Owner, Alexia Vernon Empowerment LLC
Teaching heart-centered, high-impact communication and ethical leadership skills, Alexia has provided learning and development programs for over 100 colleges, secondary schools, companies and professional associations. Her recently launched brand Step Into Your Moxie takes the form of solo public speaking boot camps, seminars, a weekend Moxie Camp and a yearlong MasterTreat™ to grow women’s confidence READ MORE »
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: After winning the Miss Junior America competition as a college freshman at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to be on the speaking circuit. Devastated by how many young women in my audiences struggled to answer the question I always asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” at 20 I entered the Independent Means National Youth Business Plan competition with a proposal for a nonprofit girls’ leadership development institute. And I won! So then, I had an opportunity to walk my talk. I used the proceeds from the award to start my grassroots nonprofit organization, teaching classes in women’s history, goal setting, public speaking, expressive arts, and social change. By the time I graduated from college, I realized that I had more learning and development of my own to do before I would feel comfortable running a company. Plus, I was hungry to perform. I went to New York University for graduate school, began performing with The Stolen Chair Theatre Company, and wound up working for an educational theatre company, the Creative Arts Team – leading professional development programming for teachers, social workers, and nonprofit professionals who wanted to use interactive drama strategies to better serve the populations they worked with. I loved training adult learners and providing career advice to our students. And although I was an effective administrator, I knew within a few years that staying in this role was a surefire path to burnout for me. When given the opportunity to teach women’s studies, public speaking, and theatre for CUNY and New Jersey City University (NJCU), I jumped at it. Simultaneously, I got certified through the International Coach Federation (ICF) as a coach. And in 2007, I formed my coaching and training business – now called Alexia Vernon Empowerment, LLC. As an author, speaker, coach, and trainer, I work with individuals and companies looking to make heart-centered, high impact communication and peak performance a way of being. In 2010 I published my first book, Awaken Your CAREERpreneur: A Holistic Road Map to Climb from Your Calling to Your Career and in April 2012 I release my second book, 90 Days, 90 Ways: Onboard Young Professional to Peak Performance. In 2011 I also launched a new brand, Step Into Your Moxie, focused on helping women develop the interpersonal communication, negotiation, and public speaking skills to move people to action in their companies and communities.
Q: I love the quote “the bigger the vision, the smaller the first step.” Right now, what is the big vision you have for your career?
A: I often say that I know I was put here on this equal parts wonderful and wonky earth to create a revolution in women’s communication. I want my legacy to be catalyzing millions of women into their “moxie” so that they are speaking their powerful messages and having them lead to the results they seek. Having been sexually abused as a child, I learned at four years old to speak up and out about what was going on. This initial act of moxie both saved my life and laid the foundation for a lifetime of calling out what I see – the good, the bad, and the confusing.
Q: Can you share a story of how networking led to a great success?
A: When I relocated back to Las Vegas after spending six years in New York, I had more than a few panic attacks. How was I going to be able to quickly build a steady stream of individual and organizational clients in the city with the nation’s largest foreclosure and unemployment rate? My answer was that I was going to have to throw myself fully into getting to know the decision makers in town and making myself irresistibly attractive to them! My strategy was reading everything about the local community I could get my hands on and emailing notes of introduction along with requests for tea or lunch to the people I decided I needed to meet. I built a robust network and generated a lot of business this way. From one of these intros, I have secured multiple six-figures worth of work in just a little over a couple of years. I learned the valuable lesson that when you know who you need to meet, it’s important to put in the elbow grease to get face time with him or her.
Q: A great negotiation can be game changing for one’s business or life. Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating and asking for what they want compared to women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable negotiating?
A: People who know me well get a kick out of the fact that I’ll negotiate whenever I get the chance – whether it’s for a higher speaking fee or a hotel room upgrade. Negotiating effectively is a skill, and to get good at it requires practice. In order to get to a place where you feel confident and competent in your negotiation, it’s important to frame it as a creative, confidence-building activity with myriad ways of walking away getting what you want. To ensure this outcome, it’s important for a woman to get clear on what the person she is negotiating with wants, how to structure her questions, know when to stay quiet, and perhaps most importantly, practice out loud. Negotiating is a form of public speaking, therefore the rule that for every minute you plan to speak you want to rehearse 1-2 hours applies.
Q: Many people become discontent with their current career yet are too afraid or reluctant to make a change. What’s your best advice for women in this situation?
A: First, let go of the notion that there is “the” career for you. This relieves the pressure to discover the perfect j-o-b and makes it easier to stay engaged where you are for the time being. Most of us can be happy in myriad professional roles and industries. Muse on the questions, What kind of role will allow me to align my values and my strengths? What kind of work environment (i.e., culture, balance of structure/freedom, etc.) will most enable me to thrive? What are the tasks that I really want to be performing throughout my day? What kind of lifestyle do I want to live, and what kind of income do I need to sustain it? Because I believe that how you leave one opportunity is how you will show up to the next, the best thing you can do to accelerate future success and happiness while pursuing “next” is to focus on who you want to be moving forward and start living life as her in your current work digs.
Q: How do you overcome feelings of insecurity, fear or discomfort when deciding to take a risk?
A: First, I keep a copy of Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear…And Do It Anyway on my desk at all times. Any time I feel myself going into a place of ick I read one of the many passages I’ve highlighted, and it always brings me back into my power. Second, I spend a lot of time using meditation and visualization to bring peace to any parts of my body that ache. I believe that the greatest way to manifest what you want is to imagine how you will feel when you have achieved whatever that is by creating the feeling in your body…NOW. It has been my most effective way to expedite success and keep fear and anxiety in check.
ON Giving Back
Q: Can you share with us an experience of giving that was extremely rewarding or transformational?
A: I spend a lot of time supporting sexual abuse prevention and rehabilitation. There was one day a couple of weeks ago where I went from coaching the Boys and Girls Club’s Nevada Youth of the Year on his speech about overcoming molestation to leading a coaching group for recovering sexual offenders who are transitioning back into the community. I got home that day and just sobbed…seeing more clearly than perhaps I ever had how often the only thing that separates a “victim” and a “perpetrator” is his ability to share the story of his abuse and receive the appropriate support to heal. Knowing that I was playing a role in ensuring that this young man I was working with, and other young men who will hear his story, don’t wind up in a future sex offender group made me feel incredibly on purpose and part of “the solution.”
ON Self Care
Q: What do you believe is the secret to finding the right person and maintaining a long term, good relationship?
A: I’m proud of many of my achievements, and at the top of my list is building a thriving marriage. While finding my life partner was the last thing on my mind when I met my guy my senior year of college, I knew after one month of dating that I wanted to share my life with him. (Although, fortunately, I had the good sense to wait six years to do it!) The top three lessons I’ve learned after a decade together, although they’ve been more by default than design, are 1) flex the way you communicate so that your partner can always truly hear you; 2) have wicked amounts of fun with one another; and 3) work on yourself rather than on your partner. If you consistently feel out of synch with the person you are seeing, trust that it’s not meant to be. There’s a difference between working on the relationship and working on the person.
Q: If you love to cook, can you share a favorite recipe(s)?
A: I’m pretty obsessed with green juice right now. Every day I have my morning ritual. I meditate. I bounce on my trampoline. Then, I throw a cucumber, celery, kale, romaine, bok choy, a lemon, an apple, ginger, and whatever other veggies I might have floating around into my Breville and get my juice on!
Q: If you were to write a book, what would it be about?
A: While I’m confident that I have several dozen books inside of me – and will at times crossover from business and self-improvement to memoir and perhaps even children’s writing, my current book is on developing next generation talent in the workplace. In 90 Days, 90 Ways: Onboard Young Professionals to Peak Performance, I show hiring managers, trainers, HR professionals, corporate coaches, and anyone with a stake in new hire success how to get new employees oriented, integrated, and delivering results within their first 90 days of employment. It’s chock-full of coaching strategies, industry best practices, stories, and role plays to make it, as bestselling author Lisa Haneberg so generously says, “fluid, fun, and insanely useful.”