Every July for the past seven years, I have gathered up my husband and two young children and headed to Rhode Island for the Newport Folk Festival. The festival, which began in July 1959 as a counterpart to the previously-established Newport Jazz Festival, has had some truly noteworthy moments (i.e., Bob Dylan goes electric in 1965!) and some rough times as well. The organizers seemed to have learned from the past and have steadily improved the festival over the last decade.
My husband recently shared the story of how the Newport Folk Festival was in trouble in the early ‘70s, and even shut its doors for several years until being revived in 1985. Since then, the festival organizers have re-invented the festival to become one of the premier music attractions in the entire country, along with other stalwarts like the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (another favorite of mine!). As a matter of fact, the festival regularly sells all their tickets before the acts are even announced; now that’s what I call being “in demand.”
Since this particular festival is so close to my heart, it got me thinking about the ways people -- and women, in particular -- re-invent themselves, or transform their skill sets to adjust to the ever-changing workplace. We all know a hard-working professional woman (or maybe it’s you) who’s taken time off from her career to raise a family and then, when the time was right, decided she was ready to “get back out there.”
My question is: How can you be like the Newport Folk Festival, which ceased operation for many years, and emerge as a sought-after professional ready to contribute to an organization?
It’s different for everyone, but here are a few things that helped me prepare to come back from the daily routine of changing diapers and feeding infants to drafting proposals and managing projects with colleagues across various time zones:
- Deliver quality. Every time. Tickets for the Newport Folk Festival regularly sell out before the line-up is even announced. Why? Because festival goers know that the acts will be quality musicians, just like years prior. As a professional, you want your co-workers to be able to count on you to deliver topnotch work, so they come back time and again.
- Embrace technology. Like many organizations, the Newport Folk Festival had to evolve with the times and adapt to ever-changing technology. Now, they use social media to provide up-to-the-minute information about current acts, weather issues and festival news; they even announce surprise, pop-up performances during the festival. As a stay-at-home mom looking to get back into the professional world, learning and using new technology is a must in order to be relevant in today’s business world.
- Stay current. In order to compete with the vast array of activities happening on beaches and in coastal towns around New England in July, the Newport Folk Festival had to take their line-up from traditional Folk sounds to a more cutting-edge line-up including Jack White, Roger Waters and this year, Flight of the Conchords. In a similar vein, if you want to be a valuable team member, you must demonstrate that you’re flexible and adaptable.
- Make organization a priority. The festival grounds are located at the historic Fort Adams State Park. In order to pack the grounds with 10,000 visitors each day, parking attendants, bus drivers, security officers and ticket collectors need to be well-organized and work in tandem with one another. Similarly, I’ve found that organization is the key to being efficient and productive, while performing a variety of tasks for multiple clients in various industries.
- Try something new. Get out of your comfort zone. Maybe you really dislike public speaking. Take a course online or at a community college that will help you overcome your fear and allow you to bemuch more comfortable when presenting to a large group of people. Another way to try something new relates to #2, Embrace Technology. There are new applications emerging, like Snapchat, that are starting to be used more frequently for business. The marketing automation software company HubSpot recently wrote a blog you might find useful titled, How to Use Snapchat: A Detailed Look Into HubSpot’s Snapchat Strategy. Learning a new skill is a great confidence-builder and can even help open doors to future opportunities as well.
It’s not easy transitioning back into the workforce after being absent for a period of time. But if you look around, you’ll see examples everywhere of people, businesses, even music festivals that have established themselves, hit a lull, then come back better than ever.
Do you have any examples you can share? Have you gone down this road and gotten inspiration from an unlikely place? I’d love to hear about it!
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