Let’s Hear from an Expert: Johanna Wise, Founder of the “Return to Work You Love” Conference
You’ll be hosting your 11th conference this October. Tell us more about your program.
This Return to Work You Love Conference is targeted at professionals interested in changing careers or returning to the workforce after a career break. We offer hands-on, small-group workshops on topics ranging from “Unleash Your Hidden Brilliance” to “Go from Bored, Burned-out, or Unfulfilled to Doing Work You Love” to “20 Networking Tips from 20 Years of Networking.” Our goal is to help attendees accomplish as much as possible during the conference in order to develop a plan of action with next steps, beginning the following day.
We have many success stories. Previous conference attendees, for example, found an engineering position at Tesla after a 6-year career gap, created a marketing position at a mid-size company after a 14-year career gap, transitioned from a mid-level position to become VP of Sales, and started their own companies.
For those unable to attend, we offer the online resource ConnectU, where we post workshop and keynote videos of prior conferences.
You also work with clients one-on-one. Who do you work with and how?
My typical client feels the need to complete “unfinished business.” Some clients have worked in a field for many years and want to apply their skills elsewhere. Others stepped out of the workforce and are seeking to re-enter, but not necessarily into the same field they left. Most have found that applying for positions online or via HR departments is a dead-end.
I provide a network of senior level executives who will speak or meet with my clients to help them find their next opportunity, either at the company where they work or via referrals.
Successes of which I’m particularly proud? I coached a finance professional who had been out of work for almost four years and, after meeting with 40 senior-level professionals over a 3-month period, found a very lucrative position as CEO of an Alibaba-funded company. I’ve also helped stay-at-home moms start successful companies, incorporating flexible work schedules into their lives.
What challenges and opportunities do you see that are unique to women in midlife as they seek to return to work after an absence?
Everyone has skills to offer and there is someone, somewhere searching for those skills. What I do is bring those two together. It’s important to have a clear sense of what you seek and what you offer; the more specific you are, the easier it is to find someone who needs your help. Too often job seekers cast a wide net: “I’m looking for a job” vs. “I’m seeking a marketing position where I can incorporate my branding and writing skills to grow a company’s influence.”
Those returning to work often focus on areas where they feel “lesser than:” career gaps, not keeping up-to-date on skills, etc. Instead, focus on what you demonstrably have to offer and sell the benefits of that. Employers are interested in attitude and aptitude: Will you make sure to get the job done and do you have the ability to do it or find a way to do so? Everyone, no matter their career path and how long they have been in the workforce, experiences on-the-job training.
Every life experience offers life skills. Those returning to work after an absence have grown in ways that those who remained in the same job or career could not have. It’s important to highlight that learning and translate it into demonstrable, valuable skills. Here’s a blog I wrote, demonstrating how to translate skills learned as a stay-at-home mom into skills on a resume.
What resources do you recommend besides your own?
ReacHire does an incredible job of training women returning to the workforce after a career break.
I regularly listen to the Nancy Gaines Show: Gain the Advantage! podcast. Nancy kickstarts our entrepreneurial flame by providing tools and resources to get us going.
I love the work of Natalia Oberti Noguera, CEO of Pipeline Angels. Her company trains women to be angel investors in startups.
I have highlighted the work of hundreds of fabulous coaches at my conferences. Feel free to contact me if you’re seeking a particular specialty. One unique and needed offering is by Karen Bigman, Founder of The Divorcierge. She helps people through the tough process of divorce, which often includes career transition.
There’s a wonderful community out there to help you. Connect with someone who is collaborative in the return-to-work community and interested in helping you find the resources which best suit your needs.
Connect with Johanna Wise
Video from 2016 NYC conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGS1ffe1tvU
Johanna holds an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, a BS in Applied Mathematics from Yale University, and a Certificate in Small Business Management from New York University’s Stern School of Business. Johanna was born and raised in New York City and is also a proud graduate of Hunter College High School.
Johanna’s career includes:
- Management Consulting at Bain & Company in Boston, MA and Strategic Decisions Group in Menlo Park, CA
- Mergers and Acquisitions and Financial Analysis at Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers in New York City
- Brand Management at Frito-Lay in Dallas, TX.
She has served on numerous Boards including M&G Piel Securities, Illumai, Western Ballet, The Junior League of Palo Alto Mid Peninsula, and Lyceum of Santa Clara County.
Johanna is a founding Council member of Yale Women, a Global Network of Yale Alumnae and the immediate past President of the Yale Club of Silicon Valley. She also serves as a contributing writer at the Huffington Post.
Johanna curates and hosts highly successful conferences including Return-to-Work Career Transformation Conferences and Summits, The Workforce Diversity Summit™ at Microsoft, and local and national celebrations of 40 Years of Women at Yale.
After a career sabbatical to raise two children, Johanna founded two companies in addition to Connect•Work•Thrive™ LLC: Keep Me Tax Free™ LLC, which secures tax-exempt status for non-profit organizations and Wise Consulting, a boutique firm which provides strategic planning, operations, marketing, and financial expertise to growing businesses.