Author Jennifer Folsom is partnering with Know Your Value’s A-list roster of experts to launch REBOOT Camp, a series featuring women who have lost their jobs amid Covid-19 and are struggling with their employment search amid uncertain times.
We are following their journeys, their highs, and lows, in hopes that sharing their experience will help others looking to reboot their careers as well.
I first met Dana Taylor nearly 15 years ago at a networking event hosted by Her Corner, an organization that supports the growth of women small business owners. I was immediately drawn to her warm smile and Nashville drawl, and we swapped stories of the challenges of growing a business. Her expertise, you see, was in helping other small businesses build healthy sales pipelines and marketing plans.
Fast forward a few years and her business was thriving, even as she was expecting her first child. Then things took a turn for the worse. A week before her daughter was born, her mother passed away. And one day after giving birth, Taylor’s daughter had to be sent on a life flight for an emergency surgery to correct an intestinal blockage. Then, six months later, her mother-in-law passed away.
Naturally, her business took a back seat to caregiving, grieving and finding a new normal. Her small consulting practice stayed in business with a few long-time clients, but for the 44-year-old, Prince George County, Maryland mom, her focus was on her family.
Later, buoyed by a strong network and a stellar reputation, Taylor was referred to a variety of employers to take on ad hoc consulting projects, from managing federal IT projects, to facilitating strategic leadership retreats. This type of part-time work allowed Taylor the flexibility she needed to be there for her daughter, husband and extended family. But two months ago, due to Covid-19, she lost her last client. Her clients were faced with economic uncertainty and, looking to cut costs, eliminated her contract support.
Now Taylor’s daughter is in kindergarten, albeit virtually, and she feels ready to get her career back on track. The problem? She had no idea where to start.
“You know, Jenn,” she told me. “I have been so blessed to have so many different opportunities, but I’m not sure what I even want to do next. And even if I did, I don’t know how to tell my story. My resume is a real patchwork of experience.” But on top of that, how could she evaluate employers’ flexibility to support her other role supervising virtual kindergarten?
Find your focus.
Taylor knew she had great skills, and she had a good idea of what she wanted to do, but she had no idea how to get started and focus her job search. Turner recently turned to Diane Flynn, CEO and co-founder of Reboot Accel, a California-based coaching and consulting firm dedicated to supporting women in the workplace. To get started, Flynn gave Taylor some homework, a personal inventory worksheet, to get clarity on the values that would drive a job search focus.
Armed with her completed personal inventory, Flynn led Taylor on a “Five for Focus” exercise to jumpstart her job search. These five easy steps are great for anyone looking to kick off a job search, or to find new momentum when a search has stalled.
2. List five elements of these roles, and incorporate them into your resume and LinkedIn profile. Is it a specific area of expertise? A people manager role? Using a particular type of technology or requiring a certification? What are the common factors across these ideal jobs?
3. Draft a headline for your LinkedIn Profile and resume. Make it clear, compelling and specific to the unique value you bring to a future employer.
4. Identify eight non-negotiable values for your future job
5. Ask yourself: What in your job search is sparking joy? Where are you holding back?
“This exercise was incredibly valuable,” said Taylor. “It allowed me to focus my time and research on my ideal roles, and I am identifying my non-negotiable values and must-haves.”
Taylor is now focused on finding a role in organizational development that prioritizes mentorship and leadership development. She has identified her professional values as intellectual curiosity, empathy, community, and work-life balance, which will help her hone her search on organizations that support that culture. Taylor wants to help teams and organizations thrive through a combination of relationship building and the use of data.
Stay on track.
Although she was getting great support from Flynn, Taylor was a little slow to start. It took her longer than expected to return Flynn's calls and to complete her coaching homework. Knowing this wasn’t her typical style, I asked why. “Overwhelm with pandemic life and having a 5-year-old velcroed to me 24/7 is a massive understatement!” she proclaimed.” “Me-time is fairly a myth. I’m so trying to not make excuses, but that too feels impossible. So, I’m adjusting. I do feel like this opportunity to open new doors is energizing, and it’s helping me find excitement in my daily tasking.”
Knowing so many women are a year into quarantine caretaking and overwhelmed with daily life, much less a job search, I turned to mom of three and CEO of Jobs.Mom Zabeen Mirza for advice. “Set weekly targets for everything. How many jobs you’re going to apply for. How many companies you’re going to follow up with,” Mirza said. “Keep lists, keep updating those lists, and keep adjusting targets as you see progress. Visuals go a long way psychologically in keeping you motivated,” Mirza added.
Here are some lessons YOU Can Learn from Dana Taylor:
1. Find your focus. Give the “Five for Focus” exercise a try. What did you learn? How did it impact your own job search? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Set Goals. Consistency is key, as is discipline. “A lot of job hunting is a numbers game,” said Mirza. “The more you apply, the better your chance of response. A visual tracker of those goals will serve as a motivator to keep you going, even if it’s only 30 minutes per day.
3. Keep Going. Even if you have stops and starts, you have to keep going. Take a day off? Double down the next day. Get two rejections in a row? Keep your head up and your search going strong. After all, “momentum is only possible if you’re moving,” advised Mirza.
Job searches can drag on. Even without pulling double duty with caretaking and virtual schooling, it’s extremely challenging to stay focused, positive, and committed to the process. Set goals, keep lists and mark your progress.
In a few weeks, we will hear from Taylor how her now-focused job search is going. We will hear about her hurdles- including an Achilles tendon injury (ouch!)- and successes in her pandemic job search.
Jennifer Folsom is vice president of growth at ICF Next. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband Ben and has three teenage sons. Her practical guide to modern working motherhood," The Ringmaster," is out now.