UK's Relaunch workshops redirect women seeking employment

Contributing WriterJanuary 27, 2014 


    Career Relaunch: A workshop for women

    What: A five-week career workshop for women which serves as a career exploration. Ideal for stay-at-home moms who are beginning a job search, or for a woman who feels stuck in an unfulfilling job. Sponsored by the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.

    When: From 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Feb. 3, 10, 17 and March 3 and 10. Dinner is provided.

    Where: King Alumni House, 400 Rose Street.

    Cost: $50 for UK alumni members; $95 for nonmembers.

    For more information: Caroline Francis, 888-985-2287.

  • Working Women

    Statistics for working women in the United States in 2012:

    Of 126,000,000 working-age women (16 years and older), 58 percent were in the labor force.

    ■ 70 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 worked.

    ■ 73 percent of employed women worked full time (35 hours or more), 26 percent worked part-time.

    Women's unemployment rate was 7.9 percent compared to 8.1 percent for men.

    Median weekly salary of female workers (16 and older) was $691 compared to $854 for men.

    Of working women 25 years or older, 25 percent had a high school diploma, 17 percent had some college, 13 percent had an associate degree and almost 38 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher.

    Figures from the U. S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A year ago, Analisa Wagoner, director of Gallery B, learned the building on West Main Street that housed the art gallery had been sold to the 21C Museum Hotel. The gallery would be closing.

Wagoner had not an inkling what her next job might be.

"I just knew I had to transition into doing something else," she said.

Wagoner heard about Career Relaunch, a five-week workshop for women who are at a crossroads in their careers, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Alumni Association. She enrolled.

"The program is geared toward helping women tap into what it is they really want to do," said Caroline Francis, an alumni career counselor and Relaunch instructor, adding that the group usually includes women of different ages and life situations.

"Women who have stepped out of their careers to raise children and are ready to go back; women who are under-employed and need a better job," Francis said. "We have women going through mid-life divorces who need to go back to work to support themselves."

A large number are, "late career women, tired of doing what they always have done, but they don't want to retire," she said.

Paula Johnson, a Relaunch graduate, worked for a global communications company for 13 years when she was laid off.

"Relaunch helps you focus on what you are good at, where it is you want to go and how to get there," she said. It is, also, an opportunity to connect with other women in a similar situation.

Johnson called it "a real morale booster."

After Relaunch, Johnson learned of a job opening in a different division of her former company. She applied and got the job.

"I wouldn't have thought I could go back, but it feels like the best thing that could have happened," she said.

Wagoner participated in Relaunch in 2013. A career path opened for her after the program which, she says, she could not possibly have anticipated, but is "so exciting."

Familiar with Dress for Success when she lived in Atlanta, Wagoner went on its national website to find the Lexington affiliate where she could donate clothes she wore while working in the art gallery.

She noticed that the organization was actively looking to open a branch in Lexington.

In October, Wagoner and business partner Jennifer Monarch opened the Lexington affiliate of Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization that provides professional attire for economically disadvantaged women, as well as teaching career development tools like writing a résumé and computer skills to help them become self-sufficient. It is in the Eastland Shopping Center.

"It taps into my entrepreneurial spirit, my ability to engage with people, my passion for helping empower women and make a difference in their lives," Wagoner said. She is executive director; Monarch, chairwoman of the board.

"Taking Relaunch, I was able to see that it's OK to step out of your comfort zone and do something different," she said.

Tracy King, 45, enrolled in Relaunch after being a stay-at-home mom and doing direct sales for Pampered Chef for 16 years. With two children approaching college age, she needed a better paying job.

"In Relaunch, we did job testing, and personality and career-type testing that shows your strengths and weaknesses," said King, whose work life began as a certified public accountant.

"One thing you find out is what you don't want to do," she said. Job satisfaction is "not about how much money you make, but doing what makes you happy."

With a background in accounting, sales and an interest in health and wellness, King went to work for New York Life Insurance where all of these skills are used.

Relaunch has not done a formal follow-up survey of graduates, but many stay in touch, Francis said. "We've had lots of women who relaunched themselves, gone on to get new jobs, different jobs, better jobs. I'm really proud of them."

Beverly Fortune is a freelance writer and a former Herald-Leader reporter. Contact her at or at (859) 948-7846

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