In her book "Moms for Hire," author Deborah Jelin Newmyer refers to the "hidden on-ramp" that seems so elusive to mothers seeking an entry point back to their careers. A Los Angeles- based producer and self-described "bossy girlfriend," Newmyer wants these women to feel confident that taking a break to raise children—or even being laid off—doesn't mean that they're permanently relegated to the side of the road, watching opportunities pass by.
"I am proud of my long career in the film and television business, and am equally happy with my career as a parent of four thriving children—the last decade as a widowed single mom," Newmyer, whose husband died suddenly more than 10 years ago, tells Mom.me. "However, I often found myself between jobs and, frankly, bewildered. All I wanted was to go into a bookstore and buy an upbeat, stylish roadmap that would guide me back to career happiness and balance."
Newmyer has written that book, a workbook for moms who are looking to kickstart their careers and "boost their hidden ambition," she says. This mom of four, whose kids range in age from 14 to 29, also talks to Mom.me about her first success, moving between careers and why she's telling women to freeze their eggs.
Since Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" phenomenon, there has been an influx of new sites and books about helping moms get back into the workforce. What sets "Moms for Hire" apart?
Off-careered moms have a difficult and unique challenge in front of them. The job of finding a job is not a quick fix and asks for a dedicated approach to several incremental steps. And most often, the busy mom who has been out of the workforce for a few years is fearful and unsure as to her professional currency, and how to harness her legit passion and skills to get back in. "Moms for Hire" is a curated collection of manageable, interactive exercises that can become your back-to-work journal. The promise is that if you commit one hour a day to this job-hunting program, you will transform yourself into a valued job candidate. And then go out there and get yourself back onto a rewarding track.
Describe the moment you first felt successful.
I was 14 years old and got my very first job scooping ice cream and flipping pizzas at Nathan’s Famous at the local mall. I loved the work—the ill-fitting uniform and that hat, the inside-scoop camaraderie, the free lunch. When I received my first paycheck—$87.42 for two weekends of work—I immediately ran over the mall’s Claire’s and got my ears pierced, and I paid for it with my own money. Some folks frame their first dollar from their first sale. I have kept those starter studs in a special spot as one of my most cherished purchases.
What have been the biggest challenges of moving between careers?
Becoming a novice again. I never like giving up my "expert" status, so starting over always felt demoralizing to me. It is a constant battle to keep current, to retrain myself. Learning new things always gives me flashbacks of the pressures of high school academia. But in this fast-changing world, you cannot relax on your past laurels. Every day, I discover something I need to know that I don’t know. If you want to make any leap forward, you must remain open to new things and keep learning. Enjoy learning new tricks.
As a successful female executive and author, what are some ways that you want to teach your kids about "girl power"?
* Never give up. Tenacity always wins. Become emboldened by rejection.
* A "no" is just a delayed "maybe," and—with charming persistence—might turn to an eventual "yes." (Being assertive is more than OK. Ambition is your birth right, too.)
* Freeze your eggs. Ages 30-35 are the most crucial years in your career trajectory—but also the years that your fertility rate declines. Modern science has opened the window a bit wider to give women more options to express both their maternal and career instincts.
Has there been anything about writing "Moms for Hire" that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
Originally, I designed "Moms for Hire" to be a cool how-to book, but as I delved into the research and interview process, I realized how women loved to gab about their life path. And as I got down to the nitty gritty of writing, the book morphed beyond the 8-step exercise book into a hybrid collection of moms' career/life stories.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business or kickstart their next career?
I interviewed more than 80 moms (working and non-working), and the most successful in balancing family and ambition were also the most organized. In general, they had a passion for something specific and were disciplined enough keep at it. Make lists, and follow up!
Three more steps:
* List what you love to do.
* List what you are good at doing (transferable skills).
* List your friends/network. Learn to ask.
Once you clarify your passion, your skills and your goal, you have powered through the first four steps of "Moms for Hire" and become an attractive job candidate. Now you can go out and get that job. Go for it, and don't give up.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and a career professional to keep everything in balance? And how much more did that change after you lost your husband?
Honestly, I never like feeling victimized by my circumstances. So I don’t ever describe my work/life path as a "sacrifice"—the "downs" are as fleeting as the "ups." I’ve just been living life. Sure, I’ve been dealt some curveballs, but also plenty of good fortune, too. I keep soldiering on. Doing my best.
Perhaps, it was the pregnancy hormones that biochemically helped shape this stoic, patient philosophy, or perhaps it’s just my nature. But every day, I consciously force myself away from feeling victimized by my situation. Be it single parenthood, gender inequality, loss of a loved one or my cravings for a decadent dessert. Instead, I get up each morning, say "Yahoo" to the sunrise and leap into my daily to-do list. Then I end each day by crossing off that to-do list with the flourish it deserves, and leap into a fabulous hot bath.
What would you say are the most important skills and experiences you've brought from previous positions as a producer and film exec to inspiring women through your book?
My ability to motivate something to happen from nothing. Essentially, producing. Trying to launch a movie or a television show only happens when you are "utterly determined to make things happen." I believe we can "will our destiny" with passion and hard work. There are no gimmicks, and short cuts never get you all the way. Decisiveness and drive are muscles that need to be flexed and stretched every day.
I love talking to folks with real problems and strategizing fixes. All ages. All sexes. All dilemmas. Whether you are scouting for a job, planning a wedding, burping a baby, building a home, finding the best cancer protocol or helping a child apply to college, I love how we humans figure things out—and I love helping others do the same.
If you could have lunch with any business person/mogul/entrepreneur/nonprofit founder living or dead, who would it be and why?
* Jeff Bezos—He started his business with books, and then he morphed onward and keeps morphing. A tireless, clever intellectual who’s turned his appreciation of books into a creative kingdom.
* Nicolas Berggruen—An investor and philanthropist who is trying to transform Los Angeles by developing a new, unique campus of culture and activism in the Santa Monica Mountains.
* My sister, Sarah Jane, who at age 50 switched careers from lawyer to businesswoman and now runs a manufacturing company that oversees five facilities and 100 employees.
* Always, always, the timeless, hilarious Mark Twain. I wish I could have been his older sister, become his bossy muse and helped him out of his later-year funks. I miss his classic, playful insights. In his stead, I never tire of Jon Stewart and his many wise and hilarious disciples.