Janet Hammond  is IC's Raleigh Women's Program Associate.

Janet Hammond is IC's Raleigh Women's Program Associate.

365 days ago, I saw a post on LinkedIn through a new contact I had just made.  It was about Inspiring Capital’s Women’s Re-Inspiration program and it seemed to be the intersection of where I wanted to be. I had taken a significant career break and wanted to transition to more meaningful work, and I had no network of my own. I had financial skills but a passion for helping women and children. I was stuck. 

I had spent the previous 2 years trying to figure out what I wanted to be “when I grew up." It was a daunting task. I had always followed the playbook and done what was expected of me.   The thing was, I was at a point in my life where there was no playbook. I needed to figure this out for myself, and I was at a loss as to what steps to take and make sure I got it right.   So…I decided to just go ahead and take all of the steps in front of me.

I recently read an article from Ellevate's daily newsletter on Why Smart Women Get Stuck and how using the “Lighthouse Method” can help them get started in finding rewarding new careers. Without knowing it at the time, this articulates exactly what I did. I “lost the map," and I decided to “row with the flow” and just try everything that seemed appealing. I volunteered at a Women’s Empowerment Center. I took a part-time job in the field of sustainability. And, I went to a conference for women looking to re-enter the workforce even though I had some work and things were going pretty well.

That conference is where I made my connection who would later introduce me to Inspiring Capital. At the time I did not think much of it, but in the end it made all the difference. A simple decision just to sit down for lunch at the conference with my new friend made it so that I felt comfortable going back less than a month later and asking her for an introduction.  Again, I had no idea where that introduction would lead, but this is what happened next…

I started a conversation with Inspiring Capital about participating in the Women’s Re-Inspiration Program, not knowing how that could actually work.  They were in New York, as was their network, and I was in North Carolina. We sent emails and eventually talked in person at the Net Impact Conference we were both attending.  I kept the conversation going without a pre-determined end game because it felt right and I really believed in what they were doing. 

Things started to catalyze quickly. I flew up to NYC to experience part of their program for myself, and started to explore the possibility of a similar program in North Carolina. Somewhere between last October 26 and today, the decision was made to make North Carolina’s Research Triangle the site of Inspiring Capital’s first geographic expansion. A year later, I'm not just participating in the workshop-- I am facilitating the inaugural cohort! Our final day of cohort #1 will be tomorrow. If you had told me this would be the outcome of that one connection I had made one year ago today, I would never have believed you. 

There are so many of us who are trying to figure out what to do next whether we have taken a career break or have been doing a job we find unfulfilling for years. We look at our millennial children and are so proud of them for challenging the status quo and going after what feels right to them. Now – it’s our turn. 

If you find yourself in this situation, I hope you can switch your mindset and consider the Lighthouse Method. There are no rules for you right now. If it feels right, go with it. Things might work out, or they might not. Remember, if you don’t have expectations for a certain outcome, it is hard to end up disappointed. At worst, you'll learn more about yourself and your options, and at best, you'll start to follow new leads of programs and people that inspire and motivate you.

The one thing I know for sure is that if you are far from shore and it is dark out, you need to start rowing. The lighthouse might be far away and the light barely visible, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t start. Make any and all connections that you can. You never know what that next conversation will lead to. Sign up for a class on whatever subject interests you. Don’t say no to yourself and don’t judge your ideas. Go with it.

The journey is not over for me, but 365 days later I am proud and excited to be a part of this innovative organization that was willing to let me climb into their boat and row with them. I hope you'll join us in re-drawing the map for women, as we bravely start to make those first strokes into uncharted waters together.