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If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to dust off your resume and start the ball rolling on a return-to-work after an extended career break, there are a few important steps you need to take first.
Know Your Value founder and Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski recently sat down with iRelaunch co-founder and CEO Carol Fishman Cohen to talk about return-to-work strategies, including identifying your next career, developing confidence and the importance of getting yourself up to date.
Carol spearheaded the return-to-work movement, which she named "relaunching," to help professional women who have taken a career break but want to dive back in. As a relauncher who took an 11-year career break from investment banking, she told Mika that she knows firsthand what it’s like to feel “completely [and] professionally disconnected.”
Her company, iRelaunch, which she co-founded in 2007, now works directly with Fortune 100 companies from IBM to Morgan Stanley to help people create their own career re-entry programs or help them directly hire relaunchers. To date, more than 6,000 women have participated in iRelaunch's return-to-work conferences and their programs and presentations have reached more than 40,000 people.
We’re thrilled that Carol and iRelaunch have partnered with Know Your Value. Here are some takeaways from Mika’s interview with Carol:
1. Figure out what you want to do before you start
The most important step when beginning the return-to work journey, according to Carol, is to figure out exactly what you want to do. Do you want to return to what you were doing before, or have you developed other interests during your career break? Perhaps your life has changed, and you simply can’t go back to doing what you were doing before. Chances are things have changed in your industry, too. Take the time to reflect on your life, goals and former field before charging forward.
Carol says this process of self-assessment is like breaking down your past jobs into “building blocks” and then recreating new possibilities from your favorite blocks.
2. Build your confidence with the 3 R’s: Reading, research and reaching out
The biggest challenge facing relaunchers after a career break is a serious lack of self-confidence. “Loss of confidence is the universal feeling that people have when they are relaunching a career, and that is regardless of how successful you were or how senior you were,” Carol said.
So what do you do? The best way to build your professional confidence is to do your homework and be up to speed in your field, said Carol. She recounted her own experience, which involved reading, research and reaching out.
“When I was getting ready to get back in, I worked on updating myself. I reviewed all the financial transactions I had worked on during my investment banking days. I read TheWall Street Journal everyday. I got back in touch with my old colleagues on all the changes in the financial industry: the new acronyms and financial instruments and asked them about these new terms,” she recounted.
Carol added, “You need to ask your former colleagues: ‘Who are the experts in our field now, who’s writing the best information and doing the most interesting thinking? What periodicals and website do you follow?’ You need to get on those websites, and follow what is being written in your field. That way, when you are in an interview or at a professional association event, you can talk about these things. As I had more and more of these conversations, my confidence started to build. I got better at describing myself and my background and what I was interested in doing.”
3. Remember that you are “frozen in time”
Even if you think of yourself as a carpool chauffeur and homework helper, your former colleagues remember the professional you. “You have to remember that your former colleagues have what I call a ‘frozen in time’ view of you. They remember you how you were. Even if your sense of self has diminished during your career break, their sense of you has not,” she said.
4. Get the word out, in person
Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, and have made progress on your 3 R’s, it’s time to get the word out. And, get yourself out -- physically. You can’t conduct your relaunch from behind your computer at home. “You need to get out of the house and go public with your job search.” Simply sending out your resume, or uploading it to countless online job boards is unlikely to be a successful strategy. A campaign of reaching out to friends and former colleagues and letting them know you are looking -- and what you are looking for -- will likely be more successful than posting 100 resumes.