"Career Break Secrets" Interviews iRelaunch
So, you’ve taken the career break, you’re feeling rested, relaxed and ready to get back into your career. And then, a bit of panic sets in. The economy’s down. Little good news is reported about job search prospects. And, the percentages of the unemployed and underemployed start to make your palms sweat.
With the growth in popularity of career breaks, new services are popping up to help people return to work. iRelaunch opened up in 2007 to help career breakers find employment at progressive firms that value the experience you have and respect your decision to take some time out. Who are these employers? How about top-tier firms like IBM, Accenture, Deutsche Bank, Sara Lee and Goldman Sachs?
iRelaunch was founded by Carol Cohen and Vivian Rabin. They offer both big marquee events like their upcoming Return to Work Conferences in major U.S. cities and in London. And, they offer lots of resources on their site including a blog, a list of career reentry resources, and a whole host of Success Stories.
1. Why did you create iRelaunch?
While we were writing Back on the Career Track, we started getting asked to speak at employers and universities on the topic of career reentry. Then companies and universities asked us to assist them in creating career reentry programs. After doing this informally for a while, we decided to establish iRelaunch. We created our own Return to Work Conference, which is hosted by universities and sponsored by employers. Since then, our business has grown to encompass career reentry programming in all of its forms; conferences, coaching groups, webinars, courses, blogs, and more.
2. Tell us a little bit more about the services you offer.
Our iRelaunch Return to Work Conference is our flagship product. We have run it seven times over the last 2.5 years in major U.S. cities and in London, and over 1,000 people have attended. We now run the Conference four times annually and this year we will be in Atlanta, Boston, NYC and Washington, D.C. We also have small group coaching workshops called Relaunch Coaching Circles, where up to eight participants meet in person or virtually with a coach, and focus on either Career Assessment or Networking and Marketing. We just started offering technical updating classes in PowerPoint and Outlook in partnership with relauncher-owned company Softeach, and plan to expand those offerings. We have a webinar on how to set up on LinkedIn and use it in your job search which is presented by a relauncher who ran a social media company similar to LinkedIn; it is not intimidating and we don’t use jargon! We speak nationally and internationally for women’s groups, professional organizations, employers, alumni associations, and are still engaged in creating customized return to work programs at employers and universities. Our career reentry strategy book Back on the Career Track continues to be an excellent resource for relaunchers. We hear regularly from people who used it as their guide as they relaunched. And we are dedicated to trumpeting return to work success stories in all different fields and work configurations.
3. Do you consider yourself a recruitment organization?
Not in the traditional sense. We don’t engage in executive search. But employers certainly attend our Conferences with recruiting goals in mind.
4. Pardon the pun, but did the business take off right away?
We had an immediate success with our first Conference and were able to build on this model right away. Then we were able to expand by offering products in response to demand from our Conference participants and from our employer and university clients. We’ve been careful and deliberate about how we have chosen and developed our products to make sure we maintain the highest quality with excellent value for our customers and clients.
5. What is the business case you have to make to a company to get them to participate with iRelaunch?
Our iRelaunch Return to Work Conference is the only large scale gathering of educated, experienced people who are interested in returning to work after a career break. Participants are 90-95% women, 80% with graduate degrees and 70% interested in returning to conventional full time jobs. The Conference is not a job fair, but a content intensive, educationally focused day encouraging substantive conversation between employers and participants. We engage with a limited group of companies at each conference who have networking tables on the periphery of the general session room. When companies say they are interested in the pool of returning professionals, but don’t know where to find them, we tell them they can find them at our conference.
6. Who is your ¨typical¨ career breaker that you help? I see you have a lot of information specifically for moms. Is that the demographic you started with?
We started with moms because the subtitle of our book is “A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work,” which was a decision we made with our publisher. We interviewed over 100 moms who had made the home to work transition as part of our book research. Plus Vivian and I are moms; Vivian has five children and I have four. However, as you know well, people take career breaks for a range of reasons. We see our career reentry strategies as gender neutral and effective for people who have taken career breaks for any reason. We have success stories on our site now of men who have returned from career breaks and of women who have taken career breaks for reasons other than childcare. With that said, 90-95% of participants in our programs are female, and many are returning from career break for childcare reasons.
7. How have you seen attitudes about career breaks change amongst employers since 2006?
We actually view 2004 as the watershed year. That year, Deloitte began its Personal Pursuits program for accountants who wanted to take a multi-year leave and later return to the firm. Also, two studies were conducted in 2004 focusing on women on career break, one by the Center for Work Life Policy and one by CBRi (now Aquent). Results from those studies were reported in 2005, which was the same year Lehman Brothers announced their Encore Program for ex-finance professionals returning from career break. In 2006, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and Harvard Business School announced career reentry programs (note that Harvard Business School had been running a related program, Charting Your Course, since 2001). Other corporate and university programs soon followed. To quantify the explosion of career reentry programming post-2004, refer to the iRelaunch Comprehensive List of Career Reentry Programs Worldwide. We track career reentry programs that have run at least once at employers, universities, government agencies and foundations. Consider that prior to 2004, we could identify only nine programs and today we have 71 programs on the list.
Along with the dramatic increase in career reentry programs, has been more media coverage. One of our missions is to get return to work success stories in the public domain. All of this is to say that yes, attitudes are shifting. There is less of a stigma attached to people who choose to take a career break then there was prior to 2004. It is still a tough process to return, and a solid framework and strategy are required. But we find employers are much more interested in the merits of the relauncher demographic than in the past, and some are actively seeking to engage with the demographic, especially as a way to access more female experienced hires.
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