10 Expert Tips on Going Back to Work

Restart career, encore career, second act, job candidates

Lisa writes: You used to be so confident, successful in your career, juggling life responsibilities and bringing home a paycheck.  But then came a career break, an extended period of time where, for family or other reasons, you left the full-time workforce. Now there is a gap in your resume and a sense of professional unease has crept into that opening but you want to go back to work.

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Back on the Career Track, pt. 2

back on the career track, irelaunch, career reentry, restart careerCarol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of irelaunch,  returns today with some concise words of advice for anyone looking to reignite a career or maybe change direction. She gives us some great personal stories that we hope will provide inspiration and direction.

If you want to hear more Carol gave a great interview with Better After 50 (BA50) and you can read it here.

5 ways to relaunch a career:

1.    The Volunteer Relaunch

  • After a 15 year career break, Jenny Brody founded the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project to provide pro bono representation to low-income clients in family law cases.  The non-profit has now secured funding and has 450 lawyers involved.
  • Another lawyer, Deborah Felton, spent most of her 15 year career break as a community activist, including increasingly senior volunteer roles at a senior housing community. When the housing community was looking for a new (paid) Executive Director, Deborah was their first choice.

2.    The Back to School Relaunch  The benefits of going back to school only begin with what you are learning in the classroom.  You have access to career services, exclusive job listings and internships, and networking opportunities with professors and fellow students.

  • Belinda Nanda, an IT consultant who had taken a 10-year career break, took IT courses at a local community college to update her skills.  She applied for an internship posted at the community college to work at an electronic medical records management company.  Instead of being offered the unpaid internship, she was offered a permanent position.
  • Cindy Rawlings completed a Certified Financial Planning Certificate at Northwestern University at the end of her 20 year career break and subsequently returned to work at North Shore Community Bank as part of their commercial banking group. She has worked in increasingly senior positions in the 6 years she has been back at work.
  • Debbie Krasnow, a former public relations executive, went back to school for a degree in social work at the end of her 15 year career break. She is now a social worker working with at-risk women and their families at a non-profit.

3.    The Internship Relaunch 

  • Erika Grinius transitioned from a career as a social worker to a career in business. She was in the part time MBA program at University of Chicago Booth School of Business when she saw a listing for an internship at Whitney Automotive Group, the largest online retailer of auto parts in the country.  The internship turned into a permanent position, and Erika got a promotion upon receiving her MBA degree.  She subsequently transitioned to a position as Director Target Marketing, E-commerce, for Walgreens.

4.    The Career Reentry Program Relaunch. 

  • Dr. Margaret Rayman relaunched her career via the Daphne Jackson Fellowship program in the U.K., which enables professionals in scientific and technical fields to relaunch careers after career breaks.  Following a 15 year career break, Dr. Rayman returned to academia and is now a tenured professor at the University of Surrey.

5.    The Entrepreneurial Relaunch. 

  • Kris Hintz founded Position U4 College after a 15 year career break. A former consumer marketing executive, she completed a part time Masters Degree program in Psychology and also focused on personal coaching and counseling.  “My relaunch has been tremendously gratifying thus far. I am happy to share my experience with other empty-nesting parents who want to leverage their experience and talents in a new entrepreneurial career!”
  • Ann Levin was a former advertising executive who took a 20 year career break to care for her children, and ultimately, her mother, who had suffered a debilitating stroke. Her experience caring for her mother and orchestrating the downsizing of her home and relocation to an assisted living facility was the genesis of her business idea. Now her company Senior Move Partners does this work for other seniors and their families.

back on the career track, irelaunch, career reentry, restart career

Back on the Career Track

Empty Nest, Carol Fishman CohenIs it time to go back to work?  Or maybe time to change career paths with the kids on the way out the door? As the nest empties, these questions naturally arise.  But where to begin?  If you have been out of the workplace for a number of years, dare we even say a decade or more, a job search with a dusty, outdated resume can be a daunting task.  One of my oldest friends, Carol Fishman Cohen,  became a stay at home mom when the company she worked for (remember Drexel Burnham Lambert?) went into bankruptcy while she was on maternity leave.  A decade later Carol was successful in finding a great job, but ultimately her real calling was in helping others tread the same path.  Carol wrote a great book called Back on the Career Track and she has a hugely helpful website called iRelaunch.

I went to one of Carol’s conferences last fall at NYU and it was an amazing networking/information gathering/educational event—even the food was good.  So rather than speak for her, I have asked Carol to give you a few of her most important points, and if you need more you can follow up on her site or at Amazon.  Today Carol is going to talk about mistakes people make in trying to renter the workforce, tomorrow she will give some of her top suggestions on how to get back on the career track.

Three common mistakes people make when trying to relaunch a career:

Mistake #1 Not doing a career assessment. 

That was my big mistake. I thought that I should return to a finance career simply because I left a finance career. Once I was back in my finance position for about a year I realized I didn’t really want to do financial analysis anymore. I loved business writing and working with people so that’s why I transitioned to what I’m doing now. But I involved a very progressive employer who was willing to hire me after 11 years out of the full time workforce when I could have avoided the situation entirely if I had done a career assessment first.  In Back on the Career Track we approach career assessment via our Job Building Blocks Worksheet. This is a framework for looking at each of your prior significant work and volunteer experiences, breaking them into components, identifying which of those components you love and are best at, and then using them to build a new career path for yourself.

Mistake #2 Getting completely professionally disconnected.

This was another big mistake I made.  I barely even read the newspaper for the six years I was home full time with my four little kids.  So I had to go through a self-directed study program to get myself up to speed in the business world generally and then I did specific updating work on financial products, calculations, and analysis.  Now there are formal programs which can help you do this, but back in 2000 and 2001, these programs did not exist.  For our listing of career reentry programs worldwide, click here.

Mistake #3 Conducting your relaunch efforts at your computer.  

Instead, you need to get out of the house and meet people in order to get job market intelligence that leads to real opportunities. We call it “Get Out and Get Personal!” This means going to social events, professional conferences, and events put on by professional associations or your alma mater, including reunions!  This is hard work. Because if you put yourself out there, you need to prepare yourself to speak with people about what you want to do. This requires practice.  You need to speak with non-judgmental friends and family while you are practicing talking about yourself and what you want to do. Then you can move on to people you know less well. Essentially, you are doing interview rehearsals. The more of these conversations you have, the better you will sound when it counts, in the interview itself.

Tomorrow, Part 2 of Back on the Career Track