The inaugural ‘Relaunch: Career Reentry for Professional Women’ began in October.
The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce wants to get women back to work.
The organization recently launched a pilot program to educate and train older women to rejoin the workforce. Titled “Relaunch: Career Reentry for Professional Women,” the program started in October and will finish in April.
“We’re trying to teach the women to fish so they can take care of themselves,” chamber President Betsy Gardner Eckbert said.
Each meeting runs two hours and is held on the last Tuesday of the month at the chamber. The lessons taught have included developing personal brands, establishing a strong LinkedIn profile, updating resumes, how to acquire professional attire and more.
The issue isn’t teaching the women new talents, because the talent is already there, Gardner Eckbert said. Rather, it’s about being more skilled with publicity and exposure; training women from an earlier time to adapt to a different kind of marketplace.
“They’re using free and public programs to promote themselves the best way they possibly can,” Gardner Eckbert said.
It’s not an academic issue for Gardner Eckbert. She lived through the same fears and anxieties not so long ago when she reentered the workforce in 2013 after stopping to raise her children.
“When I went back, I felt this huge confidence gap that existed between the years I was gone and the sense of, ‘People are going to laugh at me when I go back to work,’” Gardner Eckbert said. “But the reality is you can’t unlearn the hard skills you have.”
She said a big factor of the program was to help the women move past having a sense of identity derived from serving other people.
“The first thing these women did after introducing themselves (at the first meeting) was to talk about their families,” Gardner Eckbert said. “I said to them, ‘That was the last time you’ll talk about your families until you get a job’.”
Dawn Jennemann, a Winter Park local, is one of the women in the program. A chemical engineer for 21 years, Jennemann was let go and became a part-time yoga instructor in Florida. She found the program on social media.
Jenneman has been taking care of her son, who was 3 when she stopped working and is now entering the third grade. She’s not sure what new position she wants to take but says she’s absolutely sure of where she wants to be in a year.
“(A year from now), I want a full-time job,” Jenneman said. “I hope I’ll have a job that I enjoy, I’m using my skills, and I just feel balanced.”