USE YOUR NETWORK
In the previous chapter, you read of the importance of keeping your network alive. If you have done this well, they’ll be there to help you when you relaunch. Just ask lawyer Karen Dienst.
She had an enviable career, first clerking for a judge in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, then working her way up to partner at the prestigious law firm of Morrison & Foerster. She went on to become vice president and general counsel for ADAC Laboratories. And she managed to have four children during it all. After nearly five years in her role as general counsel, Karen decided to pause her career.
“I had accomplished everything I set out to do professionally and I decided I wanted to put my energies into my family,” Karen told me.
She spent eight years at home, and then it was time to re-ignite her career. Karen went on a “listening tour” to find out which jobs might be well suited given her skills, abilities, and interests. She loved the law, but she had no passion for working in a large firm. It was a past colleague who introduced Karen to her current business partner, Kathy Woeber Gardner.
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“My colleague knew us both and believed we’d work well together,” Karen said. He was right. Karen and Kathy launched Montgomery Pacific Law Group, a boutique law firm focusing on the needs of emerging and later-stage companies.
Karen might not want to be compared to Alicia Florrick of the television show The Good Wife, but the comparisons are apt. For both, it was a colleague who knew them before they paused—in Alicia’s case, an old law school classmate—that helped them relaunch.
Penny Locey says this is very common. “They remember you as you once were, not as you are. For them, you have been frozen in time and so the professional skills and abilities you had are still alive in their memory of you. As a result, they can be your best resource for a new job.”
Your network isn’t limited to past colleagues; what about those who know you today? A significant portion of women who pause their careers donate their extensive skills and talents to volunteer work. The women and men they meet as a result are often exactly the new network they need to re-ignite their careers.
As one woman told me, “At my children’s preschool, a group of ten women had been meeting regularly to help raise funds for a new playground and to create an endowment so we could offer scholarships to under-resourced children. Somehow the conversation came up about our pre-mother life. Of that group of ten, I learned that four had MBAs, two were previously lawyers, one had her PhD, and another was a successful entrepreneur. They became my network when I was ready to relaunch.”
It was Kim Drew’s new network that helped her find her dream job. After building her professional foundation, she left a senior position in business development for Charles Schwab to care for her three young children. For two years Kim threw herself into her role as stay-at-home mom. She volunteered in school, took her kids to the park, and proudly made organic, nutritious dinners. She found a job working part-time as a strategy consultant but eventually she was ready to be all-in again.
During her pause, Kim had served on the board of the Friends of the San Francisco Library. One of her colleagues from the board told Kim about a job at JVS, a vital nonprofit committed to helping under-resourced and under-prepared people find jobs in the Bay Area. For Kim, it was a natural fit. She wanted to make sure others could find great jobs just as she had. Today, Kim is the vice president of business development of JVS.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if the network I developed as a volunteer hadn’t supported my efforts to re-ignite my career,” Kim said. “You never know who will be there to help you make that next big leap.”