Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms weekly Meet a Mom spotlight where we feature one local mama, what they’re up to both personally and professionally. But first we’d like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm. Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities!
This week’s Meet a Mom feature is the lovely Evanston mom of three teenage daughters, and Managing Director and Co-Founder of NextGroup, Candance Chow. NextGroup is a career placement firm that supports women who are re-engaging or making a shift in their careers. Read on to learn how Candance Chow gets $%&@ done and great advice for any woman, in any stage of her career like this gem: “remember that you not only have to love what you do but you have to love selling what you do.” Welcome, Candance!
Hi Candance! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now?
My name is Candance Chow and I am a 22 year resident of Evanston. I came to Chicago to do my MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and never wanted to leave. I love Evanston because I am surrounded by people who are both connected – to one another and to the community – and who are caring – caring about the role we play in the world.
My husband Dan and I have three teenage daughters who are 15, 18 and 19 respectively. Our eldest daughter is a rising Sophomore at Northwestern. Our next daughter just graduated high school and the third is heading into her Sophomore year at ETHS.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
One thing that might surprise people about me is that I attended a performing arts school in high school, focused on theater and dance. It definitely wasn’t FAME but was a great way to get an almost checked out teen re-engaged in school!
Ha! That’s a great tip! Speaking of parenting, do you have any date night recs?
A recent date since emerging from the pandemic has been the best I can recall. My husband and I went to an outdoor concert at Canal Shores and Patio 42 in Evanston to see Tributosaurus, which is an awesome tribute band doing all Tom Petty, all night. It was a beautiful night and we were able to enjoy live music once again.
You’re an entrepreneur helping women re-emerge or change gears in the workforce! Please introduce your company, NextGroup.
My company is called NextGroup and I launched it in partnership with my partner Melanie Wright and two other co-founders in 2019 to support women who are re-engaging or making a shift in their careers. All four of us are women with accomplished professional backgrounds and also who contribute significantly in our communities as volunteers, advocates, changemakers and get-shit-done women. And we knew countless other women making similar impact in the community and yet feeling challenged to re-engaged in the paid workforce. On top of that I had been working as an independent management consultant for about 15 years and saw firsthand that women’s talent was and is desperately needed. We figured there had to be a way to match this talent with the need and support each other and other women along the way. NextGroup was born – a community of support and programs to help women get to what’s next for their career and to enable businesses and nonprofits to access this valuable talent.
Above: Melanie Wright and Candance Chow, Managing Directors and Co-Founders
Photo credit: Jennifer Schuman at Horizons Photography
How does NextGroup work? So, if I am a person who wants to change gears, what is my next step?
The first step is to join our talent network at www.nextgroupus.com/join-us and then sign up for one of our drop-in sessions to get guidance, which are every Tuesday from 9:30-11:00 am via zoom. More info on these can be found at www.nextgroupus.com/programs.
What’s most rewarding about being a part of NextGroup?
The single greatest reward is seeing women get hired into roles that they wouldn’t have found and potentially wouldn’t have thought they could get before working with NextGroup. Just last week an amazing woman, a former lawyer, mother of four and grassroots activist in our community was hired in a permanent role for a nonprofit client of ours that is exactly what she has been looking for going on three years. We were able to introduce her to the employer in a temporary, contract gig while another one of their directors was on maternity leave. She WoWed the CEO so much that he created a part-time position to fit her skills and need to still be present for her kids for the next few years. It was a win-win for everyone, and NextGroup was able to see her get a role deserving of her talent and the organization to benefit as well.
That’s wonderful! So, do you personally have any mentors?
I can’t say that I have ever really had a formal mentor in my career but I did have many peers, bosses and employees who I was always able to be vulnerable and authentic with about my goals, dreams and associated fears and anxieties. I think having these folks around me to express those fears and work thru the anxieties and challenges of work, life and trying to do both is what pushed me forward. I also have to say that my husband, who I originally met at work, some 20+ years ago continues to be a mentor and sounding board, encouraging me to take risks while also being a bit easier on myself when inevitably everything doesn’t go as planned.
What advice can you give other moms out there who are looking to start a new business in the current climate?
Starting a business is a liberating, empowering and amazing thing to do. It’s also scary as hell sometimes. My advice would be to not wait until you have your idea, your model and your execution fully baked. But do small experiments that will help you learn and evolve your ideas, making investments as you go. The key is to try something, learn from it and adjust. And lastly remember that you not only have to love what you do but you have to love selling what you do. If you hate selling your product or yourself, partner up! In fact, reach out to NextGroup because we might be able to be your “agent” too!
As a career What are the most common questions that people reach out to ask you?
How do I get back to work after a break of 5-10-15 years out of the formal workforce? What do I put on my resume?
Answer: You may not have been paid your worth in a while but that doesn’t mean you haven’t grown your skills and solved important problems. There is no law that says that your resume can only list paid positions and has to cover every year of your life since graduating college. You need to tell your story and sell your capabilities. When you focus on the experience you bring regardless of where you garnered that experience, you will be in a better spot. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cakewalk. Looking for a job or pivoting careers takes time, effort and some luck. But NextGroup and your network of peers can definitely help you along the way.
What’s on the horizon for you personally AND your business?
We are hyper focused on growing our talent network and making sure more and more women know about NextGroup. We have some exciting new client partnerships with local and global companies on the North Shore and across Chicagoland. We want to be able to show these companies and nonprofits the great talent and leadership our communities have to offer right here in their backyard! For me personally, I’m excited about growing this company, seeing my kids launch themselves and continuing to support positive change around town!
How do our readers reach out to learn more about your career services?
If you are looking for career support, schedule a call with NextGroup Managing Directors Candance Chow or Melanie Wright here. If you want to learn more or partner with NextGroup, connect with my personal calendar here.