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Episode 11: Career Transitions and Relaunching with Arjan Eenkema van Dijk

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk smiles in her headshot

Episode Description

Is going to back to your pre-career break profession always the best choice? Not always. Here is how to evaluate the best fit for you now as you relaunch your new career. Carol speaks with career coach Arjan Eenkema van Dijk.

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Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:00:00] Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch! I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO, and co-founder of iRelaunch, the industry leader in career reentry resources. In each episode of 3,2,1 iRelaunch we'll be speaking with guest experts in the career reentry space to help make your transition back to work smooth and successful.

Today's podcast is on career transitioning and relaunching at the same time. Our guest today is Arjan Eenkema van Dijk. Arjan is a certified executive coach, speaker and facilitator, and an expert in leadership development, personal branding, communication, career transition, and positive intelligence.

As Founder and President of Inspire Shift, LLC, Arjan works both nationally and internationally with executives, leaders, business owners, and individuals to define and attain their leadership and career objectives, and is a member of the iRelaunch Boot Camp coaching team. Hi Arjan, thank you for being with us today.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:01:13] I'm excited to shed such great light on important topics for relaunchers.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:01:19] Me too. And I'm excited to begin especially on this topic, because we hear a lot about career transitions after a career break. People seem to fall into three categories when they are thinking about relaunching. Either they loved what they were doing before their career break and felt like they were on the right career path to begin with, so they end up relaunching in almost exactly what they had done before. Then there are those who love what they were doing before, but maybe there's something about that role, like 50% travel or 24/7 accountability that makes them feel that in their current life stage it's no longer compatible, so they might relaunch in something related to what they were doing before, but not exactly the same thing. And then we have the people who realize they were not on the right career path to begin with. Maybe they were fulfilling someone else's expectations, or maybe they just fell into their career and didn't realize they were not on the right career until they were in their career break and reflected on it, so that group we find relaunches in an entirely different direction, and that's the group that we really want to focus on today.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:02:39] That sounds great. And quite frankly, that is a particular passion of mine to focus on that group, because these are people that kind of walk in. And I see them walk very often into the Boot Camps, the first one, which is about assessing career options.

And they walk in and say in the first meeting, "I came here because I have no idea what I want to do next, but the one thing I know is I don't want to do what I did before. So now what?" And so that whole, you know what I'm talking about right, Carol?

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:03:16] Yes, exactly. You know, I feel like sometimes people have that moment, it's a gift, their career break is a gift because it allows them that chance to step back and reflect and realize they were not on the right career path to begin with. But once they have that realization, then the hard work really starts because they have to figure out, “Okay, I know I don't want to go back to what I was doing,” but as you're saying, "I have no idea really what I want to do." And so it's a whole new process.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:03:45] Yeah. And I could not agree more with you, Carol. I think relaunching is actually an ideal time for career reinvention. But at the same time, changing careers can be intimidating. So I always encourage relaunchers to do that lesson of "now what?" as an exciting question, and as the impetus for self discovery and exploration.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:04:09] Can you walk us through some of the steps that someone might take when they're at the beginning of that process? Where do they start?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:04:18] So I actually think, Carol, that relaunching and the whole relaunch journey is highly individualized. At the same time, there's a clear structure as to how to go about this process, and sometimes it's quite organic. Let me explain that further. So in order to find a job that aligns with your personality and meets your interests and your values, you first want to assess who you truly are. A lot of people don't necessarily know what makes me tick, and that's really what you're going to find out when you're starting that process. And doing that in combination with understanding today's job landscape with so many new and different career options, combining those two aspects, understanding who you are, knowing the career landscape, that will help you to create clarity and a plan of action.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:05:16] Exactly. Can you give us an example of someone who felt pretty lost at the beginning of the process and how they went about narrowing it down? Do you see people end up gravitating towards something that they discover as a passion during their career break, or something that they've always been attracted to even before their career break but we're kind of ignoring? Or do people go through this process and then end up pursuing something that never even occurred to them before?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:05:53] Right. So I'm first going to talk a little bit about a more structured approach, and then I'll throw in some of the organic elements that are taking place. A great starting point is actually concerning the four Cs of relaunching, and these are some things that you're describing, Carol, in your book Back on the Career Track.

I think that provides such a great structure if you don't know where to start, because it gives you a process of how to think about this. And so the four Cs start with, there's actually four Cs. So the four Cs are control, compensation, company culture, and job concept. Right?

So control is really about understanding how many hours do I want to work? How flexible do I want to be in this next job? How far do I want to commute to my company? Do I like to travel? Can I travel with my current responsibilities with regards to my children? So control, especially for relaunchers is a really important aspect to consider and a step that people easily skip. Thinking about that in a structured way is very helpful.

Then you want to think about compensation, you want to understand, how important is compensation to me? Am I going back to work because there's a real need to go back to work? And if there is, what kind of compensation do I need to make to contribute to my family in the way that I feel and want to contribute?

So understanding your own needs and wants about compensation is important. And what is also important once you're a little bit further along, to understand what is the fair market value of the positions that I'm looking at? So that's the whole compensation aspect and getting clarity around that starts with asking yourself that question about compensation, another aspect that people jump over very quickly.

And then when we get to the meat of reinvention, we're going to speak about the job content and the culture of the company. So it's interesting, Carol, I get people that call me and say, "I really need to change because I really hate my job or I don't like it at all." And then when I actually take away layers and they actually liked the job, but they may not like the company culture.

So for people to understand what culture fits with their personality is really important. And so that starts with understanding what kind of colleagues and management are you looking for? They can be an important component to your daily experience. Do you want an organization that is more traditional or innovating?

Are you looking at working in a more entrepreneurial setting or a well-established company? What is the geographical scope you want to be involved in? So really understanding the culture of the company becomes a really important aspect to that process. And then it's really about the job content, which is the exciting part.

So you want to understand what is the level of responsibility I want? You want to really understand what kind of a job I want. This is where people struggle the most, and they really want a career reinvention.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:09:15] I just want to first make a quick note that we used to call it the three Cs and then it became apparent that we had to add culture to it, because we were wrapping that up into content, but it really is a fourth C, so we went from three Cs to three Cs plus one, and now we're calling it the four Cs. So just in case anyone's read Back on the Career Track or has some historical perspective with how we look at these components, that's why we're now at the four Cs. But thank you for walking through them. I think they are a really good framework for starting out to think about what's important. And the only other piece I wanted to add to that was the situation where you have immediate financial need. You can see, and you will see through this process that it takes time.

And sometimes we don't have the luxury of time. If we have immediate financial needs, we’re emerging from a divorce or death or disability of spouse, or something that happened where we need to generate income quickly. And in those situations you might have to jump to a not so perfect job just to pay the bills while you're going through this process and strategizing, and the way Arjan is laying out for your next job, which is going to be the career relaunch.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:10:32] Yes. And so what I always like to say, Carol, even in the iRelaunch Boot Camp, that I love the four Cs, so I also added a fifth C. So we come from three to four to five, and that is a C of compromise, where you may not be able to necessarily tick all the boxes and you have to understand where you want to compromise.

I think that's an important component for people to understand as well. And often what happens when you compromise in one area, you may start maybe in a great company and maybe at a job that is a little bit below your level and your compensation, therefore, maybe a little bit less.

But because you now have exposure in this kind of a company, the moment an opening happens at a job that you really are interested in and you actually have the qualifications for, this company already knows you. And now they're looking at you to fill that next job. So it is a little bit of a process.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So Arjan, you've started to walk through this framework with the four Cs of the five Cs. But, what happens after you start to set those parameters for yourself? Especially I'm guessing around on the content side, what happens next?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:11:56] So I always think that the content aspect is where people have the biggest question when they are talking about career reinvention.

And so I think that the iRelaunch Boot Camps really provide an excellent structure for this, because we always start with looking at some former employment or, whether its former employment or leadership opportunities you have undertaken, you kind of want to say to yourself, when I was in that particular job, let's say you were in sales.

What were the elements that I really liked about that job? You break a former position down in individual tasks and functions. And this is the luxury of career reinvention. You can say, "These tasks, I don't like, that's not what I want to do in the next career." But you're focusing on all the tasks and functions that you really liked and you've got clarity.

And then you start to think out of the box. What kind of other positions are out there that have elements of the jobs that I really love, the functions that I really liked. Again, I think the Boot Camps are a great opportunity to explore this further because you're sitting in a room with other people who are going through the same process.

And as we all know, brainstorming is so great. And sometimes you cannot see what other opportunities are out there. And other people in the brainstorming process can actually help you open up your eyes. Does that make sense?

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:13:31] Yes, let me just jump in there with an example from my own personal experience in going through this process.

When I went back to work, after my 11 years out of the full-time workforce, I went back into a financial analysis role, which was very similar to the kind of role that I had left, because I skipped the step. I forgot to do this in-depth reflection and assessment process. So once I was in that job, I realized I did not really like that intensive spreadsheet analysis component of the job anymore, which was a big part of the job.

But I loved the business writing piece, writing up the investment opinion. I loved presenting the investment opinion. I loved meeting with company management. So if I was going to go through this process, which we actually call the job building blocks process, at iRelaunch and in Back on the Career Track, then I'm looking at each of my prior significant work and volunteer experiences and I'm breaking them into components.

And then I'm extracting the ones that I love the most in it and are best at. So for this particular job, I would have extracted meeting with company management, business writing and presenting. And I would have left that spreadsheet analysis piece on the table. And then, it turns out that the job I do right now, and iRelaunch, I do a lot of business writing and a lot of presenting and a lot of meeting with company management.

So it ended up that I transitioned to a role that emphasized these selected components that I had picked for myself.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:15:06] Yes, that's exactly right. And what I also think is a really important component around it is that, as people we have natural proclivities and that's really at the crux of career transition.

So one of the things that I always do with my personal clients is to focus on assessment tools. So there are some wonderful assessment tools out there uch as Strong Interest Inventory, and the Myers Briggs personality type indicator. So a lot of times people think, there's millions of jobs out there and there's millions of people out there, how can you make a match? This is quite overwhelming, right? If you look at the Strong, it actually provides a phenomenal model because it allows you to look at the job landscape in six different areas of interest. And when people start to do these assessments, they get a greater clarity about, "Gee. I actually have a real interest in the world of art, or I'm quite artistic." I just had a client, actually, who is a relauncher who always used to be in banking. And when we started, then we did the Strong. Actually it became so clear that she had much more of a creative component in her.

And then I tend to do life stories, and then she shared with me that when she was younger, she always loved to draw and that she always rearranged the rooms. And these are kinds of little golden nuggets that you learn about people when you go through to their life story. We started talking about the artistic components, how in the finance world, she had to really learn the beginning and the end of the tasks, she's quite organized. And so she actually is going to explore the whole field of interior decorating and design, and what was probably the most exciting part about that whole process, Carol, and this is a person who also did the Boot Camp and went to those four Cs.

She said, after we did that assessment, she said, "You know, this is the first time in my entire life that I'm actually getting excited about moving forward in a certain area." And I think that's why we're doing this work, right? To see that people meet their passion, which is exciting.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:17:36] Right, exactly. When you hear that from someone, you know that they are making progress. Let me throw out one more example of a relauncher that I had done some work with who had taken a 13 year career break, had a financial analysis background. While she was on career break, she prepared her own complicated tax returns and took them to H&R Block to be reviewed.

And the H&R Block people came back and said, “These tax returns are done perfectly. There are no errors.” And they offered her a job on the spot. So she did not end up taking that job, but it reinforced for her that she wanted to do something. And this is not a career transition case, but I'm going to point out why this is relevant in a minute, but that she wanted to do something with confidential information and financial analysis, and that conversation with her came out almost as an aside. She didn't even mean to tell me that, yet when I heard that, I thought this is resume material to say that she was offered a job on the spot by H&R Block, when she presented a complicated tax return that ended up having no errors for a company that was going to look for someone who was going to be in a financial analysis, careful, detailed, confidential role that I thought was relevant.

And it just came out in a side conversation. So sometimes these conversations and these anecdotes, I love that you do the life story, because it allows people to have this narrative with you where you can say to them, "That's actually really significant. You shouldn't overlook that."

And in your particular example, you're telling the person, "Pay attention to that, focus on art and drawing and detail."

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:19:30] Yeah, that's right. And I think that this happens so often, Carol, oftentimes people themselves cannot always see exactly what are their strengths and their natural tendencies, because what happens is if you're good at something you think that is normal. Oftentimes we minimize our own strengths. So one other little exercise that I use and that I also ask oftentimes people in our iRelaunch groups is to go out and ask family and friends how they perceive you and what traits they see in you and what strengths they ascribed to you. And I think that's where people learn so much, because oftentimes other people can see us better than we can see ourselves.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:20:18] I love that, because as you're saying, we have a tendency to minimize or downplay what are our true attributes. And when you ask other people, they're not going to do that. So that's great. Love that.

What's your opinion about shadowing someone, as Hermenia Ibarra recommends in Working Identity, the book?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:20:40] I'm a big believer in shadowing people or putting yourself in a position where you have opportunities to experience a position, experience a company. I think that gets you so much information because you're right there, and you can actually feel, "Am I getting excited that I'm walking around here? Is this something I want to do?" So that kind of real life experience is incredibly important. So I'm the believer in that. And you can put yourself "out there" as I call it, in many different ways. You can shadow a professional. You can take courses with a focus on strategic volunteering, or you can take freelance assignments or consulting.

There's so many different opportunities to get experience. I'll leave it at that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:21:35] Can you give us an example of strategic volunteering, someone who used it in order to get some intelligence on whether they should relaunch their career in that direction, or maybe a shadowing opportunity? How do people get those? Do they just ask their friends? How does that work?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:21:57] So there's many different ways of going about this process. I'm actually going to take your question and shift it slightly, because I also think that this is a very organic process. And I'm going to use an example of a person who was in Boot Camp 1, right?

She came from a financial background, and actually in this regard that she wanted to go back there, but somehow she wasn't completely sure. So she interviewed, and she's a very outgoing, personable person, and she actually interviewed for some of the positions, from the Return to Work Boot Camps that are out there at some of the financial institutes.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You mean the Return to Work Internship Programs?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: That's right. And what was actually probably very telling, she had her first interview while she was in India traveling and her second interview, I think she was in Jamaica traveling. And these were telephone interviews now the real story behind this is the traveling one.

So she actually did not land the job in banking. But what she is doing right now, she became a travel writer. And what she started doing is basically, when she travelled, she started writing up her stories and they were published in the local newspapers. Other people picked it up. She started to do a lot with social media, and when we just had a luncheon for relaunchers here in Westchester, she called me and she said, "You know, Arjan, I've been at every luncheon, I would love to come but I'm actually featuring a profile in the city for a huge company on travel writing.” So I think that'd be called that strategic volunteering or following your heart, you know, whatever label we put on it. I think the real issue here is that people are moving forward and they start to get a little bit more clarity about what it is they want to do, and then lean in and take opportunities as they come along.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:24:06] That's a great example. I really liked that. You know, I remember there used to be a company called Vocation Vacations, and I think the founder of that now has another related company, but the concept was it was for people who were working, who had vacation time, that they would take vacation time, and the company would set it up for you to shadow or participate in a business or in a role that you were thinking about transitioning to.

So, if there's a way that you can do that for yourself, Arjan, would you recommend that they call a friend, or call a friend of a friend or, how would you see if you wanted to shadow? How would you go about doing that?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:24:51] Yeah, I think there's many different ways about doing that. So I think it becomes important that you identify, what kind of role do I want to shadow for? And then for what kind of company do I want to do the shadowing? Then the whole process of networking starts, do you know people in those kinds of roles and those kinds of companies, that will be your first step, to reach out to those people. And maybe first initially, let them tell them something about their work, and you develop more of a deeper relationship around that. And then maybe that question comes up in the conversation. Right?

And what I also see, Carol, in this whole process, people oftentimes don't get the next opportunity through their friends, but oftentimes through a friend of a friend. There's often times a little bit more of a separation there, and that's the power of networking, because when you start to speak with people, so let's say I'm meeting with a friend and my friend's name is Petra, and I'm talking about her position and she actually cannot offer an opportunity in shadowing, but now knows that I'm interesting and because she's operating in that field, she knows about another person who may have that opportunity available. And that's really how networking works. And that's the power of networking that I think is such an important component in this whole job search process.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:26:20] So the networking that you're talking about is really having a series of conversations with people. Is that what you mean?

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:26:28] Yeah, and you know, I actually like to use the word connecting, because I think when we connect with people and we show up authentically and show who we really are, I think that's when things start to happen. And it starts, I think what happens sometimes with connecting and networking, people are very focused on how do I present myself? What am I going to say? I think if you lead with your passion and your interest, and you are going into a networking conversation, focusing on the other person and learning from the other person, that's a really powerful way to enter these conversations. And then, these conversations often transfer into a wonderful dialogue that actually leads to something.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:27:19] And, another idea is to get very updated in the particular area, maybe reading some articles in the area or a book. So the conversation opener could be around, "Did you see the article that just came out by expert X in the field? It seemed to represent a very different line of thinking than what I've seen historically." But that kind of opener is a great way to start a conversation with someone who's in the field and is maybe more substantive than trying to make small talk, if you happen to run into someone.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:27:54] I think this is such an important component, Carol, and I think that's the job of a job searcher. So basically once you ask for a conversation with someone, you want to understand what you're talking about and doing research around the topics, number one makes you show up better, but it also makes the conversation much richer.

And the good news about this is that today with the internet we can find out so much information about particular fields, that we can do what I call desk research before we go into these conversations. I also think that when you start to get excited about a certain career direction, you're automatically going to enjoy reading about it and you become more knowledgeable in the field.

Also, when you go into these conversations, it becomes important to understand, what's my goal with this conversation, what am I looking for in this conversation? Asking yourself those questions becomes very important.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:29:02] Wonderful. We have covered so much ground in the short amount of time. I'm really thrilled.

And I thank you so much, Arjan. I just want to ask you one question that we like to ask our guests at the very end, about whether you have a favorite piece of relaunch advice, even if it repeats something that we covered in our conversation today.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: [00:29:25] Yeah, I think I especially connected to the conversation we had today.

I would say that while that is a great structure to this process, and I think it's wonderful for people to start with that great structure. I also encourage people to be organic, follow your heart, understand when you get excited about opportunities, have an open mind, and see the possibilities.

My favorite word is to be a possibilitarian. I think there's so many great possibilities out there, and if you can see them, you're in a good place.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:30:03] I love that. And I love ending there. Thank you, Arjan, for joining us today.

Arjan Eenkema van Dijk: Thank you, Carol.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And if you're listening today, we hope you'll make sure to visit us at in order to get the most important tools and resources for returning to work.

For more information about Arjan or Inspire Shift, go to That's INSPIRESHIFT, all one word, DOT com. And for more information about the iRelaunch Boot Camps, be sure to visit That's, forward slash, Boot Camp.

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