A lesson from Jenna Craven on how to dig deep when your career seems to be on the rocks
ROWLETT, Tex. - When Jenna Craven decided to leave everything behind in Florida to start a new chapter in her life in Texas, it was with one goal in mind: to advance her career in hospitality. However, little did she know that less than six weeks into her new journey she would be without a job.
Before moving to Texas, Jenna worked in Orlando, Florida as a catering event professional at one of the premier convention resorts at Walt Disney World. There she was able to cultivate her passion for all things beverage including wine, spirits, and cocktails. Her interest in this grew so much that, with support from her leaders, she was able to test for the Certified Sommelier exam and take the Southern Glazer's Academy of Spirits and Mixology.
“I was blessed to be able to sit for my [introductory], as well as my certified sommelier, and became really interested in learning more about spirits,” Jenna explained. “I found that I had a real passion for cocktails and spent most of my free time researching classic drinks and creating my own [cocktail] versions at my home bar.”
While taking and passing both, the introductory sommelier course and the certified sommelier examination, Jenna discovered the world of spirits, specifically whiskey, and decided to learn more about that topic. She became so well versed in whiskeys that she was asked by her employer at the time, to lead her own workshop during the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic. She called the historical and engaging workshop “Freedom and Whiskey” which is a play on words from the poem “The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer” by Robert Burns.
“The connection I made for my class was, where you find whiskey you find a government
trying to profit from it and therefore, some type of rebellion or rebellious spirit that shapes the production and history,” Jenna explained.
After spending over 11 years working her way up to a senior event and catering sales manager position, she was ready for a bigger leadership role.
With her beverage expertise in tow, Jenna landed a position as Assistant Director of Event Planning in Dallas with Gaylord Hotels in February. She didn’t know anyone in Texas but what she did know, is in order to advance to a director position, she would need to take a leap of faith. It was like a dream come true for Jenna, as she could once again apply her knowledge for all things catered food and beverage to her new environment.
However, she was in her role for less than six weeks when the Covid-19 pandemic started, and consequently, she received notice from her employer that she would be going on furlough. Living in a new state, unable to explore the city, and knowing very few people, Jenna’s tenacity was put to the test.
“This was a real test of my sanity. Being quarantined by myself, in a new city that I could not explore, was extremely isolating. After running through all the stages of grief, I realized I needed something to keep me connected to myself,” Jenna said.
To stay connected, Jenna started doing Zoom calls with some friends from Orlando, where they would each share something they learned that week about the beverage industry.
“My weekly zooms with my girls back in Orlando usually included a conversation about what I was drinking and how I came up with it,” Jenna said. “After spending a lot of time self-reflecting, I thought, I'm always sharing what I've learned about drinks with my friends and the people I meet. Everyone seems to enjoy what I make them and the information I share, I wonder if other people would too?”
That’s when Jenna decided to start making videos on Youtube called Jen n’ Tonic; a tongue in cheek channel with her creative cocktail concoctions, mixed with a little bit of history. According to Jenna, Jen n’ Tonic is for anyone who finds themselves “wondering where a cocktail came from or how to make it yourself.”
For example, on her channel, you can find easy-to-follow instruction for how to make a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, or even how to make your own bitters.
There’s even a segment on how to make a daiquiri and not the sugary, frozen cocktail that you’re used to. She shares the beginning of the daiquiri and the step-by-step instructions on how to make the classic beverage from home. In each of her videos, you will see her passion come through the screen which is what makes her channel so unique.
“The world of beverages is vast; don’t let it turn you off from learning and experiencing.
The best drink in the world is the one that you like and is made how you like it,” Jenna said.
To add other elements of endearing to her videos, you will see cameos from her loveable pup, Lucy, and seasonal themes mixed in. This month she’s getting her viewers ready with Thanksgiving and holiday themes cocktails.
As for the future, Jenna has her sights on producing more videos, virtual and in-person beverage seminars, and perhaps developing a website complete with her own merchandise and beverage mixers, such as syrups or bitters. She advises anyone who is on furlough or under similar circumstances to dig deep and tap into those skills that fostered your career in the first place. No matter what, she says, “don’t lose yourself and find who you are inside.”
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