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Getting Along With A Little Help From New Friends

confidence inspiration kimberly howard

For years I bragged that whenever I chose to, I could jump back into the workforce. Who wouldn’t want an experienced marketing communications exec? I knew enough about social media and SEO to wing it in the workplace. Plus, I’m a quick learner! With this mindset, last fall, I pulled together my resume and joined LinkedIn. Sure, I’d have to take a step back from where I was on the pay scale, but I didn’t have any doubt about my ability to land a position. I was relaunching! I was eager to return to the ranks of the working. What I soon learned, however, is that job hunting is completely different now than it was 20 years ago and I simply did not have the tools to navigate this new process on my own.

Relaunching into the workforce after eighteen years as a stay at home mom did not turn out as I’d envisioned.

Let me backtrack. I spent several years as a career-focused working mother with three kids. I absolutely loved working! My days were filled with intellectual challenges, solving problems, managing people, and connecting socially. Spending my days with adults who shared my passion for creativity and hard work was FUN. And then, one day, I became that mom – the one who shocked the legion of stay-at-home moms when, after my third child, I shifted gears and joined their ranks.

My opt-out years were packed with volunteer and charity work, and part-time stints as a ski instructor and at the front desk of a gym. I completed my master's. I did pro-bono marketing and freelance writing for friends and former colleagues. At one point, l went back to school and became certified as a teacher. I subbed and tutored, but never embraced the new career or full-time work.

At 24, 22, and 18 now, my kids have become adults. Two are college graduates with jobs, apartments, and bills. My youngest leaves for college soon. Sailing regattas, PTO commitments, and my family’s constantly evolving activities no longer dictate my schedule.

So, last fall, with a looming empty nest, a retirement account in need of fortification, and a job search strategy that needed a jumpstart, I began looking for help. I’d spent hours refining my résumé, writing and rewriting cover letters, researching companies, and awkwardly networking. I applied for over 50 jobs, was invited to some interviews but, most often, heard nothing at all. I made it to the final round for two positions, but, ultimately, none of my efforts netted me a job offer. I knew I had to take action, to do something different.

An online search led me to Prepare to Launch U. I was thrilled. The program spoke to my needs. Susan and Kelley could help me, I was certain. I wanted to jump right in and start the course but, if I’m being completely honest, I was afraid. Was it fear of failure? Fear of success? Was it the discomfort of spending money on myself? Was I embarrassed that I needed help? Perhaps it was all of the above.

I became a regular visitor to the PTLU website and really liked what I saw. From watching their sample videos, I felt connected to Kelley and Susan; I trusted them. I felt like they understood me and, more importantly, that I could be successful in the course. But I didn’t sign up. Something was holding me back.

I continued reading the PTLU newsletters and blog posts. I “liked” and commented on their posts on Facebook and Instagram. I even trolled their website and read old newsletters. I felt like these ladies were the real deal. But I didn’t sign up. I remained stagnant, stuck,
“circling the drain” in PTLU speak.

Close to the holidays, an email arrived in my inbox (or was it a FB post? maybe both!) introducing a new “cohort” that PTLU was starting and inviting me to join. I realized that this was just what I needed to get “unstuck”: accountability. The cohort would allow me to move at my own pace through the course (which I need because family demands require me to travel up and down the East coast) but it would provide structure and the push I needed to get the work done. The PTLU cohort raised the bar for me and allowed me to fully commit to the course. I enrolled right away.

Now, eight weeks in, I am much more confident in myself and about my future. I’m keeping up with the weekly work and enjoy connecting every Friday with my group to review the work we’ve done, talk about obstacles and share a few laughs. These women are from all over the country; our stories are different, yet so much the same. We are journeying together, and supporting each other on the way – with Susan and Kelley as our guides.

Susan shares her practical, real-world experience as a seasoned business executive and placement professional, and Kelley taps into why I struggle with certain aspects of the process and provides the answers. Together, the pair has provided me what I couldn’t provide myself: a career roadmap and a step-by-step process to guide me through.

Doing something for myself (other than a mani-pedi) feels a bit foreign, but I’m thoroughly enjoying being a student these days. During my opt-out years, I had lost some of the confidence and passion that came with a challenging career. There is no part of me that would trade the time I had with my children and my family. What an unexpected gift that time was for me; I have cherished it. But over those years of caring for others, I lost some of myself. Now, as part of the PTLU course cohort, I am reclaiming it. I’m seeing my self-confidence return and I feel like a new, and better, version of myself, is emerging.


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