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Back on the Career Track

Return to Work - Carol Fishman CohenCarol Fishman Cohen is one of our favorite friends here at Daily Grommet.  We laughed out loud at her post “My So-Called Daily Grommet Life” on Yahoo Shine!   Carol is one busy lady these days.  Like many of us, she left the workforce to raise her kids (4) and after years working part time (5), and years as a stay-at-home mom (6), she successfully made a career re-entry at an investment firm in Boston.  Carol tells us it took some careful planning, strategizing and a bit of creativity to get “back on the career track” and return to work. She and her co-author and fellow-relauncher Vivian Steir Rabin decided to write the book on it.

Their book Back on the Career Track, A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work is an easy read with lots of well-detailed and practical advice from career counselors and job recruiters along with some really inspiring and candid stories from other successful re-launchers.  I liked its format… it makes you first delve inwardly to realistically assess your skills, needs and options.  It then outlines steps to help you develop a plan to build up your confidence and your marketability, to network and get those interviews and, ultimately to land that job.  With the success of the book, Carol and Vivian have co-founded iRelaunch, a company that produces career reentry programs for employers, schools, groups and individuals who want to relaunch their careers. This year they are holding return to work conferences in Atlanta, Boston, NYC, and Washington, D.C.  Check out their site http://www.irelaunch.com/ for details.  With these tough economic times, Carol’s book and her iRelaunch company are fantastic resources for those relaunchers who want to get back on the career track.

Carol, your book reads like the encouraging voice of an articulate and knowledgeable friend who totally understands the difficulties in relaunching one’s career.

1. You start out by suggesting a Relaunch readiness quiz.  Can you describe that to us?

The first step in the relaunch process is to determine readiness. We look at readiness in three categories and the quiz reflects this:  First, what is my interest in returning to work, filtering everything else out?  Second, what are my childcare, eldercare or other responsibilities? And third, what is my spousal or family support, if any? The quiz allows you to score your readiness in each of these three categories.  Sometimes, we can’t wait to return, and feel really ready, but there is a practical reason why we can’t.  Maybe a person is caring for her elderly father and realizes she needs to transition him to a board and care before it is realistic for her to return to work.  Another person might be on career break to care for young kids and realize she can’t realistically return until the kids are in school plus an after school program for the full day.

2. What do you think is the biggest hurdle to relaunching?

An overwhelming jumble of emotions and decisions can keep us from moving forward.  We call this the “floundering period”.  The relaunch readiness quiz helps divide this big question of “How do I return to work?” into categories, but that’s just the beginning. Discerning what it is you really want to do and getting yourself up to speed to be ready to do your best work is a big piece of the process. One of the reasons Vivian and I wrote Back on the Career Track is, when we relaunched our careers in 2000 and 2001, we felt alone and without a game plan. No one was talking about relaunching at that time.  Having a strategy and an orderly framework to the process helps keep up momentum.   The final hurdle is overcoming a lack of confidence. We spend a whole chapter on confidence building strategies in Back on the Career Track.

3. The second part of your book talks about relaunchers from the employers’ perspective. Can you tell us how employers view relaunchers, especially moms with their need for flexibility?

Interestingly, we learned from our iRelaunch Return to Work Conferences, which we have run seven times over the last 2.5 years for over 1,000 people, that 70% of our participants are looking for conventional full time jobs.  People are looking for what we call “flexibility around the edges”, the ability to go to the school play or work the occasional day from home and have that fall within the normal expectations of the employer.  We work with big global employers, and most of them will say a new employee needs to come on board and prove herself first in a full time position in order to earn the opportunity to work a truly flexible schedule, mixing working at home with working in the office, or having flexible start and end times.  We had an interesting comment at one of our first conferences that if you are looking for flexibility, look for companies that are located in long term construction zones.  These companies may stagger start times at work or allow people to work at home because their productivity will be higher than if they are trying to make it through construction barriers every day.  Finally, I think it’s important to ask, when someone says they want to work part time or flexibly, what do they really mean by that?  Some people say they want to work part time when really what they want is flexibility in where they do their work or what hours.  They don’t want to have full time face time in the office. They are willing to work a full time schedule if some of it can be done from home or at non-traditional hours. These definitions are really important to determine up front.

4.    What does your crystal ball say about the future for relaunchers?

Our first return to work conference was Spring 2008, so we have been running them through the worst of the recession.  We found it fascinating and gratifying that our employer sponsor base grew during this period.  Smart companies are forward looking in their recruiting practices.  We had employers in the public and private sectors remark at our conferences that while they might be in a hiring freeze at the moment, 50% of their workforce was going to retire in the next five years.  Others are always looking for a way to attract more women into leadership roles at their companies, regardless of economic conditions. While both men and women take career breaks for a range of reasons, 95% of our conference attendees are female, and most have taken their career break for child care reasons. Companies are realizing that hiring women at the life stage after they are done having children and when their children are a little older, is a great business decision.  We also impress upon employers that the stereotype of the relauncher population being technologically obsolete is a temporary condition.  Having been technologically obsolete myself, I can tell you that yes, I had to learn PowerPoint, Excel, Word and social media, but after I learned all of that, I wasn’t technologically obsolete any more. I’m mentioning all of this to make the point that we think the future is good for relaunchers.  One of our missions at iRelaunch is to trumpet success stories of how returning professionals have successfully transitioned back into the workforce. Not only are we doing this to inspire people on career break to return, but we want employers to see success story after success story, so any perceived risk of hiring someone returning from career break is eliminated.

*Carol has generously offered to give away 2 copies of her book, Back on the Career Track.

To enter: leave a comment below. For an extra entry, tweet about this post and leave an additional comment here telling us you tweeted (include your Twitter handle!)

Good luck!

General contest rules: To enter, you must be a U. S. or Canadian resident, and at least 18 years of age and you must leave a comment or question on today’s post. No purchase necessary. The winner will be randomly selected and will receive the title above. Employees, contractors, and the families of employees and contractors of Daily Grommet, Inc. are not eligible to enter. You are not eligible to win if you have received a prize or giveaway from Daily Grommet in the last six months. Void where prohibited. Contest will run from 89am PST March 9, 2011 to 10 pm PST March 11, 2011.


  • Analisa McMillan Says:

    Sounds like a great read and just what I need too ; )

  • Janina Lee Says:

    Thanks for offering some great wisdom - I plan to use some of this and share with others who are in this situation!

  • Janina Lee Says:

    ...and by the way, I tweeted too! janinalee is my handle. Peace!

  • Cathy Brown Bulman Says:

    I could really use assistance in this area! I have been unemployed for 2 1/2 years and could use some guidelines for re-entering the work force.

  • lynn murray Says:

    I'm so glad to have found this book! I'm back in school re-tooling for my eventual relauch and I couldn't be more excited about all possiblities.

  • Denyse Says:

    I have owned my own business for the past 15 years and I am ready for a change. How do you re-enter after being your own boss?

  • DIana Says:

    What an excellent book idea! We recently had an Opinion piece in our Twin Cities newspaper from a reporter who regretted her stay-at-home status because of the challenge she faced in returning to work. I know it's a common fear, but hopefully with help it can be overcome. I do hope those of us who chose to both stay home and start our own at-home business (whether one-person biz or direct sales) will find the transition easier should we choose to go back to the corporate world.

  • Carol Fishman Cohen Says:

    Analisa and Janina and Lynn- Thank you! Hope you find Back on the Career Track and iRelaunch.com helpful.

    Cathy - go to the "Relauncher Resources" on the http://www.irelaunch.com website home page and you will see links to our "7 Steps to Relaunch Success" career reentry strategy which we developed for Back on the Career Track and also a range of great tools for returning to work. Check out our blog and also Back on the Career Track for a detailed discussion of each step.

    More responses a little later tonight........

    To all who commented above: If you go to http://www.irelaunch.com, you can sign up to become a member of iRelaunch. It is free and every month you will receive our newsletter packed with advice, strategies, success stories, employer features and events of interest to relaunchers.

  • Kelly Says:

    I will definately look for this book. I've taken time off for years and thought the "right job opportunity" to go back to work would somehow present itself in due time, but now I realize I need to come up with a plan to get back to work. There are so many things to consider when reentering the workforce. I've been updating my computer skills, but I'll be interested to see what advice they give on family support, sometimes it's hard to ask for help, when the family is used to mom handling everything on her own:) Can't wait to read this book!

  • Carol Fishman Cohen Says:

    Denyse - Since you have owned your own business and now "are ready for a change", I'm assuming that means you want to get a conventional (or unconventional) job with an employer. That makes you a career transitioner rather than a relauncher, who is returning to work after a break from paid work entirely. However, the strategies for the relauncher are equally valuable for the transitioner.

    Without having any other information about you, I think you need to start by figuring out exactly what kind of work you want to do. This means doing some kind of career assessment. In Back on the Career Track, we developed the Job Building Blocks Framework which is a process of examining all of your significant prior work and volunteer experiences and breaking them into components. So for example, if you were a stock researcher, the components would include basic research about a company and industry, meeting with management, visiting companies, making presentations, writing up your investment opinion, looking at financial statements, and doing financial analysis. Then you identify those components that you love doing and are best at. From this selected pile of components you can build back up a new career path for yourself.

    Do you want to do something related to your entrepreneurial venture or are you interested in some other area entirely? If the latter, does that mean you need to do any academic work or strategic volunteering to get some education and experience in the new field?

    You may also want to get in touch with people at employers in the industry you are considering and ask if you could meet with them so they can tell you about their career paths in that industry. This is a great way to meet people and develop a relationship with them before you are asking them to help you out with a job opportunity. It will also help you decide if that industry is really right for you, identify great companies within that industry to approach, and decide if there are particular companies that are a good match in terms of people and company "culture".

  • Carol Fishman Cohen Says:


    Regarding the Twin Cities reporter; it is tough to return to work. It is a process that takes time and a real personal investment. But there's a reason for that. You want your relaunch to result in meaningful, interesting work for which you are compensated fairly. We discuss the process in terms of 7 Steps: determining readiness, building confidence, assessing career options, updating yourself, networking and marketing, getting your family on board, and then handling the job (or get a new one). You want to be very strategic and deliberate about going through this process. The exception is if you have immediate financial need. Then you may need to take an interim, not so perfect job to pay the bills while you continue to strategize for the next job which will be your real relaunch.

    Take a look at the "success stories" tab on iRelaunch.com and you will see over 100 examples of how people have returned to work after career breaks ranging from 1-20 years. The key success factors are ability to identify exactly what you want to do and then being absolutely relentless about going after it. Less important is age or number of years out of the workforce.

  • Janet Benvenuti Says:

    Can you expand a bit on how a relauncher can upgrade her skills, especially with regard to social media and technology? I am hiring relaunchers and I want to help them become proficient as quickly as possible.

  • Renee Falkner Says:

    A very timely read...In the last 17 years so much technology has evolved that I find the market a much more intimidating prospect !

  • Carol Fishman Cohen Says:


    Re technology - unless they are IT people who need to do some intensive updating in coding and programming languages, we are talking about getting up to speed with PowerPoint, Excel, Word and Outlook. There are several ways to do this - take a local community education course or an online course at a local university, put an add in the local high school (or middle school newsletter) saying you are looking for a student to give you a tutorial on these technologies (we highlight a real ad of this type in Back on the Career Track), ask your kid or a neighbor kid down the street, or go to iRelaunch.com and sign up for one of our brand new tutorials, offered via relauncher-owned tech education company "Softeach," on PowerPoint and Outlook for both Windows and MAC based users. We will expand our offerings after we test these pilot classes.

    Re Social Media. We encourage every relauncher to set up a profile on LinkedIn and we have a Webinar tutorial on the topic, featuring Daily Grommet's Jules Pieri, that is available on iRelaunch.com. There is a great blog post on how to set up on Twitter by http://www.mojo40.com

    Here it is: http://www.mojo40.com/how-to-create-a-linkedin-profile/

    And here's a good one they wrote on Twitter http://www.mojo40.com/what-is-twitter-and-why-go-there/

    For Twitter, LI and FB, you have to force yourself to set up an account and experiment a bit to really get it. We are thinking about working on a Twitter Webinar for Relaunchers, in the same jargon free, non-intimidating style we used for the LinkedIn Webinar. Join http://www. iRelaunch.com and you will be notified when it is ready.

  • Carol Fishman Cohen Says:

    Janet - Was writing the above in a hurry! Sorry for the switcheroo on the Linked In and Twitter posts by Mojo40. But you get the idea.

  • Carol Fishman Cohen Says:

    Renee - You've just got to decide you are going to attack the technology piece. I was totally intimidated by it and had to force myself. I looked at who was teaching the computer classes at our local community education and contacted the teacher directly to see if she would come to my house and give me a one on one tutorial in powerpoint. I did the same with excel. On social media you can try setting up a profile on facebook - ask any kid you know and they will show you how. Once you see how to do that you can apply similar methods for setting up an initial profile on LinkedIn, but then you want to be careful to make that public facing profile one that communicates a message you control. See the resources I sent to "Janet" on that. On twitter you can just join and not do anything to your page but just use it to search for key words or company or people on twitter and see what comes up and click on it. I like using Twitter to research companies and topics to discuss with companies.

  • Barbara Says:

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It's the perfect tool for professionals who have taken a break from career to focus on family for a bit.

  • Tori Says:

    Thank you all for leaving such thoughtful questions and comments. Thank you Carol for taking the time to answer and share your expertise with everyone. We have emailed the two randomly selected winners, so be sure to check your inbox!

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