Returning to Work: “Back on the Career Track” Author Gives This Advice

Empty Nest, Carol Fishman CohenAre you thinking about returning 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you have been out of the workplace for a number of years, dare we even say a decade or more, a job search with a dusty, outdated resume can be a daunting task.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 click to buy Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work on 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

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