Ready for Relaunch!
Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA Wednesday, 28 August 2019
I was recently listening to a Ted Talk given by Carol Fishman Cohen, founder of iRelaunch, an organization that helps people successfully transition back into the workforce after career breaks. It motivated me to write an article on the topic since several of my clients, colleagues and friends have had their own experiences with returning to the workforce after long periods of being out.
So, how do people fare when they are contemplating a return to the workforce and searching for the right fit? Carol Fishman Cohen calls them relaunchers. Many have taken breaks because they were caring for elderly parents or relatives, taking care of children, pursuing a personal interest or, in some cases, could not work due to a health issue. Career transitioners come from all walks of life and gender. Military veterans and spouses, those repatriating from abroad, people choosing to come out of retirement, stay at home moms and dads, etc. all make up the population of people looking to relaunch successfully.
Returning to work can be hard because the relauncher does not have “recent” experience and employers might consider it a risky move to hire them over someone with similar and more recent experience. On the other side, relaunchers may feel insecure about their abilities--feeling a little rusty after the long break. Longer breaks can lead to a bigger disconnect between the relauncher and their potential employer.
So how can someone bridge the gap of this disconnect and relaunch successfully into the workforce and feel confident and secure in their employment?
According to Cohen, one of the first things that people need to do is get out of the house. Talk about your intention to return to work with people you know now and with the people you knew back when you were working. It may feel awkward and some people may make you feel discouraged about your prospects, likely by noting the challenge of returning to work after a long break, but that’s okay. A handful of those people could be your champions in finding the job that fits your new old you. In her Ted Talk, Cohen spoke about her own discovery when she was returning to work. Cohen spent 11 years out of the workforce and she had a big realization when she began reconnecting with old colleagues and professional connections.
“People’s view of you is frozen in time…[W]hen you start to get in touch with people and you get back in touch with those people from the past, the people with whom you worked or went to school, they are going to remember you as you were before your career break. And that's even if your sense of self has diminished over time, as happens with so many of us the farther removed we are from our professional identities. So, for example, you might think of yourself as someone who looks like this. This is me, crazy after a day of driving around in my minivan. Or here I am in the kitchen. But those people from the past, they don't know about any of this. They only remember you as you were, and it's a great confidence boost to be back in touch with these people and hear their enthusiasm about your interest in returning to work.”
Another part of returning to the workforce after a long time is that the industry, field or role you left might have changed a great deal since last you were a part of it. Many relaunchers express the fear that they will go into an interview or be hired for a position only to realize that they are not up to speed on new technologies, important news, and information, new methods of operations or workflows, etc. Reintroducing yourself to your industry by doing some research, reading up on new trends and innovations, learning more about different technologies and even taking a refresher course can help you reintegrate and be prepared for your interviews and new employment.
Diamond in the Rough
Cohen refers to relaunchers as “gem[s] of the workforce”. Many people who are returning to work are coming out of a transition. Their kids are in school, their spouse has left the service so life and location are more stable, or their parent has passed on and they no longer need to care for them. A relauncher is most often a mature, experienced, settled individual who is ready and enthusiastic to return to work. Not often burnt out as some people who have spent the last twenty years with no break. They are returning with a fresh perspective, new eyes and a genuine desire to be there and work hard.
According to Cohen, and speaking for myself as an employer I agree, one of the biggest concerns is that relaunchers will not be up to speed with necessary technologies to be efficient in their job. And, as I mentioned previously, relaunchers themselves have similar concerns. While there are some specific outliers, most jobs require employees to have a working knowledge of the Microsoft office suite. That includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. If you’ve been away for a while you might need to relearn these programs, but a few weeks of working in the programs and you’ll be a whiz in no time. If relaunchers need to take the next step and take a course before they start looking for a job, then they should do that. There are about a thousand online courses for little to no cost that can teach people the basics of office management software. Employers should have the expectation that their new hire has these basics down, but they also need to have the confidence that most technology deficiencies are short term and temporary.
Too Fickle to Hire
Cohen has observed that employers have a concern that relaunchers are unsure about what they want to do. Uncertainty about your role and what value you can add to an organization is paramount to instilling confidence in potential employers. Relaunchers should really think about their professional interests when they are applying and interviewing. Have they changed since you were last at work? Have your skills changed dramatically? Do you have new skills that you might be able to offer? Take the responsibility to demonstrate your value to your employer, they aren’t there to discover it for you.
Programs and Companies for Relaunchers
Cohen shared a statistic that five of the biggest financial services companies have reentry internship programs for returning finance professionals. The same trend is happening in the engineering world. This shift is great news for relaunchers and other career transitioners. It was not too long ago that leaving the workforce was basically a one-way ticket. Now, there are programs designed specifically for relaunchers.
With the rise of the gig economy, people opting to return to the workforce are finding different alternatives to taking on traditional full-time employment and it’s not only driving for Uber. Companies like Upwork and Fiverr are havens for people with strong skill sets that can be hired for part-time, full-time or project-based work. It runs the gamut from graphic design, marketing, administrative assistance, writing, legal advice, architectural services, and the list goes on.
For employers offering internship and reentry programs, this testing out period removes the perceived risk that some managers attach to hiring relaunchers. These companies are attracting excellent candidates who are turning into great hires. With opportunities like these, some relaunchers are taking a soft entry approach to returning to the workforce or becoming their own, self-employed boss instead.
If you are a relauncher reading this, the key takeaways should be that you need to be brave, inform yourself, educate yourself and get out there and start looking. If you find what you believe is the right fit, but the employer doesn’t feel you are quite ready, you might consider pitching them the option of a soft reentry program—an internship—that can prepare you for the real thing down the road.
If you are an employer, remember what Cohen has said about relaunchers being the gems of the workforce. If you own a business, then you are no stranger to taking chances now and again. Perhaps you’ll consider taking a chance on a worthy relauncher. Also, consider the benefit of creating a reentry internship. There may be a financial and developmental benefit to nurturing something like that.
About the Author
Kathy Longo brings over 25 years of expertise and experience to Flourish Wealth Management. Kathy is wholly dedicated to improving the life of each client and finds joy in making complex matters simple and easy to understand. She excels at asking the right questions, uncovering new possibilities and implementing the most advantageous strategies for success. Playing such a pivotal role in her clients’ lives remains an honor and a privilege. After earning a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling from Purdue University, she began her career at a small firm in Palatine, Illinois where she worked directly with clients while learning to build a viable, client-centric business. Over the years, she gained extensive knowledge and wisdom working as a wealth manager, financial planner, firm manager and business owner at notable, various sized companies in both Chicago and Minneapolis.