I'd like to give you two images that may or may not be stereotypical. One is a woman in a business suit, with an envelope in one hand, a pink slip in the other and a look of incredulousness on her face. The other is a woman intensely reading at a table, coffee at her left, half glasses perched on her nose while the world bustles around her.
This is the image I have of Connie Merchant, a woman who in May of 2008, after five years of leadership contributions, was told there was to be another corporate reorganization, a sort of employee musical chairs. Only she didn't get a chair this time. Her position was being eliminated. What would she do next?
She was fortunate in a way, as the company, for which she had worked, provided her with 'career transition' services. After being assigned a counselor, they would work together to help her write a new resume, practice interviewing and search for a new position. One of the other choices for services included guidance on how to start your own business. In looking at her options, she thought, "Maybe I will do that- I am not sure I want to go back to another corporate role that might also be eliminated soon. " (Connie has since started her own consulting firm, assisting companies with leadership development, change management and developing effective teams)
While beginning the task of "what to do", she became aware that there are others like her who were embarking, not necessarily by choice, on a world of unknown paths. However, Connie thought, they don't have to be alone. Who wants to wander in a wilderness without someone beside you? Fortunately for her, she had Dr. Susan Lawley as her career counselor. Dr. Lawley uses a tool she created called the Career Kaleidoscope©. Using this tool, the client comes to ask these questions: What is at the intersection of all the things you like to do? How can you create a career out that?
For Connie, who used this tool to pinpoint her own skills, it was found that her passions are networking, friendships of women, and books. Perhaps, she thought, she could use these skills to walk with others on the same path she was traversing. And so she developed the concept of The Book Look", a kind of 'show and tell' for women who like to read. Unlike typical 'book clubs' where everyone reads the same title simultaneously, The Book Look invites women to share all types of books. The women of Book Look share fiction, non-fiction, business books, parenting books, books of faith, titles old and new.
Connie's Book Look idea became a reality when, in October of 2008, the first meeting was hosted at her home. She invited professional women from many different professions in many stages of employment who were all avid readers. Each woman brought two books - one personal, one professional. After sharing appetizers and beverages, they gathered to share titles and experiences. A 'scribe' was requested to jot down all that was shared. The first few Book Looks, were wildly successful, except for one thing- they lasted way too long for a weeknight! It was decided that during the next sessions, each woman would bring only one book to share. Connie's concept of The Book Look is a huge success- they have hosted one per quarter for the past two years. They are always in the home of one of the attendees, not in a public setting.
Lynel DeRose, was also 'in transition' during 2008. A budding entrepreneur, while getting her Master's degree in instructional design, Lynel has become a faithful attendee of The Book Look. Connie and she shared many of the same experiences: they were both let go by major corporations—Connie in May of 2008, Lynel in October of the same year; they have both worked in corporate Learning and Development departments; they live in the same neighborhood and attended the same church. Lynel hosted a summer session on her deck last year. According to Lynel: "The Book Look is an amazing opportunity to meet and network with other intelligent, well-read women. Book Looks inspire me to read books I would have never really known about otherwise. It is not just about sharing books we have read, it is about building relationships, personal and professional, that make the Book Look such a success. The best part about the Book Look is the friendships that form. Connie has created an atmosphere where there are no airs, no stuffiness – you can come and just be you."
Another Book Look member, Patty Whitehouse, was 'in transition' the same year as Connie. Patty became certified as a Life Coach. Patty says, "The support and encouragement I received from other Book Look participants came in many forms and was truly amazing. While the ever expanding book list has been great, my favorite part of the Book Looks is the exchange of thoughts and ideas shared in the conversations with some of the most marvelous women I have ever met."
Emily Benadon, marketing director for J&J says this about the Book Look, "I look forward to these get-togethers since everyone is fabulous -- smart, fun women with a sense of who they are in life. They have no agenda at the gathering except to share a favorite or enlightening, insightful book and to meet up with other fun, smart women. I found these Book Looks inspirational and motivational. The women who attend are different ages and of different perspectives and different careers. These Book Looks symbolize a lot of my beliefs; women should strive to be dynamic, informed, and respectful of themselves, the latter being a #1 goal. Their sense of humor is wonderful and uplifting."
The idea of the Book Look is unique and yet not. Women who enjoy reading have been getting together for a long time. Connie's idea though, provides a forum for women to share their passion, their minds, even their ambition with one another, creating another great way for them to network and see beyond what they experience 9 to 5. The walk doesn't have to be solitary. Is a Book Look for you? Why not contact her and see.
Interested in starting a Book Look in your area? Contact: Connie Merchant merchant.connie@ gmail.com