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Episode 178: “Recalculating” and Navigating Work in a Virtual Environment, with Author Lindsey Pollak

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Episode Description

Lindsey Pollak is the New York Times bestselling author of "Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders." Her 2019 book, "The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace" was named a Book of the Month by both the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. Lindsey’s new book "Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work," is a response to the Covid crisis and will be published by HarperCollins on March 23, 2021. We discuss “Recalculating,” and focus on Lindsey’s recommendations for how to navigate at work in a virtual environment. There’s even a teaching moment when Carol’s dog Wally starts barking! Lindsey was named to the 2020 Thinkers50 Radar List of global management thinkers.

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Lindsey Pollak

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Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:00:00] Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO, and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host today. We welcome Lindsey Pollak. Lindsey is the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders. Her 2019 book, The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multi-Generational Workplace, was named a book of the month by both the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

Lindsey's upcoming book, a response to the COVID crisis, Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work will be published by HarperCollins in March, 2021. And evidently, iRelaunch is mentioned in it, I'm very excited about that. I have a lot of questions for Lindsey about this new book, especially how to navigate at work in a virtual environment, and we're going to get to those in a minute. I want to say one more thing about Lindsey. She was named to the 2020 The Thinkers50 Radar List of Global Management Thinkers, whose work is shaping the future of how organizations are managed and led, and I remember being on this list myself in 2017. Lindsey, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:01:28] Thank you so much for having me, Carol.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:01:30] Well, it's very exciting to be able to talk to you about all of this, especially the topic of your new book, it is so relevant to the work we're doing here at iRelaunch with relaunchers who are in return to work programs and in completely virtual environments, so, very interested in getting your advice on that. But can we please start by hearing a little bit about you first, your career, and how you got to where you are today as a best-selling author and a workplace expert?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:02:01] Absolutely. I think it is a story of relaunching and recalculating for 20 years. So, the highlights are that I graduated from college and got a Rotary scholarship to grad school in Australia, and I got a master's degree in women's studies.

My mom had started a business. I grew up listening to motivational speakers on the tape deck in her station wagon. I was really interested, it's true, in women's entrepreneurship. So I studied that in grad school, in Australia. I came back and I got my dream job in 1999 at a website called Some people might know the magazine Working Women, and I am telling you, Carol, I would still be there. I loved it. It was everything I wanted to do. It was the internet, it was writing, it was networking. I got to go to every conference, absolutely heard of you and your work very early on. And like many dot.coms, it went bankrupt in 2001 and I was absolutely devastated.

9/11 happened, I was in New York City and I was kind of paralyzed, and I used that almost accidentally as a chance to freelance. At the time you could somewhat cobble together a living as a freelance writer, and what happened is I accidentally never got another job.

So I say that I became an entrepreneur in 2002, but I will be really honest, I was job hunting for years, kind of half heartedly. And what really tipped things is I started writing about my experience being a recent college graduate, and just how hard that was. I was an RA in college. I've always been interested in mentoring. I'm a big sister, and I really started to tap into that world.

And what happened was finding that messaging and that perspective really took off. I started writing about it. I started speaking about it, and my Rotary Club connections where I started, the Rotarians would say, "Come speak to my daughter's Girl Scout Troop,” “Come speak to my kid's high school."

I didn't know that you could make money as a speaker until much later. And slowly but surely I built that up. I'd published my first book in 2007, Getting from College to Career, and the real tipping point was in 2009, LinkedIn, which was still in early days, hired me as their first campus ambassador.

So I went around teaching college students how to use LinkedIn and then the real tipping point, which I think was sort of luck and serendipity, is my branding was always early career expert, college to career expert. And then this little word millennial sort of exploded on the scene right around the candidacy of Barack Obama.

That's really what sort of tipped the scales. I remember the day I changed my website and my business cards to say "Millennial Career Expert," and that just hit a nerve. That launched me into corporate speaking, a lot more campus speaking. That generation has been so profound in their impact and people's expectations of them. So, I really pivoted from teaching millennials how to succeed to also teaching companies how to attract, retain, and engage millennial talent.

About 10 years later, that evolved into the multi-generational story with my book, The Remix, and today I'm sort of relaunching and pivoting again, it's still very new. I'm kind of working through it. But it's really worked for me to trust the market and what the market seems to be saying is the generational stuff is important, but this COVID crisis has changed everything. And I'm really trying to support people and organizations in this next pivot and recalculation.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:05:27] Fascinating. Gosh, I'm so intrigued by that evolution. Just a side question. What age are millennials now? The entire range from oldest to youngest.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:05:40] So, I go by the Pew Research Center definitions, I think that's the most reputable, and they define millennials as born between 1981 and 1996. So that means that millennials are hitting 40 and the youngest are in their mid-twenties.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:05:57] Yup. Right, because I have millennial children. Okay. Very interesting. I want to jump to focus on your upcoming book, which is called Recalculating, and I want to paraphrase here about a description of it, talking about how COVID-19 has heightened career uncertainty and is directly impacting how people are entering or reentering the workplace. This means that the old job hunting and career success rules no longer apply. Job seekers of all generations and skill sets must learn how to thrive in this new normal, which will include a hybrid of remote and in-person experiences, increased reliance on virtual communication and automation, constant disruption and renewed employee emphasis on worker's health and wellbeing.

Well, that's a lot. And I'm guessing that spans the entire content of your book, but can you talk to us a little bit about the book and what jumped out at you and how you even thought to construct it and figure out which topics were the most important to cover?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:07:07] Yeah, I've always heard that you should write the book that you want to read, which was certainly true of my first book, Getting from College to Career.

In March of this year of 2020, like everybody, I didn't know what to do. My speaking business was decimated. Nobody was holding events and I was like, “What am I going to do?” And I truly had this flash of that moment when you're driving and you take a wrong turn and your GPS on your phone, or your car says, "recalculating."

And I thought, that's what we all need to do. And it sort of was a moment of optimism because recalculating means there's another way. Right? We can get you where you need to go. And I thought, what can I do here? And what I did, and it's really my message to relaunchers in any situation is I started reaching out and talking to people.

I made so many phone calls. I set up so many interviews, "What are you doing?" "How are you thinking about this?" "What's on your mind?" That's sort of the way that I operate, and I started to identify the strategies. And I will tell you it was not new stuff. It was really going back to the basics.

It was relationships. It was personal branding. It was authenticity. It was casting a broader net in your job search or in your business opportunities. As much as you have to take into account the new tools that we have to do those sorts of things like using zoom instead of a phone call, it was really a lot of old stuff.

So I even went back to my Rotary days, and they used to get together and do business. And what I really like about the idea of recalculating, and I play on this a lot in the book, is when you recalculate, you're not starting from scratch, right? The GPS takes into account how far you've come, and everything you've done to this point. And I think that's a message for relaunchers too. You are never starting from scratch. And even when I dug into the data of career changers, for instance, you can pivot from a career in food service or law, or what have you, in another direction.

You're not starting at zero. You're probably starting at 80% or 50%. And that's something to really take into account. So I really felt optimistic when I was writing this book and I'm using the rules myself.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:09:19] Oh, I love that discussion about recalculating and not starting from scratch. I'm going to have to quote you on that, I'm going to get that exact quote, we're going to put it out there Lindsey, so thank you. That's very instructive and it's a good visual and everyone can relate to it because most people have GPS and have had that recalculating experience. So, thank you.

Let's get to I think the most important challenge that we're seeing relaunchers have, who are inside return to work programs right now, they're being told, reach out and meet new people, but they don't have the benefit of running into someone in the hall or, walking out of a meeting together, some of the casual interactions that people would normally have in the work environment. So I want to talk about this part first, and then I want to go back and talk about how people network and interact in the job search. But let's first talk about relaunchers who are already in the work environment.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:10:25] I so relate to this. I love meeting people in person. I love having coffee. I love those serendipitous moments. I had a conversation early in the pandemic that completely flipped my thinking on this. I want to credit Steve Dalton, who's the author of a book, The 2-Hour Job Search, he's in career services at the Duke Fuqua School of Business.

And he said, "Lindsey it's easier now than it was before." And I said, "What are you talking about?" And he said, "Number one, everybody's captive. Everybody is at home.” Sorry, not everybody, but many people are working from home. Many people are desperate for human connection and people are less busy in various ways. And so what he said was, "Tap into that. If you flip your thinking that it's easier now or more powerful now, or people are more available now you re-energize your belief that you can reach out to people." And what it reminds me of, Carol, is the very, very early days of email.

So if you go back to the mid-nineties, do you remember there was sort of a blip in time in the mid-nineties, I'm talking like AOL days for those things. And you could email anyone because it was like, "I got an email!" It was so easy to reach out to people because it was so novel that you were like, "Oh my gosh!"

I remember you could do that. People were charmed by it and it's actually easier now than it was in the financial crisis because of this craving of human connection. So I think you do all the same things you did before, you asked somebody for "coffee," but it happens to be a zoom.

You ask for five minutes of someone's time, you reach out. And I think people are so craving that connection that they're often happy to do it. And the other thing that Steve said that I loved, and I always credit him. Because he said, "Don't be afraid to ask, because the people who say, 'no,' you haven't really lost anything."

You put yourself out there, so what, it's low stakes, but he said, "The people who say yes will be inordinately helpful." And so if you just focus on, "I'm going to reach out to a hundred people, if 10 say yes they're going to be more helpful than the other 90 combined." I thought that was a really nice perspective to take. Everybody won't say yes, but the ones who do will be inordinately helpful.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:12:42] You know, the comment though that I'm hearing just in response to this, and I really like the reframing of it as you're saying, Steve Dalton says too, that it's easier than before and the comparison to the early email because I can directly relate to that, I remember it. But what we're hearing from people who are inside, they're already working, they're in return to work programs, some of them are in what we call returnship models, where they're working for maybe 16 weeks and then after that time, the company makes a decision about whether they stay on or not. And what I'm hearing from them is they're afraid to reach out to people because they're afraid those people are busy with work that they're doing for the company, and that somehow it would be an imposition on them to spend the 15 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever. I don't know how you would do a five minute, but something like that on zoom, and you have to sort of ping them or reach out and ask for that zoom call. Any advice there?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:13:47] Yeah, and this is going to sound flippant, but I don't mean it flippantly at all. Do it anyway. Yes, people are busy. Yes, you might be bothering them. Do it anyway. And the ones who say "yes," we'll be inordinately helpful because some people love to shoot the breeze. Some people would love to talk about... now, do your homework. Right? Find out who's interested in what, who wants to talk about what?

And I think one of the other ways to flip the script on networking, especially for anyone who just doesn't like it in person or virtually, is to offer to help other people. Instead of asking them say, "Carol, I love what you're doing at iRelaunch, I'd love to hear about any ways I could support you. Could we have a 10 minute call?" "I love what your team is doing. And I'm so grateful to be in this company. I'd love to talk to you for 10 minutes."

Also, I keep going back to the Rotary conversation, for those who don't know, they're really old fashioned business clubs that would meet over lunch or breakfast, or what have you. And people would go and say, we had a ‘give’ or a ‘get,’ right? "Here's what I need. Here's what I can help you with." And it was kind of old fashioned networking. So, join an employee resource group at the company where you're in a program, sign up. I was just reading one of the best ways that people are connecting corporately in the pandemic is to join a volunteer project that people are putting together.

Sign up for someone who needs help, anywhere where you can jump into a situation that will give you something in common. Think about, where can I give? Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn always said when he goes onto LinkedIn, he doesn't say, “What can I get out of my network today?”

He said, he goes in with a mindset: who can I help? And that's where your networking starts. And so I think if you come at it, not like I need a job here. I need to stay. I need to network, but who can I connect with? Who can I offer help to? What project or team or committee can I support? I think that has a very different vibe.

And the other piece is be smart about it. I would say I wrote about this in the book. If you went to my college, if we have something in common, if we're from the same hometown, I literally will accept people on LinkedIn just because their name is Lindsey, like mine. If you have any connection or anything we have in common, I'm more likely to say yes.

So, I think when you do the work to find those commonalities and those connections with people, I think people will respond. If you send a hundred cold call emails with nothing personal, no, I don't think people respond, but I think if you show that you've put in some work first, I think most people will be very receptive to that. And the ones who aren't, who cares?

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:16:21] That's great advice. And there's so much that's in the public domain about people because their LinkedIn profile, if they have one, they have a lot of information. So that's a great idea to look at, to peruse their LinkedIn profile and see where there's common ground.

I also know I have that kind of connection when I'm from southern California, originally born and raised in Long Beach, California, and now I'm on the east coast for years, but when people connect with me or they're reaching out and they're in the southern California area, and I have some connection with that particular location, I'm more drawn to connect with that person.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:17:01] Totally. It's so funny. When I was living in Australia, I remember somebody said, "Oh my gosh, you're from New York, I have a friend in Toronto. Can we talk?" And I was like, "Sure". That's how loose these things have to be. But that said, you have found something that is a connection.

So I love it. I think that's fantastic.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:17:17] All right, I want to ask you a couple more details on this, probing a little bit more, people who are extroverts and they're feeling very inhibited by this sort of zoom environment. When they're used to be the people who are roaming the halls, or maybe they're in sales and they have a certain kind of personality where they really feed on the interactions, or they gather everyone at the end of the day and say, "Hey, why don't we all go grab a drink somewhere," or something like that?

Is there any replacement or advice you have for that kind of personality?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:17:56] Boy. It's so hard. And look, I don't want to play this down. This is a terrible situation. I mean, there's nothing about this, yeah, maybe networking could be easier, but this is horrible. And I'm so glad you asked because a lot of people are very worried about introverts, which is important, but I'm also very worried about extroverts.

And what I say is play to your strengths. If you are an extrovert, plan all the zoom calls, plan the zoom escape room thingy with your company, volunteer to do that stuff for yourself and your fellow extroverts, reach out to people, DM them on Instagram, make the funny video, send around the Bernie memes with everybody at your company, do that stuff.

And, I think, unleash it is what I would say. Because a lot of us rely on you for that. And I think extroverts are having a very hard time. I'm glad you're thinking about them. So I would say play to your strengths and what if two people show up, then it's two people and it's not no big deal.

The stakes are sort of lower to set up a zoom and it's not always great. I also think things like Twitter chats, and I've just joined Clubhouse the audio app. Do the things that feel good to you and play to that, you could be on Clubhouse all day, if you want to go for it, if that makes you feel good.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:19:12] All right. Then what about, I also want to talk about introverts or even people who don't classify themselves one way or the other, but simply find everything about the zoom environment to be super awkward, from how they look on screen to how they ask a question or interact in a meeting, or, this awkward outreach that we already talked about. Awkward seems to be a theme that I'm hearing a lot. So, I guess I wanted to ask you that in combination with that, is there etiquette that you've seen emerge that maybe reduces the awkwardness?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:19:58] Oh, my gosh, who would have ever thought we'd be talking about awkwardness in this way?

My gut reaction and I'll go into detail is, embrace the awkward. And I have a couple of examples, but I think first of all, if you're a manager of people in any way, I really do think leaders have a role in making it less awkward. For instance, I work with a lot of teams that have very junior people who are maybe living in their parents' basement or have younger siblings at home, give everybody a virtual background so that you don't have to feel unsafe or uncomfortable. So I think there are things leaders can do to minimize the awkwardness. Invite people to turn cameras off when necessary, turn off your ability to see your face. There are things that you can do, but I think as a general rule, embrace the awkward.

And I'm trying to do this, it's very hard for me. I'm much more vain than I ever thought I was, because I feel like I have to put on makeup. I do the thing on zoom where you can make yourself or your skin look better. But, I had these moments and they were accidental. I remember I was on the phone with one client and I hadn't talked to him in awhile and he came onto the zoom and, Carol, the facial hair was out of control. I had never seen him like this and I didn't even think, I just blurted out, "Oh my God, you look like a mountain man." And he burst out laughing. And the times, I have a nine-year-old daughter and she busts in and says something or she's wearing her pajamas or her shirt is off or the dog barks.

I think that, within reason, I think it's okay to just embrace it. And I think sometimes, I do a lot of coaching with people who have something that they might be self-conscious about. I'm sure you do too. And I remember I've worked with several people who've had a stutter, which I'm thrilled that Joe Biden has really brought this out.

And what I've always said is just say at the beginning, "You know what? I have a stutter. I want you to be aware of it." And once you say that the beginning, it sort of gets it out of the way. And so I often will say on a zoom call, all right, my hair looks ridiculous today, let's move on and it just deflates the energy around it.

So I think sometimes if you're in a more junior position or if you're in a program where you're being assessed, it's a little bit harder. I would also say if you're staring at yourself, everybody else is staring at themselves too and nobody's looking at you. So I would say, be aware that probably people are looking at you a lot less than you think, and you can rest easy. But yeah, this whole thing is awkward. Nothing about this as normal. And I think we have to just kind of accept it and appreciate that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:22:24] Got it and let's jump to the job search for a minute. So does your advice change in any way for people who are looking to get hired right now and are not already in the work environment? Are there certain strategies that are unique to the virtual COVID environment that they need to be aware of?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:22:46] Yeah. The first is don't be paralyzed like I was after 9/11. There are jobs, and there are jobs at every level. It might be harder if you're a relauncher or if you're over a certain age, but there are jobs. So what I would say about job hunting now is it's about this virtual environment. That's the most, that's the biggest change right now.

I think you have to take it on. And then this, I think you have no choice. You have got to become an expert in the virtual job search. You have to be an expert in how you appear on zoom, how your camera is angled, what your background looks like or using a virtual background, the sort of taking a pause before somebody else speaks so that you don't speak over an interviewer. And that takes practice. So just as you might mock interview with a career center or double-check your resume, I think people think, “I'll just hop on the zoom and be who I am in person." No, it is a different skill, and I think it's something that has to be practiced. Ian Siegel, the CEO of ZipRecruiter said, “that first minute, that first second that your camera goes on, that is the first impression.”

And you have total control over that first second, you have to own that and not wing it and assume that it will go okay, you've got to practice.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:23:58] Okay. And are there any resources that people should consult to know what to do to set up how you appear great and your lighting and all of this?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:24:12] Yes. Oh, and there's a dog! Oh, I love it, tell me about your dog. What kind of dog do you have?

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:24:22] I'm actually babysitting my daughter's dog, who's a combination Chihuahua-Jack Russell Terrier that she rescued.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:24:28] So I just cheated because I knew that because I follow you on Instagram.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:24:34] Yes, he's very cute. And he wandered in here right before the podcast started, even though he was supposed to be in a different area. And I was thinking, do I let him stay in here and actually hope that he barked so we could talk about this. Obviously if you're doing a job interview, you probably may want to make sure that your dog is not in the room, but for work calls, as you're saying kids and other people in the family wander into the screen and away from it and all sorts of things happen, and it does kind of humanize things a little bit.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:25:12] To your point about job interviews, yes, you want to do your very, very best to make it professional. But I've asked recruiters for the book, “You know, come on, some people can't control it if you're toddler walks in, you don't have a locking door.” And they said, "You know what? We get it, how you handle it is what we're looking at."

So if you say, "Oh, excuse me, that was just my daughter," and then you move on, if you say, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. I'm so embarrassed." They want to see how you handle something unexpected, because guess what? Life is unexpected and work is unexpected. So I think it's a way to recover. I even interviewed somebody who had a total technology meltdown, but they were so calm and they rebooted and got back on the call and she got the job.

And she said, one of the things they said was, "How seamlessly you handled that situation made us really confident in you." So don't do it on purpose to try to show that skill. But I thought that was really interesting.

So, to answer your question about resources, number one, old school. I am the biggest fan in the world of university and college career centers. They are free, even if you have graduated, I don't care if you graduated 50 years ago, they will help you. Many schools will also help people from the local community. So if your alma mater is not an option or you didn't graduate from college, often they will serve you as well. And they will do mock interviews for you to practice the technology.

That's number one, number two, almost every employer I've interviewed will tell you in advance what the technology is. If it's a proprietary software for their company, they will often give you access to practice. Some companies will even give you sample questions. So there is no excuse for not practicing and trying to log in and set up the technology before the interview.

Something like zoom, which is among the most common, you can record yourself on zoom on your own for free and see what you look like. And the last thing I'm going to say, the number one resource is for $9.99, go on Amazon or your favorite retailer and buy a ring light, R I N G, a ring light, this Brown light that makes you look a hundred times better. It is inexpensive and easy, and lighting is the secret of looking good on camera.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:27:18] Excellent. Excellent ideas. You know, I really love this concept of employers or future employers looking at how you handle the situation, and even making that part of their evaluation and that's something that is a product of being in this virtual environment now. And also as you're pointing out, something that relaunchers and other job seekers can control, you can practice and anticipate it ahead of time and even do mock situations where the dog's barking or someone walks in, or you have a tech issue and practice how you would handle that smoothly.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:28:03] And, you know they're going to ask about the gap in your resume. Have an answer, have prepared your answer, have your salary expectation, be able to say, I remember my first job interview, my voice cracked because I never said the number out loud. But I think on that issue and I think of relaunchers and there's just so many different reasons why somebody might be relaunching, of course, and they're going to ask, but all they want is for you to have a good answer.

And I actually interviewed Dan Black from EY, and he said, "We know the world fell apart because of the pandemic. That's not a surprise. We're not going to judge you, but we are going to ask, what did you do during the pandemic? How did you use that year that you were not working? How did you transition?" You have to expect it and you have to have a good answer. They're not looking for a particular answer, but they want to know what you will say and how you handle it. And there are many, many ways to do that well, but if you own your answer and you're positive about it, that's how they're going to respond.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:28:58] That's so interesting. You know, we do talk to relaunchers, we have for a long time about acknowledging their career break, don't apologize and move on to why you're the best person for the job, but this whole idea about anticipating the, "What did you do during the COVID year piece?", for relaunchers or people who don't consider themselves relaunchers or who might have left the workforce during COVID or lost their job during COVID thinking that they're going to be applying after a very short career break, that is a very good answer to think about ahead of time.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:29:38] They will ask.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:29:39] Interesting. All right. I remember when you were the millennials expert before you evolved and evolved and evolved. And I know your focus is so much broader now, but I'm interested in just jumping back for a minute and looking at the millennial population, especially the older ones.

It seems like they're old enough now to start taking career breaks themselves. And I remember Manpower Group came out with a survey of millennials in 2016, it was published and it said 84% of millennials were anticipating a future career break. Now, the way they define that career break was four weeks to four years.

But if you look at the data more closely, you could see that many of the reasons that people were looking at career breaks pointed to a longer term career break. So any commentary on whether you think people are going to be taking more career breaks in the future?

Lindsey Pollak: [00:30:35] I think that's more the norm than working straight through.

And I think it already is, there were stories years ago about millennials retiring in their twenties and traveling and moving to Florida and playing golf and then working the rest of their lives. I think they have a very different conception of what a career path looks like. They have absolutely no belief, and GenZ is the younger group even more than millennials, they've no belief that they're going to work for the same company or the same industry for their whole career. That model is gone. And I think we all mostly agree with that. So a break here, a break there, maybe I'm going to do some gig work. Maybe I'm going to start my own business.

I think there's a huge percentage of millennials who have “side hustles.” I just think that model that, four weeks to four years is a break, I think they see it all as life. It's the same reason they don't like the word work-life-balance. They would say to me, "Well, it's all my life. So why are you separating it?"

I think they're really going to get away from that model that taking a year and not working is in any way a disruption, it's just kind of part of the flow. And I think COVID is only adding to that belief because by the way, when you look at most people's careers, particularly women, that's kind of reality anyway, to have some interruption at some point, I think that's just going to be increasingly the norm.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:31:51] Yeah, this is fascinating to me because we very early on in 2007, when iRelaunch started, we were very focused on women who took career breaks for childcare reasons. But since then, we've become very, very broad in the way we look at it. Men, women, people take career breaks for a whole range of reasons, only one of which is childcare.

So this idea that you're talking about where people anticipate there'll be career breaks here or there, makes me feel even more strongly that employers that have these return to work programs are signaling so strongly to these employees who might be taking future career breaks that it's a normal part of life we expected and we've created this program to reintegrate you.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:32:36] I love it. It reminds me of Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps, and I'm also thinking of companies, there was an accounting firm I spoke to, their philosophy is even if you leave our company, connect with us on LinkedIn, join our alumni group, our executive recruiters are going to connect with you because you are now in our family. And even if you are not working here, as long as you've left on good terms, we will welcome you back. And I think that's what we're going to see more of, it's not, once you leave you're dead to us and you're gone.

It's life and careers are really long. Millennials and Gen-Zers are going to have careers of 50 or 60 years. I think we need to acknowledge that, that nobody's retiring. My dad retired at 55 from public school teaching, that's never happening again. And so if you're going to be working into your seventies or eighties as so many people do now, that's a really long time.

And I think programs like yours, which I do shout out in Recalculating, programs like yours, I think are going to help people do that. Because the problem is companies should all have them, but I think they're sort of stuck in this old model, kind of like, remember how long we were stuck in the nuclear family model, that everybody was like two parents and two kids and a picket fence.

So we all acknowledged that's not the most common life situation anymore. I think companies have yet to catch up with the reality that people are not going to work there forever. And I think the progressive organizations that offer programs like iRelaunch and have alumni networks and allow this flow, I think are the ones who are going to win because I just think that's how life works now and probably will in the future.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:34:08] Yeah. And you're underscoring a critical piece that has to happen as part of this process. I actually wrote an article for Harvard Business Review about this, I think it was four or five years ago, but it's very relevant today about tracking the people who leave to go on career break or who are leaving right now because of COVID, leaving for reasons that have nothing to do with performance.

Because on the exit interview, sometimes companies are very precise about documenting where the person's going next, if it's another company. But they're not precise about tracking what they're doing if they're not continuing at another company at the moment. So, another way is, as you're pointing out, for them to join the alumni group of the company, if they have an online alumni group.

But I think that this tracking at the exit interview piece is going to become more and more important and then reconnecting with these same high-performers at different points as they weave in and out of the workforce.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:35:08] Totally agree.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:35:09] Interesting. All right. So Lindsey, we're winding up now and I want to end with the question that we ask all of our podcasts guests, and that is what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:35:26] So in my book, I have five rules for recalculators and rule number five we've already talked about, but I am going to underline it, ask for help. When everything cratered in March, my instinct was, just start to reach out to people, and I go back to Steve Dalton's line, "The people who say yes will be inordinately helpful, but nothing will happen unless you ask." So ask for help.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:35:48] Good one. Lindsey, this has been a pleasure, thank you so much for joining us. Before we finish up, I want to know if you can tell our audience how they can find out more about your work and especially your soon to be released book Recalculating.

Lindsey Pollak: [00:36:07] Thank you so much for having me, Carol. I've been a fan for a long time and I relaunched more times than I can count. I could talk about this stuff all day. So if anyone wants to nerd out and talk to me about it, I'm on all the social networks @LindseyPollak, and my website is, and I will spell it because it is one of the harder names to spell L I N D S E Y P O L L A K. And the new book is called Recalculating. Thank you so much for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:36:35] Thank you, Lindsey, it was a pleasure.

And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch conferences and events, to sign up for our job board and access our return to work tools and resources go to

And if you liked this podcast, be sure to rate it on Apple podcasts and your favorite podcast platform, and be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. Thanks for joining us.

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