Laurie Weber-Manning, Contributor
This is a true story about what a strong woman did when she was weak. Would you have done that same thing?
I called WEN.
Hi, my name is Laurie Weber-Manning. Before I tell you why I called the Women’s Employment Network (WEN), I must tell you a little bit about myself.
In October 2015 I resigned from a company I worked at for 14 years. The organization managed the activities of nonprofit trade associations. When I started working for organization I was in an entry level position. When I left I was the serving as the Executive Director of their largest client for the last eight years I worked for them.
I represented the industry internationally and with the federal government. I had traveled extensively, built a team that produced and together we built an organization that was where everyone went to solve issues in that industry. I’ve always been great at consensus building and it seemed as we couldn’t be stopped. Well if it was so great, why did you leave?
The two years leading up to me resigning were some difficult years. My life changed, my estranged husband passed away, all of a sudden I had a son to raise on my own, one of the partners at the management firm left, I was traveling more, I was drinking more, a glass of wine quickly turned into a bottle of wine, but yet the work I was doing wasn’t being affected. I felt my success was determined by what I was doing at work because everything at home was simply on autopilot.
On December 22, 2014 – my sister was making dinner at my home, I said to my sister I was going to have a glass of wine – then I heard my 7 year old say, please don’t drink the bottle. I didn’t respond, I put the bottle up and when I put my son to bed, I cried an drank the entire bottle of wine.
Alot happens in your life when you decide make a drastic change. Every event I planned involved alcohol. I went to AA that wasn’t for me – I had to figure out how to navigate my feelings – what was numb was suddenly feeling. The cloud cleared. My friends of more than 20 years didn’t have time to hear me and they felt if they bought me non alcoholic beer that was supportive. Part of the cloud that was clearer was realizing that I had given every ounce of me to a company for 14 years, I had been in a position of representing a nonprofit but being paid by a for profit company – years of conflict that didn’t fit into my morals and values as person – I knew I never wanted to compromise my integrity. I sat down and did my pros and cons list – the cons definitely outweighed the pros. Resigning from that position wasn’t easy, the team depended on me, the client depended on me but I needed me more.
In January 2016, I took a survival job and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I knew quickly it wasn’t my work home and I rode out wave as I could see the layoffs coming.I started a LLC in 2016 to do project work for associations that had reached out to me. I was handling work through my LLC and n February 2017 I was laid off with a severance from my survival job that I had worked at a little over a year – This company also paid a company to assist me in finding a job. They helped me update my resume.
April of this year I’m four months into a forever job search. By April I had been told I was overqualified or I didn’t have the contacts the other candidate had. Here I was with 15 years of successful executive leadership experience and I didn’t have the contacts. All of the work I had done was not in Kansas City, and I quickly learned it is not what you know in KC it is who you know.
I googled, over 40 woman new career – WEN popped up. I had never heard of WEN but they offered services to woman and they would review my resume and give me feedback. Better yet, they are part of this OneKC for Women alliance, let me reach out and see what this is about. I sent an inquiry email and within two hours had a meeting set up to review my resume.
I walked into a friendly and inviting office. The program manager did a great job with my resume and I started asking more questions about the services, for me I needed their network. Lynette explained they offer a career transition program that was starting on Monday – it was a five week commitment and I would most likely be a better fit for the partial program.
I had an unexpected death in my family that prevented me from attending the first day, but Tuesday I showed up ready but nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. Relationships were already forming on the first day. I have never been accused of being shy, so I jump right in and start introducing myself. The ladies on their second day were just a nervous as the first day I assume.
We started with the self assessment – I had spent 15 years taking classes on how to be a better manager – learning the art of admitting when you’re wrong – learning my flaws and focusing on how to improve my flaws. But this self assessment was different than anything I had experienced before – it was more about embracing who you are – understanding terperments and finding a career based on your temperaments. I’m a Sang-winn and Koh-liar-ic – which is no doubt me.
I was fortunate to have a classroom full of women over 40 struggling to find job and understanding where they should go next. We had a woman with her masters in hospital management, we had an architect, we had a woman that worked for herself for years – and we had one – 18 year old mother that had just moved to KC from Memphis. We all watched over her, but even better we all watched her grow.
WEN had a life coach come in for a session. I was amazed this was offered to the participates. I have spent thousands of dollars on therapist throughout my life and all I really needed was a life coach. I think that was one of my favorite sessions. – we all completed vision boards. I went directly to dollar tree to purchase poster boards for my family – we all have our vision boards. This was one of many sessions offered to the participates.
WEN did mock interviews. Everyone needs practice – really I didn’t have a lot of experience doing interviews. I scored really well on the interviews. One of the interviewers said I don’t understand why you are here. This is also someone that has worked for the same company for 11 years and just had made partner at her organization so there is no way she would understand.
So what did I take away from the experience? While I think the program reiterated a lot of what I already knew about myself – but I gained a network of supportive women when I didn’t have the kind of support I needed. I was in a really dark place when I called WEN. I felt unemployable, I felt defeated, I felt like I was alone.
The network that WEN and OneKC offers is empowering. The class I was in, all of us still support each other. I learned the power of attraction – I learned to trust the process and what is meant to be. I re learned what I had lost, I am capable of anything – I made friends for life – when I feel down because that’s ok, I have someone who will lift me up. I can be me – I can be a leader as a woman and not be bossy. I am still looking for that right home for me but I trust what happens is supposed to be.
For more information about WEN and their programs visit kcwen.org.
Laurie Weber-Manning is an executive leader who develops companies through strategic leadership. Contact Laurie at email@example.com.