Stories from the Road: One Mom’s Journey to Working in New York
My initial thinking was – and I think this is true for a lot of women – “I can’t do this. I haven’t cashed a check in 11 years.” But with my friend’s help, I was able to write, and eventually look someone in the eye and say, that because of my volunteer experience, because I was a “home engineer” (which is what I called it), I had leadership skills.
I met an amazing woman this week named Tara Quist. She got me thinking about the R (Reaching Out) in our PRES model differently then I’d ever thought about it before.
Typically, when I teach, I explain “Reaching Out” as being the ability to build relationships through empathy, listening, and authentic connection. But after speaking with Tara, I have a new appreciation for what it feels like to be on the receiving end of someone actively reaching out — exactly when and how you need it. Tara taught me that: “It’s when someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself.”
The day I met Tara she had just gotten off the phone with a client from a $3 billion company. They called to ask her opinion on a strategy they were considering.
Of course Tara is the one they would call, as Manager, Channel Services at The Garrigan Lyman Group, she’s not only a subject matter expert in her field, she’s their trusted advisor. But it wasn’t always this way.
Back in 2008, Tara was a stay-at-home mom that hadn’t worked in over a decade. As we all know, 2008, and the years that followed, were difficult. Thousands of people lost their jobs, and Tara’s husband was one of them. They both realized that Tara was going to have to start to make some money in order to help support their family of 5. She told me:
When my husband said, “Honey, you’re going to have to go back to work,” I thought, “Oh my God. I haven’t worked in 11 years! I don’t even know where my resume is! Who in their right mind is going to hire me?”
But I was lucky, because I have some wonderful women friends. One friend especially, Kristine — who has been very successful herself — really injected me with a lot of confidence. She convinced me to put everything I’d been doing, which was a lot of volunteer work, on paper. She told me those skills would be valuable to somebody in the business world.
And she was right.
Really, one of the hardest things to do is to get a volunteer organization to do something, to do anything! No one is getting paid. No one really cares if a project gets done this week or next month. And I’d gotten a lot done as a volunteer. One time, I helped raise over $45,000 for a women’s organization that donated the funds to five different recipients.
A lot of soul searching went into me being able to write that resume.
My initial thinking was – and I think this is true for a lot of women – “I can’t do this. I haven’t cashed a check in 11 years.” But with my friend’s help, I was able to write, and eventually look someone in the eye and say, that because of my volunteer experience, because I was a “home engineer” (which is what I called it), I had leadership skills. I had project management skills. I had organizational skills. I could multitask.
The experience of putting that all down on a piece of paper made me believe that someone would talk to me. That I was worth a cup of coffee.
My relationship with Kristine, and her belief in me, was a real turning point. My personality has really changed since then. I was very insecure and I’d make myself small. But she helped me build my story, and as a result, my confidence. I got a job. And then another. And then the job I have now. I’ve learned so much since then.
During Tara’s transition she became a member of Women@Work, a networking and placement agency. Recently she was invited to one of their meetings, only this time, as a panel member. The panel’s focus? How to re-enter the workforce after having taken time off —and what to put on your resume!
She told me:
I felt very blessed to be able to pay it forward. I’d gone to their networking events when I was searching and now I was sitting on a panel helping others. You never know where life is going to take you — or how you will be changed by it when it does.
Meeting Tara got me thinking and I hope her story can inspire you too. Who do you know that may need some encouragement right now? Take a moment to reach out to them. Let them know you believe in them. Give them a gift that they too will be able to pay forward. As I’ve learned, that’s what reaching out is all about.
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