Faith Leicht has spent much of her career in human resources, but she’s delighted with her current, more unusual job.
“I’m an ambassador,” she said.
Leicht, of Minneapolis, is using her diplomatic skills to open doors for other professional women eager to return to the workplace after stepping out to raise children, care for an ill family member or regroup before trying something new.
Last fall, Leicht, the mother of three young children, joined a New York-based start-up called Après (apresgroup.com), which means “after” in French. The company offers women career coaching, how-to and motivational articles and educational courses, some of them free.
Companies that collaborate with Après, from mom-and-pops to major corporations and universities, get something even better: a database of educated, qualified and motivated workers in diverse fields, including marketing, finance, law and technology.
“So many companies are eager to work with this demographic,” said Après CEO and co-founder Jennifer Gefsky. She noted that 98 percent of the women on her site have college degrees, more than half with graduate degrees.
Since its launch in May 2016, Après has garnered 20,000 members in all 50 states — about 750 in the Twin Cities — as well as 100 corporate partners with names you might know. Facebook, Pepsi and Amazon are among them, all hungry to add more women to their working environments.
No Minnesota companies are yet on the hiring roster, but “there will be,” Leicht said confidently. “This is a prime market.”
She spends her days connecting with recruiters at colleges and universities, companies big and small, and is getting the word out to women, too, through professional associations and social media outlets.
“Women are blown away by this,” she said. “They’re so excited that this concept is gaining momentum.”
Gefsky launched the self-funded site after experiencing a familiar scenario. A lawyer with a huge New York City firm, she had a great career. Then, in 2007, she stepped out to raise her three kids.
When her youngest went off to kindergarten, she told herself, “I have to get back to work. I want to work. But I was sitting at home with no confidence, no connections. You find yourself looking into the abyss.
“I had no idea where to get started.”
Turns out she was in good company. About 3 million highly educated American women are hoping to return to the workforce, she said, most in the 35-50 age range.
Some have been out just a year or two, others a decade or longer.
“How daunting is that?” Gefsky said. “It’s a job to find a job. It takes time to get ramped back up, take classes, redo a résumé, do research.”
In 2015, Gefsky and entrepreneur Niccole Siegel Kroll began developing their website to respond to those needs, “homing in on who we are, our vision.”
They chose a simple mission statement: “Reconnect with your professional self.”
They filled their cleanly designed site with inspiring reading (“How to make age an advantage in the job search”), advice on realistic problems such as gaps in résumés, a roster of vigorously vetted career coaches and a place for women to post their online résumés seeking full-time, part-time or project-based positions.
Potential employers gain access to this network of job seekers, as well as a full-page recruiting and marketing presence on the Après site, showcasing their company, corporate culture and social media outlets.
(Companies pay an annual membership fee based on size and beginning at $1,000. Membership for women is free.)
When Gefsky hires corporate development people such as Leicht, she tells them, “You’re not salespeople. You’re advocates for this demographic. These women provide a wonderful opportunity to infuse women back into the workforce.”
And, she adds to any companies that are listening:
Young working women are watching you.
“Millennials will make this a front-and-center topic,” Gefsky said.
“They’re wondering, ‘How does this company treat senior women?’ ”
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The formidable women of Après
In just one year, workforce reinvention site Après has garnered 20,000 female members in all 50 states, including 750 in the Twin Cities area. They’re a formidable bunch.
Members with graduate degrees: 55 percent.
Members with college degrees: 98 percent.
Average years of working experience: More than 10.
Professions represented: Marketing/sales, finance, law, advertising, accounting, human resources, consulting, technology.