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2024 Virtual Return to Work Conference, May 14-16

The First 100 Days in Your Relaunch Position: Paving the Way for Success

“I realized that after all my efforts to land this job, I couldn’t conjure up a picture in my mind of how I would actually be successful at it."

By Carroll Welch

Carroll Welch is the Founder and Principal of Carroll Welch Consulting, LLC. A career, executive and leadership coach, Carroll supports professionals in all industries on issues involving career and leadership development, transition and reentry. Carroll has extensive experience and expertise supporting relaunchers in planning job searches and anticipating obstacles as they seek to return to the paid workforce after a career break. Carroll is a frequent contributor to the iRelaunch blog and "3, 2, 1, iRelaunch" podcast series.

After a challenging eight-month job search, Lily P., a former arts publication editor with a twelve-year career break, finally landed a position as a development officer at a major cultural institution in New York. In the three weeks leading to her start date, she organized her home, her kids’ schedule, and her new work wardrobe. She sent emails updating and thanking the dozens of people who’d helped her with referrals, advice, and encouragement during her search. But three days before her start date, she had a moment of panic.

“I realized that after all my efforts to land this job, I couldn’t conjure up a picture in my mind of how I would actually be successful at it."

While Lily had a good sense of what her new job entailed, she had no vision or clarity about how she wanted to shine in it. She nervously phoned two friends who had recently relaunched, and they talked her through the development of a game plan for her first 100 days. Lily told me recently that having her 100-Day Plan made her feel more confident and focused. Her advice to relaunchers about to return to a new job: Don’t wing it.

You can plan for your own success with these suggested steps:

1. Set specific goals.

Don’t just let your first few months happen to you. Take the reigns. When you envision yourself with 100 days of experience under your belt, what do you want to see? Maybe it’s a person who can competently write a grant proposal or run a meeting. Maybe it’s someone who is proficient at a particular computer program or who can give an excellent presentation to her team. By identifying what achievements you want to go after -- no matter how small – you can develop the action items that you need to make them a reality. You’ll also navigate each day with greater intention, purpose and confidence.

2. Seek support in defining success.

Don’t guess at what success might look like from your employer’s perspective in your first 100 days. Either before you start, or in your first week, consider approaching your manager or supervisor and saying: “I really want the first few months of my relaunch to go well. How would you view them as having been successful?” It’s a great question and s/he will respect you for asking it.

3. Get to know the organization.

One tremendous benefit of being a more mature hire than you were before your career break is that you likely bring a broader perspective to your new role. You probably can connect the dots between your new role and your employer’s mission better than you did before. By meeting people across the organization, you can enhance your ability to make that connection, and expand your network at the same time. Lily prioritized having a weekly informational conversation with an employee outside her department. “Not only did all those chats make my “new hire” feeling fade more quickly, but I was able to share some of the intel that I’d gathered with my team. I think they were impressed by that."

4. Be prepared to feel highly competent ...

... and completely overwhelmed. Extremes are an inherent part of the relaunch experience. Get your mental game ready for it, especially during your first 100 days. Kelly Dreyer, a Supplier Quality Engineer who landed a position at Garmin International after an 18 year career break, advises: “Be patient. I felt like I had to learn a new way that people work. I am sure that I am the only person who takes notes at meetings on a pad of paper.” Kelly attributes listening to "3, 2, 1 iRelaunch" podcast episode 73, “Learning Curves and Relaunching—Mastery Once Back on the Job,” with Michelle Friedman, for helping her navigate those emotional swings about competency when going back to work. "After the ups and downs of the first few months," she said, "I realized I hadn’t forgotten all that I had learned in my previous career.”

Do not get caught in a ‘rollercoaster ride’ mindset in your first 100 days at your new job. Maintain a calm and steady approach. Anticipate that there may be experiences that either deplete or build your confidence ... and they may both happen in the same hour!

5. Make a positive first impression.

As the saying only get one chance at a first impression. Studies confirm that once a person makes a first impression, others filter everything through that initial impression. They judge whether subsequent actions and appearances prove or disprove the first impression. While it is not impossible to overcome a bad first impression, why create work for yourself? In your first 100 days, make a positive impression with behaviors such as maintaining poise and professionalism, actively listening, having a good handshake and making good eye contact.

You can increase the likelihood of a successful start to your relaunch by actively strategizing about it, such as with a 100-Day Plan. You’ll feel a greater sense of control and it won’t be long before it’s Day 101, and you are celebrating what you’ve achieved.

Don't relaunch alone!

Join our growing relauncher communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more great guidance on your relaunch and updates on when return to work programs are accepting applications, events for relaunchers and more, be sure to sign up for our Return to Work Report and follow us on social media to stay informed!

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