As far as I’m concerned, the entire month of May should be dedicated to honoring mothers! This post is dedicated to moms.
Specifically, to both working and stay-at-home mothers who wish to reinvent themselves this year. This may include mothers who wish to return to work after leaving the workforce to start and grow a family, mothers who seek to tweak their work/life balance, mothers who want to switch their line of work to something that resonates with them more deeply or mothers who want to take some time off. I want to honor mothers and their work in- and outside of their homes.
I offer here some resources so moms can begin exploring. The list below is by no means comprehensive, but it includes what I’ve personally found helpful or inspiring as I have considered my own options and supported others through these decisions as a coach. In addition to mothers, nonprofiteers (my term for those who work in the nonprofit world) may also find this post useful. In fact, these resources could be helpful to just about anyone, male or female, looking to reinvent themselves.
All the organizations below were founded by people who care deeply about the challenges and rewards of working and stay-at-home mothers. iRelaunch, Après and The Summit, in particular, also address the importance of the psychological challenges that come with making a career change, just as much as information or skill gaps. These organizations provide various workshops and coaching to meet this need.
iRelaunch seems to be the reigning mother of all relaunching resources at this point. The organization provides services, and information for professionals seeking to return to work after a career break. The website is full of return-to-work articles, success stories by industry (including nonprofit), how-tos, returnship opportunities, events and classes for those looking to make their relaunch, or re-entry into the workforce. The organization’s signature event, iRelaunch Annual Return-to-Work Conference, has been sold out for the last several years.
I spoke with co-founder Carol Fishman Cohen when I was planning my own transition from leading a nonprofit to independent executive coaching back in 2013. I found Cohen to be extremely encouraging and supportive, and she seems to have instilled these traits into her organization’s DNA. Cohen herself took a career break from corporate finance for eleven years to raise her four children, and went back to work full-time in consulting, after which she started iRelaunch with her co-founder Vivian Steir Rabin.
Matt Blumberg, who happens to be a highly engaged father in my neighborhood, started a nonprofit organization called Path Forward, whose mission is to “get people back to work after they’ve taken time off for caregiving.” He launched Path Forward after piloting a successful “returnship” program within his own company, Return Path. A returnship is an internship-like program for experienced workers seeking to re-enter the workforce after an extended hiatus, particularly in a new line of work. The women who participated in his returnship program were all later hired to join the company. Inspired by this success, Path Forward partners with companies to help them design successful returnship programs. I remember running into Blumberg’s wife on the commuter train one morning and hearing about Path Forward for the first time. My heart was fluttering.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Why is it implausible to find a company that’s willing to take a “risk” on a woman?[/pullquote]
While the returnship idea is an established concept thanks to companies like Goldman Sachs (who trademarked this term), J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, this organization hopes to scale the idea beyond the finance industry’s talent recruitment or retention program. There are some things to be wary of, though, when it comes to returnships: some experts have warned that they may encourage pay deflation, or that the term itself undermines those perfectly ready to return full-time. As far as I’m concerned, if you have the time and economic security to try out a field or job, it’s just as beneficial as starting an internship in preparation for a full-time job back in college. We are all adults and I trust that each woman will make the right decision for herself. It’s good to know that we have options.
I will be watching Path Forward and cheering on.
Après, an on-line platform that seeks to help “redefine” how women get back to work, launched this week. I am excited, especially because I got to meet with the co-founder Niccole Siegel Kroll, and because I will be working with some of their member job-seekers as a coach and nonprofit industry expert. The platform, also dubbed The LinkedIn for Women Who Have Taken A Career Break, features full and part-time positions, consulting opportunities, maternity fill-in roles and pro-bono opportunities, as well as inspiration, tools and coaching.
The two women behind Après, Kroll and Jennifer Gefsky, have worked hard to do what is right for both their families and their careers. Gefsky describes some of the challenges she faced in the Huffington Post piece: “I Don’t Regret Opting Out (OK, Maybe Just A Little)“:
I’m still the same highly educated, ambitious woman — I just took a career break. So why does it seem implausible to find a company that’s willing to take a “risk” on a woman who was successful at her job but has a gap in her resume? Why are we not openly welcoming back that kind of brainpower in the corporate world? Why does getting back to work have to be so damn hard?
Well said. I also love Après’ tagline: #Welcomeback.
Do you ever wish you could gather all the people you trust and admire into one room to help you brainstorm a challenge you’re having? The Summit makes this possible. It allows you to convene with a group of trusted advisors and friends who you know can help you make the career changes you want. Now that’s an intervention I would happily stand behind! In fact, I fantasized for a minute about putting one together for myself, with my team of advisors.
Founded by a long time nonprofiteer with City Harvest, Sheilah Crowley, The Summit is a NYC-based career transition service that supports women looking to restart or change their professional trajectory. After weeks of preparation work with a coach, The Summit hosts a one-time conversation for the “Summiter” with the brain trust of her personal advisors, which can include best friends, family members or industry experts. All Summits are customized and facilitated by two coaches in the room, and followed up by a debrief session and development of an action plan, which includes accountability partnership with the “tribe” who participated in the Summit and other supporters who interact with the Summitter day-to-day after the Summit Day.
Crowley believes that those who participate get the same results from this fifteen-hour program as they would from eight months of private coaching. This is another startup whose results I will be watching with excitement.
Including Nonprofits And Diversity
I don’t know about you, but these organizations feel like they’re on to something big. Too many women and men are feeling trapped by lack of work-life options, and the market, I feel, seems to be responding with some options.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Nonprofits are a natural fit for this process.[/pullquote]
I am particularly excited about the way the nonprofit world can step up to engage this valuable pool of workers. I challenge the sector to start thinking of creative ways to engage experienced women professionals in meaningful full-time and part-time opportunities for the sustainability of the nonprofit sector. I have seen way too many excellent nonprofiteers leave the sector altogether after their first or second child, and I have seen way too many nonprofits suffer from turnover of top, seasoned women employees.
And finally, a few words on diversity and access to relaunch programs: From the way their services are priced and the way their marketing materials look, the target market of these great organizations seems to be well-educated, white women with some financial safety net. While these resources provide a great service to women, they may not fully meet the added challenges of low-income working or stay-at-home mothers who may have less financial resources available to them. Women who cannot afford babysitters in order to go back to work most likely cannot afford special events that cost hundreds of dollars and career coaching sessions. I would love to add to this list nonprofits and other organizations dedicated to those mothers who wish to return to work. So if you know of such folks, please let me know in the comments.
But this is certainly an exhilarating start!