Reinventing Herself Over and Over
Faith J. Fitzgerald, 58, looked out at the expectant faces of women at the Minnesota Bridging the Gap single moms retreat in Alexandria, Minnesota, and took a deep breath. She led a breakout session on “Reinventing Your Career,” a topic she knows intimately for an audience she also understands intimately.
A working single mom for several years until her remarriage in 2012, Fitzgerald recognizes the struggles and anxieties her audience faces daily.
“I want these women to know that even though some of our dreams don’t turn out the way we want, God can redeem them,” she says.
Fitzgerald grew up with a dream of becoming an administrative assistant, just as her mother had been. Every day her mom came home from work eager to share what she’d accomplished.
She enrolled in business administration at the University of North Dakota, remaining there for a year before leaving to find a job to pay for her schooling. She found an administrative assistant position for a government housing agency, but after two years she felt she’d mastered the job and wanted more. She returned to the university and finished her degree, graduating in 1987, and soon after she landed a job in staffing and recruiting for Kelly Services, where she worked her way up to management.
Though her professional life thrived, her personal life didn’t. She married after college and wanted to start a family, but doctors told her she would never have children because of scarring from three surgeries due to her endometriosis. She began to call out desperately to God. In 1994, she gave birth to her son, Bridger. “He is my miracle baby,” she says.
She continued to climb the career ladder, working with Professional Alternatives, an executive search firm specializing in human resources, and appeared to be primed for a vice president role. But her marriage disintegrated in 2004. To get through her days as a single mom, she leaned heavily on prayer, reading her Bible, and attending Emmanuel Christian Center.
“I knew that God was going to see me through, that I was not alone,” she says, her voice filling with emotion.
As her personal life slowly began to heal, her professional life took a hit when in 2009, at the height of the recession, the company she worked for, Thomson Reuters, laid her off. She had interviewed more than 20,000 candidates in her role in talent acquisitions; now she found herself needing a job. She says she sensed God nudging her to start her own business. By human standards, the middle of a recession seemed the worst time to start a recruiting business.
“People thought I was crazy and told me all the statistics about the number of businesses that fail within the first year, but I felt a peace about it,” she says.
So in 2010, Fitzgerald and a former co-worker, Pam Brennan, started Fitzgerald and Brennan Executive Search. Clients immediately showed up. For the next year, the company sailed through the recession, never at a loss for work. But tragedy struck again, when in 2011 Brennan left to care for her husband who had a brain tumor. That meant dissolving the company.
Now Fitzgerald found herself with no job, no income, and as the months passed, so broke she had to pay bills with credit cards.
“I was afraid I was going to lose everything I had worked for my whole life,” she says. More stressed than she’d ever been, she’d lie awake at night for hours praying and begging God to intervene.
“That season was devastating for Faith, but she knew God was with her,” says Faye Harrison, Fitzgerald’s twin sister.
Unable to find a job, Fitzgerald began selling jewelry in the evenings just to make enough to pay her utilities. After several months, she learned of a recruiter position that would pay her bills. Grateful that God had provided again, she took the position with an eye toward staying just long enough to be able to restart her company, now named Fitzgerald Recruiting, in 2012, this time without a partner.
“I didn’t want to give up,” she says. “That dream God had given me was still alive within me.” But she had to start all over, finding new clients and reorienting old customers to her new business.
Though her business has been prosperous since it opened, she doesn’t take for granted what it took to get there.
Fitzgerald in 2012 married Jim Michaelson and they attend Southland City Church in Rosemount, a suburb of Minneapolis. She also volunteers with Bridging the Gap and serves as an adviser for the group’s yearly single moms retreat.
“God has seen her through the hard places,” says Pat Schwalbe, director of volunteers for Minnesota’s Bridging the Gap. “She submits everything to prayer.”
Fitzgerald believes her name [Faith] is meaningful to her life.
“It’s amazing how strong you get on the other side of a trial and how the Lord didn’t allow me to go through all of that to just leave me there,” she says. The best part of her struggles is that she sees how it’s given her a ministry to be able to talk to others who are going through similar situations. A message, indeed, to share not only with the single moms at the retreat, but with everyone who struggles through hardships.