iRelaunch 2013: Strategies for Returning to Work

Advice from the Return to Work FastTrack Program at UCLA Anderson
November 5, 2013

The keynote speaker and relaunch panelists energized over 150 alumni at the Relaunch Return to Work FastTrack program held at UCLA Anderson on November 5, 2013. Let me share some of the advice for people who have stepped out of the workforce and are considering restarting a career.

7 Steps to Relaunch
Keynote speaker, co-founder of iRelaunch and author of Back on the Career Track, Vivian Rabin shared the book’s 7 Steps to Relaunch:

  1. Relaunch? You decide
  2. Learn confidence
  3. Assess your career options
  4. Update your professional and job search skills
  5. Network and market yourself
  6. Channel family support
  7. Handle the job (or find another one?)

Tips for Relaunching
Vivian also presented a number of tips for relaunching:

Tip #1 – Figure out what you want to do

In relaunch you need to think through your old job and how this translates to requirements of a potential new opportunity. Vivian shared that of the relaunchers they have surveyed, one-third work in a role like the old, one-third use similar skills in a new direction and one-third do something completely different, leveraging off volunteer or life experiences. For more information, UCLA Anderson alumni can watch the webinar on Career Shifting or set up a career advising appointment.

Tip #2 - Consider going back to school

Many relaunchers find that their technology skills are obsolete or that they haven’t kept up with the latest skills required for their job. Going to graduate school, executive education programs, community college classes or certificate programs can provide the skill enhancement, offer field study/capstone project experience and access to internships. Think through the skills and experiences required for your target job.

Tip #3 – Volunteer strategically

Volunteer opportunities can help relaunchers update skills and network but you need to know when to say no and when to say yes. Is there a volunteer opportunity that will help you build the skills and experience required for your target job?

Tip #4 - Leverage LinkedIn

Everyone planning a professional career needs to be on LinkedIn. It’s where recruiters search for candidates and where job seekers research and connect with people, companies and jobs. Update your LinkedIn profile, connect with friends and colleagues, and join groups. For more information, watch the UCLA Anderson alumni career services webinars on LinkedIn.

Tip #5 - Don’t forget the junior people

If you have been out of work for a long period of time, someone junior that worked on your team may now be a vice president in a hiring or recommending role. Think through each of your earlier roles and the team of managers/executives, peers, customers, vendors and team members who worked with you. Use LinkedIn to find names and where your past associates are working today.

Tip #6 – Talk to nonjudgmental friends and family

Many relaunchers are building up their confidence and need the support of their nonjudgmental friends and family. Seek out people who will help you with the move back to the workforce.

Tip #7 – Look for jobs in unexpected places

For many people returning to work, their personal network revolves around school and other parents. Job search involves starting dialog with this network, letting them know you are returning to work and what you [used to] do in your professional life. Panelists discussed reaching out to friends’ husbands who were working and getting job introductions from conversations on the soccer field. Alumni have also gotten jobs through talking to their hairdresser. Start telling everyone about your career ambition and ask for introductions.

Tip #8 – Look at jobs in academia

One transition plan back into the workforce after a long absence is via academia. One alumna I’ve talked to was a successful CFO years earlier; while staying home taking care of a family member’s health, she became interested in healthcare. She applied for and got an offer to join a major university’s medical school in a lead finance role because of her tremendous prior experience – and because she was the most qualified person for the rather low paying job. Remember that you need to come in with the right skill set and passion.

Tip #9 – Get out of the house

You will most likely receive your job because a friend or acquaintance refers you to someone. Go out and start talking to people, including at Starbucks, the grocery store, and school activities. Start meeting with your personal network.

Tip #10 – Try the internship strategy

There have been articles written about “returnships”, or internships for people returning to the workshop. These may help you get the experience you need. For example, a VP Marketing who has been out of the workforce needed to learn social media marketing, marketing analytics and marketing tools for today. She volunteered to work for a social media/search engine optimization consultant for free to learn the business. In addition to gaining needed experience, the internship may result in a paid job. The key for internships is to make them short term and non-binding work.

Tip #11 – Peoples’ image of you is frozen in time

Repeatedly I have heard from relaunchers stories of how the image they had in the workforce years ago is cemented in time. If you did a good job then, your network still remembers you as doing a good job – at the same high level. Your image and self-confidence may have changed, but your reputation remains the same as it did when you left the workforce. Leverage this and reach out confidently to people of all levels that you used to work with.

Advice from Relaunchers
A highlight of the program was hearing the personal stories and advice from four women who, themselves, had returned to the workforce and shifted careers.

Wendy Levenson ’95 had a career in consulting with Deloitte Consulting pre-MBA and in brand management with Clorox post-MBA. She took a seven year hiatus and then returned to Dole in brand management and has worked full- and part-time for them, now doing independent marketing consulting. Wendy found that her skills in brand management remained relevant and her strong reputation at Dole continued as she took yet a second break.

Nell Oliver worked in consulting pre- and post-MBA and then had her own company. She took a contract role in marketing with the toy company Razor, then left and eight years later was approached to join the company as she re-entered the work force. Nell loves social media and read everything she could about the space; she was an early adopter of Facebook and Twitter. This social media passion kept Nell up-to-date on every evolving marketing skills.

Talya Nevo-Hacohen was a Managing Director in investment banking on the east coast when she left the workforce to take care of an ailing parent on the west coast. Talya shared her approach of a methodical, targeted job search, calling every firm that might have a role. She was sitting on an investor call when a researcher she used to work with mentioned that the company was spinning off a healthcare investment firm. She emailed the researcher on the call who responded with the CEO’s phone number. Two hours after the investor call, she called the CEO saying, “You should hire me or put me on your board of advisors.” They had just hired a CFO but hired Talya as Chief Investment Officer instead.

Sara Qazi made a highly unlikely career transition from promoter of punk rock bands to the financial industry. Her entry point was taking a temp role working for a Managing Director who kept giving her more challenging roles. Sara is now a private wealth manager with Morgan Stanley. Sara shared the importance of networking and when she couldn’t find women in music, she and others formed their own supportive group of 22 ladies in business in the music industry. From Sara’s advice, job seekers with joint MBA/MPH degrees who were in attendance at the program are forming a group!

Nell echoes Sara’s suggestion on finding a support group. She had a couple of MBA friends who smartly started a “Working moms dinner group” with a mix of full-time, part-time and wanna-be working moms who continue to meet monthly to discuss families and careers.

Talya’s biggest take away point for relaunchers: “Be true to yourself. Figure out what you want to do, the environment in which you thrive, where you are willing to go and your objectives in returning to work. Figure that out before you start your search because it will guide you and make your elevator pitch so much more authentic.”

Some other points from the conference: make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date with your professional brand and photo and it’s okay to have a business card that says “Marketing Consultant” even though you don’t have any clients as of yet.