Gretchen LH O’Brien
It had been nine years since Aleta held a full-time job outside of her home. This professional, wife and mother of two was making great money with her part-time design business, but she didn’t want to increase that to a full-time job (given all the required nights and weekends).
So she revved up and jumped back in the job market. Aleta did what many women only dream of. She rejoined the company she left almost a decade before — and garnered about $65,000 more than she’d been making when she left.
How did she do it? Aleta credits her relationships. She’s always had a knack, as well as a yearning, for continually building relationships.
Networking is in her nature. She kept in touch with her colleagues not, she explained, “because I thought I’d reenter the workforce” and need those people as stepping stones, but because she needed those people as touchstones. Aleta simply focused and “leaned in” to reestablish her professional life and reprioritize her personal and professional life.
Her returning job to the professional workforce, Aleta acknowledged, was the job she would have been promoted to if she hadn’t opted to stay home with her children. The pay, given inflation, was about on par with what she was making when she left. It was almost as if she had “hit pause” for nine years, and then she pushed the play button.
She’s had many women marvel at her success. In her many LinkedIn communities and groups, Aleta has been asked about her relative ease at career reentry. She has shared advice about how women can “stay sharp” and show their readiness for juggling motherhood and a career.
Others have struggled to achieve Aleta’s success. In her New York Times Magazine article, Judith Warner documented the difficulties women in similar situations faced, citing major technology changes (among other issues) as hurdles for career women who’d “opted out” of the workforce for some time.
While Aleta is confident in her technological abilities, it was a relationship that made the difference.
A former female co-worker stuck her neck out for Aleta, which was “wonderful.” The woman vouched for Aleta’s abilities and readiness to return to the professional work environment.
Now, Aleta returns the favor in her current position where she manages a team of 14 addressing public-sector technology needs. She moved to a new company (in a role for which she was recruited) in part because of the compelling, forward-thinking technology products and the company’s “amazing commitment to women’s success.”
Aleta strives to increase all of her team members’ success… democratically. She mentors both men and women (typically in their mid-20s), with a special eye “to specific challenges that women face” in the workforce. Taking notes and planning meetings or gatherings are all of her team members’ responsibilities, not only the females’.
“When I see someone that I’ve hired begin to feel successful themselves" and they get promoted, Aleta feels a strong sense of satisfaction. She will continue to step up to be sure the women (and men) around her are empowered to climb the professional ladder one rung at a time.
Gretchen L.H. O’Brien has loved writing since she was in eighth grade. She’s written and published about topics from space technology to health and education. She’s a lover of children of all ages, especially her own three children. She lives in Virginia with her husband, children, and their dog, Sunny.
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