NextGroup Relaunches Professional Women into a More Flexible, Post-Covid Workplace

Work travel, after-hour client events, face time with the boss. These are demands that have made parenting and full-time careers difficult to balance.

But remote working has changed all that. With the novel experiences the coronavirus has brought into our lives — Zoom calls from home, work projects that can be scheduled around kids’ activities — finding a work-life balance has become more realistic.  

And Candance Chow and Melanie Wright, who met years ago while pursuing their MBAs at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, want to make this a reality for more women.  

Photos provided by Jennifer Schuman at Horizon Photography of Evanston.

When Candance and Melanie began to brainstorm their ideas for NextGroup, their mission was to make the journey back to work easier for women. Having stepped in and out of the paid workforce themselves, they understood the obstacles women face after taking a “gap.” Two friends teamed up with them as co-founders: Joan Sherman, a consultant working in women’s empowerment, and Tracy Quattrocki, an educator.

A longtime advocate for women’s issues, Candance believes “some basic misconceptions stand in the way of women rejoining the workforce. Employers often believe that time away from a career means lost ability or skill, or that the need for flexibility means a desire for less responsibility.” 

“But with employers seeking a more diverse and flexible workplace, re-launchers are uniquely positioned to fill many of these roles,” adds Melanie, who has worked as a career coach at Kellogg.

Founded over a year ago, NextGroup offers re-launchers individual workshops on writing résumés and LinkedIn profiles, as well as a boot camp with soup-to-nuts coaching on everything from reimagining a return to work to networking, interviewing and negotiating the final package.

Among NextGroup’s many clients, it’s easy to find satisfied customers. “I can honestly say I wouldn’t be working today if it weren’t for NextGroup,” says Amanda Boes, a recent NextGroup relauncher.

NextGroup boasts over 1,000 women from the North Shore in its talent pool. Culled primarily from Evanston and surrounding communities — a demographic with a greater degree of diverse career and educational experiences than neighboring communities — it’s a group uniquely attractive to employers.

Photos provided by Jennifer Schuman at Horizon Photography of Evanston.

And feedback from businesses using NextGroup has been overwhelmingly positive.“ As a business owner myself, I know how hard it is to find the right people at the right time,” says Pete Giangreco, an Evanston-based strategy consultant. After one successful placement, he vowed to use NextGroup again in order to find “flexible, experienced talent.”

With NextGroup’s highly educated and motivated clients and with employers looking for flexible, professional talent, “our job really is about finding the right match at a time that hiring managers are deluged with resumes for every job,” Candance notes. “It’s a matter of connecting the dots, helping women meet employers looking for their skills, and helping employers tap into this undiscovered talent pool.

 “It’s one of the most gratifying jobs I’ve ever held,” she says. “I’m helping these fantastic women find work that enriches their lives, and I’m connecting employers to these incredible women.” 

“What could be better?” Melanie adds.

Employers and relaunchers, please visit nextgroupus.com for more information. 

Register here for NextGroup’s upcoming free program “Covid’s Impact on Hiring Trends,” scheduled for November 12 at 7 p.m via Zoom.