Need Career Help? Recruit It Yourself

In the current climate of uncertain employment (or in some cases, certain unemployment), many people are reevaluating and adapting their career strategies. But before spending hundreds of dollars on a life coach or career counselor, try recruiting your own support group.

Over a year ago, I started W.E.N.C.H. -- Women Exploring New Career Horizons. I first suggested the name Careers Undergoing New Transformations, but the ladies shot that one down rather quickly. Anyway, it's been absolutely fabulous. And sometimes quite literally like the British sitcom.

Finding my demographic was easy. They were either in or around the playground. Moms are easy to spot with our conspicuous extra appendages we call children. I met dozens of women who after becoming a mother wanted or needed to reevaluate their work-life situation. Finding your own set of kindreds won't be hard. Reach out to friends, friends of friends, former and current colleagues. Advertise on a listserv. The person sitting next to you in the coffee shop at 10 a.m. might be interested. You'll find them. Though, if you're a single guy, I wouldn't suggest hanging out at playgrounds.

The Wenches meet once a month where we drink wine, nosh on something made of chocolate and talk about our careers. Meetings may begin with chick-chat about our children or exercise or shoes, but it doesn't stay there long. We've come to talk shop.

And it's quite a variety of shop-talk. The group includes an uber-stylish architect with a burgeoning cliental, a public relations diva who interned in the Clinton White House, a former rebel in her native Armenia who can assemble firearms in the dark and decorate the hell out of a living room. One Wench is building her own graphic design business. Another is revamping her catering company. Some new recruits are a teacher/writer, a consultant/marathon runner and a dancer/aerial performer. (There's a lot of slashes in The Wenches.) We're all over the career map and at different levels in our careers -- from just beginning a new one to building on former successes. But we're all trying to make work ... work.

Our conversations are aided by the fact that we are sworn to secrecy. What happens in Wench, stays in Wench. Kind of like the privilege the president has with his advisors. It's important to be able to say anything. The only exception is we're careful not to slip into psycho-babble or anything resembling the Poor Me Syndrome. No PMS with the Wenches. On more than one occasion a Wench has been advised to "get a pair." But always in a loving and nurturing manner. We are mothers, after all.

And we Wenches want results. We try to leave each meeting with a specific goal that we can brag about accomplishing at the next meeting. The power of peer pressure is not to be underestimated. If women hate to disappoint, we might as well get something from it. We even give each other work. I've gotten new clients for my Chinese tutoring business from a Wench. And the architect scored a project from another. Then there's the editing of resumes and bios and logos. These women have become not only valuable resources but damn good company.

But even with our open and candid environment, there are secrets among the Wenches.

It was in an article on The Huffington Post where I learned that a fellow Wench was a member of D.C.'s first and only all-female punk band. How do you not mention that? Natalie Avery, a local writer and mom of two very cool kids, played guitar in Fire Party. You can hear about her experiences in "Positive Force: More Than A Witness," a new documentary about the District of Columbia's 26-year-old punk-rock activist collective Positive Force. It premieres this Monday at Gold Leaf Studios (443 I Street, NW) from 8 p.m. to 10 10 p.m.

We Wenches are nothing if not supportive.

(More stories from this writer at www.curlicuechronicles.com.)

Author's Note: The documentary "Positive Force: More Than A Witness" premiered after this post's publication. Also, Natalie Avery's former band Fire Party was simply one of D.C.'s all-female punk bands.