Making Your Own Second Chances
How one woman re-entered the workforce and reignited her career.
When Keita Young graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she was eager to get started in commercial litigation and employment law. After working countless hours for 8 years, she surprised even herself when, pregnant with her first child, she chose to take some time off and adjust to being a new mom.
It was supposed to be a short break. But three children and 11 years later, she was ready to get back to being a lawyer. Through the JPMorgan Chase ReEntry program, Keita returned and worked full-time at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in the Consumer & Community Banking legal department. Now, she is the program manager for the Advancing Black Leaders Strategy, a new diversity strategy aimed at attracting, hiring, retaining and advancing talent within the black community, and continuing to define JPMorgan Chase as an employer of choice. Here, she offers a few tips for fellow parents who want to go back to work, but don't know where to start.
Here, she offers a few tips for fellow parents who want to go back to work, but don’t know where to start.
1. Get involved in something while you’re at home
In 2006, I opened a children's consignment store with a friend. My friend had retail experience while I set up the partnership agreement, negotiated the lease and took care of the legal aspects of the business. It was a good match — I ended up having three kids and brought them to the store to an area in the back where kids could play. It accommodated all of our needs, which was exactly what I needed then.
After closing the shop, I worked part time in resource development for Black Alliance for Educational Options. It was a great opportunity and exposed me to something different and new, which helped me build out my skillset.
Don’t underestimate volunteering at your child’s school! Project management, budgets, marketing—it’s all part of the work volunteers take on for schools. It kept me active, social and again, I was introduced to new work experiences.
2. Have a story that showcases your value<
This one is big for me— you’ve got to have a story about your career path that you and others can grasp onto and get behind, no matter what!
My story was about branching out, trying new things and succeeding. I opened a consignment store without any retail experience. I wrote grants and helped a nonprofit fundraise for their annual symposium – none of which I had ever done before. But I knew I could be an asset and welcomed the challenge of learning something new.
3. Direct your path: Meet with your manager for weekly performance reviews and updates
When I started my fellowship in the JPMorgan Chase ReEntry Program, I scheduled weekly meetings with my boss. This way, there were no surprises about my performance, and I quickly learned how to improve my work and meet the expectations of my manager. Those meetings, while not required, helped me to develop a great working relationship with my manager, allowed weekly feedback sessions and allotted me an uninterrupted scheduled time to talk to my manager about anything. I’m pretty sure those meetings helped me land the full-time position I’m in currently.
4. Set up a good support system
Having a network of supportive family and friends is invaluable. My transition back to work wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my mom, who has taken on the responsibilities I can no longer fully manage now that I am back to full-time work. She has been invaluable with meal preparations, school and activity pick-ups and drop-offs and filling in when I am tied up at the office.
5. Find a mentor
My mentor, a female colleague at JPMorgan Chase, is one of my greatest assets. As part of the company’s ReEntry Program, each participant is assigned a mentor. While her responsibility was to serve as a resource during my fellowship, she instantly became my confidant, friend and resourceful colleague. She helped me navigate the company, answered questions that I was reluctant to ask my manager, and offered an honest opinion about my work product. Even though I’m no longer in the program, she continues to be a great sounding board for me. You’ll recognize a good prospect for a mentor, whether assigned or informally chosen, as someone with whom you connect personally, who is eager to help and who has your best interest in mind.
6. Decide what’s important to you and don’t sweat the small stuff
When I returned back to full-time work I immediately realized that it was almost impossible to be that super-mom, super- employee, super- wife and super-friend, all at the same time. That level of perfection is not possible and I just had to let those ideas go. I had to learn what was most important at a given time and learn not to sweat the small stuff. Perfection is not possible, but the chance to develop all parts of myself – the professional self, the parenting self, the friend self and my spouse self – is what is important to me. Developing all of these together – is the real me. Now, I recognize that it is not easy, but I embrace my situation and feel blessed and fortunate to have an incredible family, great friends, supportive colleagues and the opportunity to return back into the workforce at such great company. Sweating the small stuff is not important.
About the author: Keita Young is a Vice President and Program Manager for the Advancing Black Leaders Strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co. She joined the company through the Legal ReEntry Program in September 2014 as Assistant General Counsel in the Consumer & Community Banking legal department. Keita is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D.) and Spelman College (B.A., cum laude, Political Science). Her prior legal experience includes Senior Associate in the Employment/Labor Section at Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith in Woodbridge, New Jersey and Associate in the Litigation Department at Hoyle Morris & Kerr, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Before joining JPMorgan Chase, Keita was also a resource development consultant for Black Alliance for Educational Options.
Read how other leading voices are championing a more inclusive workplace.
Learn more about Women on the Move, our initiative that supports female employees by addresses the unique challenges they face.