Crafting Your Comeback: An Interview with Ginny Brzezinski
Wednesdays with Woodward Webinar
September 30, 2020
After notable career success, as well as two career pauses to take care of family, Ginny Brzezinski was ready to reboot her career but was unsure how to do so, especially at the age of 52. Pivoting a career or rejoining the workforce after a career break is an uphill battle for many experienced and qualified women. Ginny reached out to her sister-in-law, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, founder of the women’s empowerment community, Know Your Value (knowyourvalue.com). The two dug deep into the topic and, in January 2020, published Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success – At 40, 50, and Beyond.
Pulling from her research on the book and updating it for the pandemic, Ginny Brzezinski identified four groups of professional women looking for “comeback careers” right now:
- Career Relaunchers: Experienced professionals with college or advanced degrees trying to reenter the workforce after a career break.
- Midlife Reinventers: Women who are fed up, restless, bored or burned out and ready for a career change.
- Fired at Fifties: Women who have been restructured out of their jobs in their 50s.
- Pandemic Pivoters: Women now rethinking their careers due to the pandemic and the changing economy.
Noticing similar trends in the jobs market, Ashley Wilson, who launched and leads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Women Taking the Lead,” noted that many working moms have to juggle the demands of pandemic parenting, including virtual learning, home schooling, childcare and their jobs. She also reported seeing female-owned small businesses disproportionately affected by the pandemic, spurring what she called America’s first female recession, or “shecession.”
Ginny Brzezinski offered five key pieces of advice from the book, updated for a career comeback during the pandemic:
- Take a Detailed Personal Assessment: Identify your strengths and weaknesses; your optimal work environment; and your wants and needs. Take online workshops with organizations such as ReBoot Accel (ReBootAccel.com) or iRelaunch (irelaunch.com) to help guide the process.
- Get Smart, Relevant and Updated: Research thought leaders and companies in your industry; become a subject matter expert in your field; take online classes; become a “horizon scanner.”
- Craft Your Brand Value Narrative: Get your pitch down and remember it’s not about what you’ve done – it’s about what you can do for others. Be able to articulate what unique value you bring to an organization. Connect your strengths with their needs.
- Embrace LinkedIn: Harness the power of LinkedIn to strategically create a professional brand and message; network with other professionals and source jobs.
- Rev Up Your [Virtual] Network: Keep – or get back – in touch with former colleagues. If you are looking, reach out to your contacts via email or social media and be specific about what you are looking for or what company or organization you would want to work for. Set up a virtual informational interview. Join or create a virtual networking group. Studies show that 80% of jobs are found through connections, versus online applications, so maximizing personal networks is crucial.
Comeback Careers coauthor Mika Brzezinski, who made a surprise appearance during the conversation, shared that the process of writing this book highlighted what a tough landscape it is for women relaunching or reinventing. She had this advice:
- Consider Your Mind-set: About 25% of the challenge can be a woman’s mind-set. There’s a huge opportunity to learn new skills, put yourself out there, communicate effectively and understand your own value.
- Stay Connected: If you’re trying to hold onto your current job during this pandemic, make sure to stay in touch with your boss. “You have to send emails every week, and you can’t get upset or take it personally if you don’t hear back,” she said. “Women always take that crickets sound as: ‘I did something wrong!’ but we have to really work at connecting, whether it’s online or on Zoom.”
- “Up Your Game” for Video Calls: “At ‘Know Your Value,’ we talk about getting your ‘Zoom face’ on. Really get into that camera,” she said. She encouraged women to get comfortable in their video settings, set up professional backgrounds and practice being on video with friends.
- Refresh Your Social Media: “Our social media accounts are now our handshakes,” she said, adding that when people look us up, we should put our best foot forward.
Wilson encouraged women to connect with her on LinkedIn and with the “Women Taking the Lead” initiative. She and her colleagues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are using the platform to frequently bring together experienced women, VP level and above, to champion female small business owners struggling in the pandemic and to support each other through virtual discussions on a variety of professional and personal subjects.
Ginny Brzezinski’s biggest takeaway for attendees was this: networking is the most important thing you can do, regardless of your career change or stage. “We’re not going out and having coffee with people, but you can network virtually,” she said.
Ginny Brzezinski, Co-Author of Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success - At 40, 50 and Beyond
Mika Brzezinski, Co-Host, Morning Joe, and Co-Author, Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success - At 40, 50 and Beyond
Ashley Wilson, Vice President and Managing Director, Congressional Affairs & Public Affairs; Executive Director, Women Taking the Lead Program; U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Joan Woodward, President, Travelers Institute; Executive Vice President, Public Policy, Travelers
Presented by the Travelers Institute, Women Taking the Lead, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and Accion.