Sarah Duenwald felt stuck.
That’s how the co-founder of Swing Shift, a Seattle-based career coaching service for women, describes the start of her journey from tech professional to job search guidance guru. After working in tech consulting for almost ten years, she had her second child and realized the lifestyle she’d been leading – long days, hours spent exclusively at the office, and unpredictable schedules – wasn't making her happy. When she sought to re-enter the work force and find a position that wasn’t so rigid, she realized her network was all employed in the same sort of situation she wanted so badly to avoid: rigid schedules working long hours with limited flexibility. She felt stuck, and she knew she wasn’t the only woman who felt that way.
Together with business partner Nancy Jensen, Duenwald set out to create a business for women facing the same feeling.
“These women are so smart and so motivated and ambitious and passionate, and they want to make an impact,” Duenwald says. “We get their biographies when they come in, and we see that they were successful entrepreneurs or investors or litigators – why should they be struggling to get back to where they want to be career-wise?”
Swing Shift aims to correct that problem by getting women up to speed on what’s necessary to succeed in a modern workplace. Taking a few years off to raise kids or start a new career can leave an employee woefully unprepared to create a personal brand and re-enter a workplace dependent on cloud-based computing, so Duenweld and Jensen set up a program to help job seekers find their feet after taking time off.
“The Google suite of products and other workplace tools are necessary to be relevant and up to date,” Duenwald explains. “We want to take away all the noise and focus on what you need to know to work now.”
Swing Shift’s programs include meetings geared toward helping women learn the tech skills necessary to succeed and the networking skills necessary to get a foot in the door. For $995, the program teaches women how to find a job that works for them, how to market and present themselves and their skills, how to be more productive in a modern workplace, and how to negotiate and strategize when an offer does come in. The series comes with a complimentary ten-hour pass to The Riveter, a co-working space on Capitol Hill, and discounts on long-term memberships.
Duenwald points, though, that part of the battle is shifting a company’s expectations when it comes to what productivity looks like.
“The first thing that would help women get back into the workforce and really contribute is changing the way the traditional worker works,” she says. “There’s a ton of data that shoes part-time, flex-time, project-based, shared-time work helps. Being in the office form 9-5 takes a lot of women out of the equation altogether, because they’re pulled in different directions. I tell hiring managers that in a conversation you can tell immediately that these women will be a contributing force – they have decades of work experience, they know how to get things done, and they can communicate. You have to look beyond the resume.”
Her biggest advice for job seekers?
“Get some clarity about what you’re looking for,” she says. “Being mindful about what you want is necessary before you go out and network. Set goals – you’ll talk to three people at this event, or you’ll get two email addresses – and change your mindset to take the pressure off. Once you get started, you can keep that momentum going.”