Jane Matthews had worked in different marketing and public relations jobs for more than 14 years. After each one, she recalled, “I always asked, what’s next?”
When she moved to Los Angeles from New York with her husband in 2006, Matthews hoped that the next thing would be a different job. She wanted to leave her old professional life behind and start a new career.
After turning to Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) last year, Matthews took the advice of a counselor who suggested she pair up with a mentor as she pursued her dream of opening a custom jewelry business. She ended up partnering with Jaye Hersh, the owner of the Hollywood boutique Shop Intuition, which caters to celebrity clients like Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Simpson.
With Hersh’s support and guidance, Matthews recently launched her new business, called Hurricane, whose products are available at Shop Intuition and etsy.com, where she’s known as HurricaneJane.
“Jaye gives me so much faith for success,” Matthews said.
Trying to start a new business, make a midcareer change or re-enter the work force after taking time off to raise children can be difficult in the current economic climate, depending on the field. Despite a July dip in jobless claims, unemployment is still at a 26-year high of 9.4 percent.
JVS, a nonsectarian agency, is hoping to give an added boost to women considering a job change by supplying education and support through its WoMentoring program, now in its 12th year. If accepted, clients are paired up with a successful woman in a particular field and mentored for nine months; they also receive training and coaching from JVS counselors and help developing a professional network.
WoMentoring is currently accepting applications for the 2009-2010 session, which begins in the fall.
Support for WoMentoring comes from a new fundraising group called the WoMentoring Leadership Network (WLN), which is co-chaired by Debbie Powell, Judy Flesh Rosenberg and Eileen Coskey Fracchia. Additional underwriting for the program comes from Union Bank and Wells Fargo as well as Powell and her husband Rick.
“We are helping women in transition who need or want to get back into the work force. Some of our mentees have been full-time moms who are facing an empty nest, or recent college graduates entering an uncertain job market; some are recovering from divorce or abuse or suddenly have an unemployed spouse ... many are simply dreaming of a career change,” said Powell, who runs an event-planning company.
Powell considers WLN one of the most rewarding things she has ever done.
“Even though the economy is in a downturn, the WLN is doing well,” Powell said. “With members donating $1,000 each, we are able to subsidize in large part the cost of the program and the administration to run it. Because we aren’t asking for a huge membership donation, we continue to attract donors even in this difficult economic climate.”
The WLN, which currently has 35 members, is hoping to attract more professional women in the business world who can serve as mentors. Powell says mentors are expected to devote a few hours each month from October to June.
“There are myriad ways in which you can make a difference in the life of a woman,” she said.
Powell said that women who have been through the WoMentoring program have gone on to careers ranging from an area representative for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to development, counseling, real estate, insurance, social work and the arts.
Sara Levine, an established marketing executive, recently mentored Paula Rodriguez, a busy mother of four who was seeking to transition from grocery merchandising to a career in the public sector.
Levine helped Rodriguez network with marketing and education professionals, giving her a deeper knowledge of the nonprofit and government education field. At the end of her mentorship, Rodriguez made the decision to return to school to study family enrichment and social work.
“Paula is one of those people who is a real go-getter, who has the stick-to-itiveness and attitude to achieve her goals,” said Levine, a marketing professional at the aviation firm Super Marine. “I’ve been a mentor four times already and am always thrilled to be able to help women take that next step in their careers and lives.”