Chanelle Howell spent seven years working as a banking recruiter before she pivoted to entertainment and content creation.
An alum of CBS’s Survivor, a game show where participants are tasked with completing several challenges on a foreign island in hopes of winning a million-dollar prize, Howell’s experience jumpstarted her career in being in front of the camera and making content.
Today, she’s amassed over 200,000 likes on Tiktok and over 13,000 followers on Instagram, driving engagement to her multi-platform content on everything from hair and beauty to travel. At Essence Girls United Creator’s House, Howell discussed the Power of the Pivot to content in conversation with Devine Blacksher, senior fashion editor of Essence.
Girls United: What do you do career-wise, and what does it look like daily?
Howell: I feel like I am in the middle of a pivot right now. I’ve spent the last seven years in talent strategy and recruiting at some of the world’s top investment banks and financial institutions. I had an interesting opportunity to film a TV show a few years ago that some of you guys may have heard of called Survivor.
I got access and exposure to people who were doing cool things and were all successful and thriving, and they weren’t chasing a corporate ladder. It opened my mind that there were things I could be doing outside of this path that I feel like I was force-fed: you have to get a job, and you work it for X amount of years before you retire.
So, I have now since pivoted from banking to a career in TV and content creation, and I’ve just launched my own recruiting agency helping candidates step into the careers of their dreams. So, in an exciting pivot, right now and so many doors have opened from just one pivot.
Do you think seeing other people chase their dreams impacted your approach to your career and how you reshaped stability?
Howell: The most recent thing that probably forced many people to rethink stability was the pandemic. I think for so long when we think about the generations who were told you must work your entire life, buy a house, retire, and you should be okay.
We were given the same formula as millennials. Some millennials have rejected that, but some have been slow to catch on to the many ways you can be successful and make money. Gen Z specifically has completely rejected it and just shown us that there are ways to thrive in the most unsuspecting ways.
When you have those people that you are exposed to that are all doing interesting, different things, you are then motivated, and you get to ask the question, ‘Why not me?’”
Let’s talk about Survivor. How did that specific experience shape you? What did you learn that has helped you pivot?
Howell: You get a lot of perspectives because it’s just you, it’s the people around you, and it’s how you sustain yourself. Nothing else in the world exists around you. It was an incredible, existential experience where I questioned many things about my life, and you know how we live in excess. I got a great perspective from it and met many interesting people. I got to see what it was like to push your body past what you think you can do. It completely shifts the threshold of what you can and can’t do.
How would you guide other people to open their minds in that way?
Howell: I think that number one is realizing that you don’t want to sleepwalk through life. Number two, trying to figure out what it is that energizes you, that excites you, what fills you up, that passion. The third thing is courage and the boldness to go after it. We’re all created with a purpose, and you’re either trying to find that purpose or you’re trying to live in that purpose.
Things like pay transparency and fully remote work were taboo not even 10 years ago, and now they’re becoming the norm. What are your thoughts on this shift that’s happening?
Howell: Gen Z is a purpose-driven generation. When I think about the main things that Gen Z step into corporate America with or leads within life is number one: flexibility. You know, wanting to move how they want when they want.
We’re talking about a generation who finished high school and college from their couches and bedrooms! They had graduation ceremonies sitting on their couches, and they were successful, right? So, now, imagine telling those same people to be successful, you have to sit in an office for eight hours a day, five days a week. That’s crazy. So I think flexibility is something Gen Z will push for and cause the workplace to evolve.
Mental Health is equally important to Gen Z. How do you maintain your health and wellness?
Howell: I have been super into working out lately because it gives me a chance to blow off steam and have community. That’s something I take pride in is finding community in places and finding people that ground me. I also love to meditate in the morning. I like to take the first 30 minutes to put down what I’m grateful for. I have a gratitude journal. I know a lot of people probably have them. Again, it helps me keep perspective. No matter what happens today, these three things are going to make it a possible day: number one, my health, my family, I have a roof over my head. When you simplify things like that, I believe everything else comes naturally.