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Jane’s Journey Back to Work: A Coaching Case Study

If you are in life stage: Itching to Work Again Posted August 4th, 2015
By Kathryn Sollmann

One of my blog readers in California saw my newsletter headline “Savor Summer’s Sunday and Plan for Monday”, and decided to contact me about her interest in returning to the workforce after time home with family. She is a friend I’ve known since my 20s, so I asked if she’d be game for a different coaching scenario. Instead of paying me a coaching fee, she is going to tell her story and go through the coaching process as a case study for my 9 Lives for Women blog. Each week you’ll learn about her journey back to work and my recommended tips and strategies.

Meet Jane, and read her story…

“I worked during high school summers and then full-time from college graduation until my first child was six months old. For ID-100149090two years, I was Editor-in-Chief of a weekly newsletter—but at 41 years old with a newborn, I could no longer swing the commute, the breast-pump in the closet, and a string of foreign national babysitters who couldn’t communicate with us.  I had my second child about 15 months later. After about three years of full-time motherhood, I started applying for freelance, contract, and part-time work to supplement my primary childcare role, contribute to the family income, and retain a semblance of my professional life.

Over the last 15 years my search for flexible work has been difficult, exasperating, and ultimately not worth the hassle of the commute, the frequent interruptions, and my husband’s inflexible and demanding schedule. The sum total of paid work in this time period has been a six-month contract as a writer for an online media corporation; a freelance editor for a past employer for a few months; a year as a contract editor for another online site, seven months in customer service for a retail company, and most recently, writing and editorial work for a friend/author who wanted help with a book project.

In the volunteer realm, I collected every accolade possible, starting with being a classroom volunteer throughout the elementary school years, to walkathon chair for two years, raising $15,000 twice in a public school (not easy with a diverse population), to a prime volunteer in the private schools, helping in every way, to finally being appointed president of the parent association for two years. Fundraising, community building, monthly board meetings, newsletter creation and writing, staff interaction and support — I feel like I’ve been beaten to a pulp with volunteer work and truly am done with it.

So, here’s my task now, at 56 years old:

I am looking to return to either full or part-time work for mainly these reasons: I miss my professional role and need to work and produce something meaningful to me and get paid for it; I want to show my kids how balancing family and a need to work are not only critical financially but for personal satisfaction.

In the past, I have sent more resumes into cyberspace than I care to recall, only to wonder who, if anyone, read them. I talk to people much more strategically about employment, and assess advertised jobs on only LinkedIn and some of the other online job recruiting sites, such as Indeed and Idealist.

At this point, I realize I don’t have a number of software skills, such as InDesign, but I am not looking to do the same thing I did before. My graduate degree in international relations may be a ticket into a company or nonprofit with international aspects.

My strategies are to use alumni networks, LinkedIn contacts, Facebook and other “friends” around the area. I am acutely aware of my age and the “culture” of organizations, where I simply may not fit in. Fit is key, yes?”

So that’s Jane’s story…and generally speaking, there are some good lessons to be learned. Jane has kept her hand in professional work—for all but a very short period (three years). She has also chosen significant volunteer leadership roles that require business skills. Though these are positives, the challenge will be to convince employers that her patchwork of professional and volunteer work over the past 15 years has kept her current and at the top of her writing and editing game.

Now read “Jane’s Journey Back to Work: The Linkedin Profile” for my first recommendations. After reading this email from Jane, I asked her for a recent resume, the link to her Linkedin profile and a quick “60 second elevator speech” about what she is now looking to do.

Stay tuned.  —KAS

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Photo credit: Aleks Melnik/www.freedigitalphotos.net



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