A Social Impact Success Story: Jennifer Lazar Schiamberg
Many successful relaunchers consider volunteerism and nonprofit work as part of their relaunch journey. In a previous blog post of ours, “Building Skills Through Strategic Volunteering,” iRelaunch Career Coach, Mary Beth Barrett Newman, said, “Strategic volunteering is nothing more than being deliberate in the volunteer work you choose to do and using those activities to not only benefit the organization you’re helping but to also benefit you by providing real working knowledge and current experience preparing you for your Relaunch!” Nonprofit work and or volunteering is an excellent opportunity for relaunchers to refamiliarize themselves with the ways of the workplace, bulk up their resume with recent experience, and may even find a full-time profession in nonprofits.
Relauncher Jennifer Lazar Schiamberg is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Events at The Sohn Conference Foundation - we asked her to share her thoughts on her relaunch journey in the social impact space.
1. What is your relaunch story in a nutshell?
After years of volunteering for her children’s preschool, Jennifer Lazar Schiamberg’s kids were moving on to elementary school, and it was the right time for her to find a new, stimulating and challenging outlet. She fondly remembered her time spent at a big ad agency, developing Cannes Lion-worthy advertising. However, it was too abrupt of a change to go from full-time Mom to client management on Madison Avenue. Jennifer began networking and doing informational interviews. A friend from her children’s preschool suggested a part-time freelance position at a nonprofit to gain some current experience. Although she was overqualified for the position, it was a perfect opportunity to sharpen her skills after being out of the workforce for so long.
Eager to apply her advertising experience to benefit an evolving foundation, Jennifer helped to promote the brand and create a global identity. The Board of Directors took notice, and the freelance job became a permanent position with a title change to match her qualifications.
Jennifer encourages relaunchers to consider working in the nonprofit sector when planning their relaunch strategy. As Director of Strategic Initiatives and Events at a growing non-profit, The Sohn Conference Foundation, Jennifer has found the work extremely rewarding and has discovered exciting growth opportunities. Nonprofits provide an entrepreneurial approach to career development and the opportunity to support a worthy cause.
2. How difficult was the choice to leave your advertising career on Madison Avenue to care for your children?
I went back to work after maternity leave. I was worried that I would be “throwing it all away” if I didn’t quickly return to my current role. But after a full year back at work, it became clear to me what I was giving up being away from my son from 6:30am to 6:30pm every day, and it seemed impossible for me to be the best mother, wife, friend and career woman all at the same time.
I felt torn, but ultimately decided that being a stay-at-home mother – during the early childhood years – was a gift of time. I was never going to get these first years, moments and milestones back. Not a single day goes by that I regret that decision.
3. What inspired you to try to relaunch your career? What was the first step you took to get started?
I loved having so much quality time with my kids, but when my youngest started kindergarten, I felt a huge void. I desperately missed the satisfaction of achieving goals – and that bi-monthly paycheck! Though I had found personal satisfaction volunteering, it did not replace the need for my own personal accomplishments that were not an extension of my children.
As a first step, I started looking at freelance jobs at advertising agencies as a way to transition back to work. But the ad world was not as forgiving as I hoped about my employment gap, so I had to quickly figure out how to address my more than 7 years out of the corporate work force. I found the answer reading iRelaunch blogs!
Carol Fishman Cohen recommended moving the volunteer work from the bottom of my resume to the top. I didn’t think it would make any difference, but lo and behold, doors began to open and I started getting interviews!
4. What motivated you to enter the world of nonprofits?
While I was at home with my kids, I spent my free time volunteering for a few non-profits close to my heart, including the 92Y and the Lulu & Leo Fund. I found the work incredibly meaningful and rewarding. I was also inspired by people motivated to make a change or be part of a movement. Volunteerism jumpstarted my career re-entry as it opened new networking opportunities and professional contacts in the field. Since many nonprofits need to hire temporary positions in fundraising cycles, seeking a nonprofit job seemed like a good way to try out some new roles to see where my skill set would be mutually beneficial.
5. Please tell us about The Sohn Conference Foundation. What excites you most about the organization?
When Ira Sohn, a Wall Street professional, passed away of cancer at age 29, his friends and family decided to honor his memory by creating a fundraising concept that was completely new to the finance community. Donors are exposed to cutting edge investment ideas and the funds raised from the Conference are used for a worthy cause, making this a charity event in which everyone benefits!
With the success of the New York flagship conference over the past two decades, this unique conference platform inspired other young financiers to form international Sohn Conferences. I was fortunate to join the Foundation during this time of rapid global expansion. I have played a leadership role in expanding the Sohn brand internationally across 11 cities on 5 continents and raising more than $80 million globally for pediatric cancer and other childhood diseases. Our next event is April 23, 2018 at Lincoln Center in New York City.
6. How did you know that The Sohn Conference Foundation was the right fit for you?
Truthfully, I had no idea! I was originally hired in a temporary role focused on New York event support. But I was ambitious and looking for opportunities to make my mark, so the global growth of the organization provided new and unlimited ways to define a new role for myself. I had to think like an entrepreneur and create real value for the organization in order to be hired as a full-time employee. Since then, I have been promoted to Director, Strategic Initiatives and Events, which is an exciting opportunity to generate more fundraising dollars for the Foundation.
7. How has your family responded to you being back at work?
My family has been supportive but it has been a big transition. As a re-launcher, I felt the need to overcompensate for my time out of the workforce. I found myself taking on extra responsibility and projects to make a greater impact at the Foundation. But ultimately, working non-stop was unsustainable for me and for the Foundation. This past year, I have put greater emphasis on creating a work-life balance. This includes making time for my personal interests, limiting weekend work and receiving support from other staff members. Most importantly, my husband has been really encouraging by reminding me of my value and taking charge at home in the mornings and getting the kids ready for school so I can go to the gym! The personal time to unplug has been extremely helpful in achieving balance and confidence.
8. While you were out of the workforce are there things you did / educated yourself on knowing you might be going back into the workforce?
Yes, I left the industry during the social and digital boom so staying abreast on industry trends was critical to maintaining a competitive edge while interviewing. I trained myself on digital and social platforms with tutorials and videos on YouTube. I subscribed to newsletters, forums and followed influencers to stay in the loop on hot topics. Former colleagues and friends served as mentors and cheerleaders during my job search. I was able to ask them questions without judgment, discuss the internet of things and intersection of technology and business today. All very important topics in preparing to return to work.
9. What was your first day back at work like?
I was really pumped my first day back at work. I was working remotely, but I still got dressed in my “work clothes” and waited by the phone and computer to receive instruction on what to do. I waited for hours, which felt like an eternity, and finally picked up the phone to call my boss to tell her “I am available, please give me an assignment!” I quickly learned that there was no set of instructions for this job, no road map, or hand-holding along the way. If you are working freelance or remote, where nobody actually sees you, you need to make yourself seen by being proactive and be actively involved in the conversations that are happening virtually. Once I was able to jump into the online workflow, I was able to find my stride and feel a part of the team.
10. Now that you’ve been back at work for 3 years, what is your favorite piece of advice you would offer to a relauncher looking to restart their career?
Say YES! Say yes to every opportunity. Even if you are unsure about the assignment or if it is out of your comfort zone, say Yes! You have no idea where YES will lead you! I said yes to Sohn because I thought it was a great opportunity to learn at an organization that truly makes a difference. This opportunity later became the most important and most highly visible role in my career development.
About Jennifer Lazar Schiamberg and the Sohn Conference Foundation
Jennifer Lazar Schiamberg is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Events at The Sohn Conference Foundation. The Sohn Conference Foundation is dedicated to the treatment and cure of pediatric cancer and other childhood diseases. The Foundation supports cutting-edge medical research, state-of-the-art research equipment, and innovative programs to ensure children with cancer survive and thrive. The Foundation calls the world’s most successful investors to offer their expertise — these investors give their time and inspire large audiences and followers in the name of the Foundation’s cause. The flagship Sohn Investment Conference takes place annually in New York City. The Foundation has expanded its investment forums to include Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, London, Monaco, San Francisco, Tel Aviv, and Zurich. The Sohn Conference Foundation will be hosting the 2018 New York Sohn Conference on Monday, April 23rd from 8AM-7PM. If interested, click on the link for event details.