action. I came to Jen with a rather vague whine of a goal to make sense of my employment options. Instead of allowing me to wallow in own self-pity, Jen asked probing questions that forced me to consider which factors were most important in choosing a job (management style, organizational mission, day-to-day work, relationship to my doctoral work, etc.), and to weigh these elements in evaluating job announcements and offers.

“The work that Jen and I did together gives me confidence about accepting the job I will start later this week, without the usual what-ifs? and coulda-should-woulda feelings that sometimes accompany such big changes

“I was initially a bit skeptical of Jen’s approach. Coaching? Therapy and advice were more my cup of tea. But Jen made me a believer. Her gentle — but firm — approach took me in new directions with my thinking, forcing me to go one step further, and ultimately coming to an illuminating new (to me) set of conclusions and insights about what I was really looking for in a job.

“I think that Jen is best positioned to work with PhDs who are just starting out in their careers, who perhaps don’t have a sense of what professional options are available to them.”

– Rachel Burstein, history PhD


Ian’s Story

Goal: Career Exploration

“Working with Jen helped me narrow my focus, be accountable, and got me to really think about my career in a more critical way and helped me adopt better habits that I am now building on. Jen’s great at asking questions and is a friendly guide to an exploratory mindset about their careers.

“The surprising thing I got out of working with Jen for a couple months is a better vision for what my life & career might look like. It seems like possibilities have opened up, and I hold a lot of things more loosely than I did before, too. I still stress out about what’s next, but I have a better sense that there is a next that keeps growing with time. Working with Jen really solidified the realistic optimism ideal as well.

“I am grateful I connected with Jen and worked with her.”

– Ian, STEM postdoc


“Jen took me from a lost and distressed postdoc needing a change to a person who understands and acknowledges her values. With these tools in tow, I am now ready to move forward with my life in a healthy and more positive manner, rather than trying to fit myself into the ‘ideal scientist’ who values science above all else life has to offer.”

– M.P., STEM PhD

“I have enjoyed all of my conversations with Jen. I had no idea what to expect when I began with her, but I am delighted where things turned out. I should say that I think I had a great mindset going into my coaching sessions—I never felt like I was in a hopeless place or that I couldn’t change things. Jen has a wonderfully friendly report and openness that make talking to her very enjoyable indeed.”

– Jonathan Auyer, philosophy PhD

“Jennifer got me over the hump that was preventing me from writing. I am now moving ahead with a lot more confidence and clarity about what I am doing and how I should do it. Having someone who is not related to me or on my committee interested in listening on a specific time and date was tremendously useful in terms of getting my thoughts organized—like a self imposed deadline that provides you with accountability to someone else who is not judgmental or critical.”

– Carolyn, ABD

“The process helped me narrow down what I wanted [in my next job]. Jen helped me articulate what I was looking for and keep those goals at the forefront of my mind.”

– Michelle Youngblood

“Jen helped me get out of the rut that was the post-PhD dead end. Being on so many levels invested in my field of study, through our sessions, I gradually separated myself from the academic image so many of us have in our head, towards the reality of really getting on with things, albeit in a different, but even more positive way. I still value my personal academic inclinations, but am no longer deluded by the ivory tower as a place of employment for me.”

– M.N., PhD

“Jen’s Non-Academic Career Group has been a great source of information, encouragement, and networking. I highly recommend it!”

– Jarret Ruminski, history PhD

“Fellow dissertators: I’m defending in a week, and I strongly encourage ALL of you to join the dissertators group! I’ve been meeting with Jen’s Non-Academic Career Group for the final few months of my dissertating, and found it extremely helpful to have the community. We tend not to even realize how isolating the dissertation process can be, and this will help you realize (and remember!) that you’re NOT ALONE!”

– Julie Graves, psychology PhD