An Interview with Trixi Menhardt
Julia Miglets (JM): What services do you provide for women who want to go back to work?
Trixi Menhardt (TM): It's all about the mindset. When people have been out of work for a while, they lose their sense of professional identity. So what I try to work on are their mindsets.
I ask them things like "Who are you? What are you good at? What do you want to do next?" These questions aren't so much about writing resumes or the actual job search—those things come much later—but about motivating them.
They used to be professionals—they had careers, they made money, they were successful. My objective is to get them back into that lifestyle and to get them to realize for themselves that it's possible.
Women usually don't know where to start. In most cases, they don't want to go back to the job that they left behind. I've learned that the reason they quit their careers in the first place isn't so much that they had kids and needed to stay home, but because they were disenchanted with their careers. This lack of enthusiasm is what's stopping them from starting back up again. Maybe the work environment wasn't right. Maybe the work culture wasn't a good fit for them. But what now? Where do they start?
JM: What inspires people to go back to work?
TM: I spend a lot of time helping them understand who they are. As I mentioned before, these women have been caretakers for many years. When somebody asks them, "What is it that you want for yourself?" it baffles them. They've put that on the backburner for so long. My job is to help them peel away those layers of confusion and to get them to realize what they are good at.
I do personality assessments to help them understand their strengths, their personal priorities, and their preferences. Things start to fall into place by that point because these women have a new lens to look through. Before, my clients would have said something like "I don't even know what type of a job I want." But once they connect with who they are and build their confidence back up, they're able to go out and explore their options.
The next step of my process is to explore professions that these women might be interested in. They can network, research, job shadow, volunteer, and immerse themselves in the environment that they're interested in. This first-hand experience inspires them to find careers that they love.
JM: So you work as a counselor with these women?
TM: Yes. I coach them to look at their careers like research projects. These women are used to managing projects—buying cars, choosing schools for their children, deciding where to go on vacation—they have no trouble handling these projects. They develop budgets, timelines, and relationships. These women are natural project managers. If they can look at their career search as a project, it comes much easier to them. It's not so much different from when you get a car: you ask around, you get opinions, you test it out. It's the same as your career. Once they realize the car theory, then they're off to a good start. All of those initial fears, "How do I start?" "Who is going to hire me?" go away because these women are back in the driver's seat of their lives.
JM: What have you found to be the most common reason why homemaking women hold back from returning to work?
TM: A lot of these women were able to stay home because they didn't need the money. Therefore, there is no financial incentive for them to go back to work. These women don't have deadlines. There's no cliff they're going to fall off of if they don't go back to work. They are complacent—life is good, so why change it?
JM: Why do these women decide to go back to work if they have everything they need?
TM: Many times, these women's husbands or grownup children will encourage them to get out of the house—to go and do something. Then these women become inspired to go out and find themselves and their worth. That need to be at home and take care of their families isn't there anymore.
Another motivation that a lot of these women have is feeling embarrassed in front of their children because they don't see themselves "productive." These women don't go to work every day; they don't earn their money. These are soft tugs that are telling them that maybe it's time to go back to work.
JM: Do you have any experience with this? Have you ever left work for a long time and then decided to go back?
TM: My experience was a bit different. I changed careers quite a few times. Part of it was due to relocation, and the other part of it was because I had little kids—the latter caused me to decide that I wanted to work at a slower pace. So, I quit my job and started a nonprofit, and I did that for a few years. But while I was there, I found that I was working harder than I was at my corporate jobs, so I went back to the corporate workforce. I have been through these transitions myself. The difference is, I never left the workforce for a long time.
In 2010, my family moved to Bangalore, India. I was happy about the whole move. My husband got transferred. I said, "Yeah, I'll just take three or four months off from work, manage the move, get the kids settled, and then I'm back." Well, at the end of those four months, I realized I could not go back to my previous job; I had begun to understand that the job I had had was stepping on a lot of my values. But I pushed that under the rug while I was working for this company, and I said to myself "Well, I'm having fun. I have a good team. Why leave?" But once I looked at the company from a different perspective, I saw that they didn't stand for my values, and I didn't want to work for them anymore.
JM: Good for you for standing up for yourself.
TM: As a coach, this is what happens. You have these life experiences, and then you can help your clients make sense of their life experiences.
The experience I had was taking a break, then starting to see things differently. While you're in the job and you're on a roll and always busy, you don't realize that the job isn't actually what you want to be doing with your life. The women that I work with, it's about stepping out of their comfort zones and realizing that the world is in their hands. But at the same time, where do you start? What do you want to do?
JM: Do you have a mission statement or a mantra to inspire your clients?
TM: It's the idea of acknowledging they're trying to make a huge change in their life. This change isn't some simple little thing that they're doing. The change is an important decision for them to make. It affects everyone, their spouse, their children, their pets—it's a huge change. When you make these life-changing decisions, it takes time and persistence, and chances are, you're not going to shoot forward in a straight line—you're going to be more like a tumbleweed getting blown around. But if you move in the direction where you want to go, then you can focus on the important things.
Julia Miglets is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She studied Professional and Technical Writing and wishes to pursue a career in editing.
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