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Episode 190: "Best Piece of Advice for Relaunchers" Memorial Day Compilation Episode

Episode Description

Combining the "Best Piece of Advice" from 10 episodes of "3, 2, 1, iRelaunch," you'll hear from guests including Liz Thorne on relaunching in sustainable investing; Cynthia Siemens on recruiting video introductions & interviews; Susan Samuelson on relaunching in academia after a career in corporate law; Mimi Kahn on relaunching in a social work career; Ellie St. John on relaunching as a human resources professional; Pam Waterman on returning to engineering after a 31-year career break; Diane Keane on returning to work in finance in non-profits; Global Head of Recruiting Miranda Kalinowski on Facebook's Return to Work Program (with Guest Host Cheryl McGee Wallace); Becca Rosenthal on transitioning to a technical role from a non-technical background; and Sue Hoppin on relaunching as a military spouse and her role with the National Military Spouse Network. Be sure to listen to the full podcast content from each of these special guests in previous episodes.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: 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, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today, we put together a special compilation episode in which we share some of the best tips and advice from previous podcast guests, we hope you enjoy it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today, we welcome Liz Thorne. Liz is a finance and sustainable investment professional with two decades of expertise, spanning corporate finance advisory, bank lending, bond issuance, and investing. Currently in the role of senior director on the Private Fixed Income team at SLC Management, she sources structures and invests in private debt in the clean energy sector and is an active contributor to SLC Management's Sustainable Investing Council.

Liz, welcome the 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Liz Thorne: Hi, Carol. It's great to talk to you again. The work you do has been tremendously valuable to me. And I think it has extraordinary benefit to any organization that looks to find mid-career and senior level talent. I'm so happy to tell my story to the extent that would be a benefit.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow, thank you so much. I really appreciate you saying that. And Liz, we've known each other a long time and I've followed your career since you first relaunched, and it's just quite an amazing journey. So we're so privileged to have you here as our guest, and thank you. What is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience?

Liz Thorne: I think you need to look for a way into organizations that you want to be a part of that are doing interesting things, and take an adjacent position. Do it well, but know where you want to go and let others know it too. If you're aligned with the organization's goals and bring value, you're likely to be successful in that. And I feel like that's really what I've done. So don't let the job title deter you. I had to take some steps back to move forward, and there's no shame in that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Really important advice, and I hope everyone is listening carefully to exactly what Liz just said about sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward. There's no shame in doing that. It's enriching on so many levels and that's sometimes the path that the relauncher needs to take. So great talking to you, Liz. And thank you so much for your example, for your wisdom, for all of your lessons learned. Thanks for joining us.

Liz Thorne: Thanks. Thanks so much. This was great.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today, we welcome Cynthia Siemens. Cynthia is communications director for HireVue, a leader in video interviewing and AI-driven video and game-based assessments. Using video interviews in the hiring process has been around for over fifteen years. HireVue itself was founded in 2004, but the use of video interviewing has exploded in recent years, and now is the cornerstone of most interview processes given the COVID crisis.

Cynthia, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Cynthia Siemens: I'm very happy to be here, Carol. Thanks for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's great to have you. So what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something we've already talked about today?

Cynthia Siemens: So I would say the best advice I have is to find out what you absolutely love doing, or the type of project that really gets your motor running so to speak. Look for and volunteer for projects that represent that type of work, and if you can't find them in your current job, find ways to do them on a volunteer basis.

Research, find out what other people in teams are doing along the same lines, and then incorporate that into your storytelling and your resume to help show your potential. Stay on top of developments in that world. Follow people who do that work well on social media, search the news and online journals, make it part of your world, and you'll be ready to create an opportunity to make it your job as well.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent advice. Thanks for joining us today, Cynthia.

Cynthia Siemens: Thank you for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today, we welcome Professor Susan Samuelson. Susan graduated from Harvard Law School in 1977 and went immediately into big firm law where she was progressing well. After having her first two children, however, the relentless schedule of corporate law transactions combined with the new demands of family life forced a reckoning for this high achiever. She left having no idea what was going to come next.

Susan, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Susan Samuelson: Thank you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So I wanted to go to our final question and it's the question we ask all of our podcast 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?

Susan Samuelson: Well other than having lots of meals with random strangers, it was a really hard decision to leave my law firm. It was a prestigious, high paying job, working with smart people I liked. It was what I think of as a great cocktail party job. People at cocktail parties were impressed when I told them where I worked. Actually, my parents liked telling people at cocktail parties where their daughter worked, but ultimately it just wasn't the right job for me.

And I decided I shouldn't be doing something just to impress other people as much fun as that was. My advice would be to figure out what works for you and then to take the risk and work hard to achieve it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: This is so important. In our relauncher audience, sometimes people don't step back and reflect and figure that out until they are on their career break and well into it, and realize that they were maybe fulfilling someone else's expectations along the way, or somehow fell into something without a lot of thinking behind it, that turned out to be the wrong path.

Thanks for joining us today, Susan.

Susan Samuelson: You're very welcome.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today, we welcome Mimi Kahn. Mimi is a bilingual, licensed social worker who launched at the Families Forward Social Services Organization in Orange County, California, after a twenty-five year career break, one of the longest we have on record. Mimi, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Mimi Kahn: Thanks Carol. I'm happy to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So I'm going to combine our last two questions. I wanted to ask a question retrospectively, looking back, what you might have done differently, but we also ask our final question to all of our podcast guests, about your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if we've already talked about it today, so maybe some combination of the retrospective look and any advice that you have.

Mimi Kahn: Okay. So always hard to say, retrospectively, if you would have done things differently. But I have to say, I really feel like that I loved being able to spend as much time as I did with my kids. And in addition, I get a little emotional, but I had my parents around at the time, and so I wouldn't have had that time with them. So now when I think about it, I think I would have missed all that time, that makes me feel really great. A lot of times when my kids were in school, my parents lived close by, so I would just be spending time with them.

And as they got older, I was the one, because my brothers worked, I was the one taking them to doctor's appointments and really helped them in all those later years. I don't regret any of it. I also had the opportunity to make a lot of really meaningful, special friendships with a lot of great people that I don't know that I would have had time for because like nowadays, I don't have as much time for that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, something always gives. And when we talk to people taking longer career breaks it's often this element where there's initially the childcare piece, and then kids get more independent, and then all of a sudden there's an elder care issue that pops up.

Mimi Kahn: Exactly. And that's actually, that's exactly how it worked for me, Carol, it all got combined. And because my parents were close by it all worked out that way, where then I was needed there, and I'm just so glad. That I could never have back.

And in terms of the other question, in terms of advice, I would say number one, listen to your partner when they tell you, "No, you better get that license right now and not wait until after you have kids," right? Number two, listen to your kids, they know you. And, had my son maybe not sat down and said, "It's time for you to go on and help other people. What are you waiting for?" The main thing too, is to realize that your life experience has given you more than you can imagine. It doesn't have to be paid work experience, right?

Those years in the trenches and raising my kids, caring for my aging parents, et cetera, et cetera, that helped me build resilience, learn coping skills, all these things that will help you in a job or a career. And so do not feel like, "Oh my gosh, I've been out of it. I've missed out." No. Because all those things are just building who you are and make you the strong person you are. And so many times those kinds of people, when you go for an interview, that shows that maturity, that resiliency of those years of experience really pays off and it can be more valuable than someone that happened to be working at a job punching the clock for the last ten years.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Definitely one of the strengths of relaunchers for sure.

Mimi Kahn: Exactly. Exactly. So I would say all of those, and then of course you'll listen to your intuition, and don't be afraid because what's the worst that can happen?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great advice, Mimi. And it's wonderful to talk to you today. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mimi Kahn: You're welcome. It's been great to be here. Thank you for asking me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today we welcome Ellie St. John. Ellie is on the HR leadership team for the Virginia Education Association, representing 40,000 teachers and school professionals in Virginia public schools. She comes to this role after relaunching first as a benefits manager for Carlotz. Ellie relaunched her career after a nearly eighteen year career break, and she wrote to us about how much our book, Back on the Career Track, which is a regional guide to career reentry I co-authored with Vivian Steir Rabin that led to our co-founding iRelaunch. And Ellie wrote about how helpful Back on the Career Track was to her and how it influenced her relaunch.

Here's what she wrote, "In the three years since I read the book, I have relaunched my corporate career, received a promotion, moved companies to a higher paying position, earned three professional certifications, started a master's degree, and I'll graduate in December with my MHRM."

Really amazing. And we were thrilled to hear from Ellie and knew we couldn't wait to get her details on how she accomplished all that has been part of her relaunch. And we're delighted to have her as our guest today. Ellie, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Ellie St. John: Thank you, Carol. So great to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We're so glad you wrote and told us all of those details. We're going to wrap up now and I want to ask you the question we ask all of our podcast 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?

Ellie St. John: I think the hardest part is just getting started in the relaunch, just to get started, and especially if you don't know where to start. Because, these days we hear a lot about passion and just do something, what are you passionate about? What if you don't have a passion? I certainly did not. My sister read this book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic, and she had mentioned it, and the book talks about, what is your curiosity? What are you curious about? And just follow your curiosity. And so HR was always something I was curious about.

So I just went in that direction because it was always a curiosity of mine. It was not a passion at the time, but it is now. It has developed into a passion. I am absolutely passionate about HR. So my advice is don't feel like you have to have a passion to get started. Just get started. Just start with your curiosity and follow that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great advice for our relauncher audience. Thank you so much. Ellie, thanks for joining us today.

Ellie St. John: Thank you so much for having me, Carol, it's been such an honor to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today, we welcome Pam Waterman. Pam is a 3D Printing Application Engineer at Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies, or PADT for short. What is most unique about Pam's career history is that she took a thirty-one year career break for childcare and eldercare reasons, which is a record-breaking long career break.

She graduated from UMass Amherst with a bachelor's degree in astrophysics and microwave engineering. And I love that she left her graduation year on her LinkedIn profile. That's something that career coaches are split on. I happen to be on the side of leaving those dates on, so love to see that. Pam worked in technical and engineering roles and then went into technical writing and used that skill to keep connected professionally on and off during her career break, and we'll hear some more about that when we speak with her. We are going to find out exactly how Pam got her current relaunch role after such a long career break. Pam, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Pam Waterman: Thanks, Carol. I am so glad to talk with you after accessing so many of your resources, you're doing such a great service.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you so much for saying that. And I am going to definitely ask you more about how we were helpful, but it's a thrill to hear that we were. I wanted to know, what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience even if it's something we've already talked about today?

Pam Waterman: Oh, okay. Besides totally getting into iRelaunch, I would say absolutely get on LinkedIn. I live on LinkedIn. Post a good profile, join the groups that are relevant to the field that interests you, then start commenting on what other people post and eventually start doing your own posts and reaching out to making connections. I've just found it absolutely invaluable. It gets you started, it keeps you going and I'm still all over LinkedIn today.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great advice. And people's LinkedIn profiles are public documents. So we are talking to Pam Waterman and you can look her up and see how Pam talks about her summary or the description of her enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of an intern and the insight of an industry veteran, you'll see that language and how she documented her career progress.

Pam, thank you so much for joining us today.

Pam Waterman: Oh, you're so welcome.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today we welcome Diane Keane, currently the vice president at the National Math and Science Initiative, which we are going to discuss. Diane has one of the best LinkedIn profiles I've ever seen. So for example, here's how she discussed her five years at PaineWebber, the investment bank she worked at for five years before her fifteen year career break. She wrote, "I was hired to help build a new REIT, that means Real Estate Investment Trust investment group, within PaineWebber's investment banking division. At the time we were overshadowed by prominent names and I had to scratch and scramble to find the deals and build the business. How I approached the challenge..." and then she actually walks through how she did it. And it's a very effective way of portraying her experience on LinkedIn.

So I first wanted to highlight that and then something else she wrote jumped out at me, she wrote in her description about herself, "Rather than resting comfortably in the middle, I gravitate to the edges, the most challenging situations, stickiest business problems and organizations where I can change things for the better. In my career, that meant transitioning from Wall Street filmmaking to startup operations, to internal finance." After Diane's career break, she relaunched as vice president finance at TNTP, the new teacher project and non profit in the educational arena.

She subsequently moved to the national math and science initiative where she is now. Diane, welcome to3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Diane Keane: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be able to share my experiences and I hope it'll help others as they embark on their return to work journeys.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm sure it will. And we so appreciate you spending the time with us. Diane, what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience even if it's something that we've already talked about today?

Diane Keane: Oh, I think I would go back to really taking the time to pause and think about who you were, but and more importantly, who you are now, when you're looking to go back, and figuring out the next career you want. And I guess I would use this phrase, think of relaunching, not as a challenge, but as an opportunity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I like that. That's a great frame of mind to be in when you're on the journey and, especially if it's taking longer than you're anticipating it to take. Diane, thank you very much for joining us today.

Diane Keane: Yeah, it was great. I appreciate you having me.

Cheryl McGee Wallace: Today we welcome Miranda Kalinowski, Head of Global Recruiting for Facebook. We'll discuss Facebook 16-week return to work program in more detail in a moment. We at iRelaunch have long looked forward to speaking with Miranda, who has more than thirty years of recruiting experience in the US and abroad. For nearly seven years, Miranda has led the global recruiting team at Facebook, helping it to grow from 6,000 employees to more than 56,000 today. Hi Miranda, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Miranda Kalinowski: Hi, Cheryl, great to be here.

Cheryl McGee Wallace: I can only imagine how busy you must be. So thank you very much for taking time to join us. What is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience even if it's something we've already talked about today?

Miranda Kalinowski: Look, I think this is such a confidence game. So it's actively working on building or rebuilding your confidence in this context and your resilience, because it will likely take some time to build that up. And acknowledging that you may not get to hear yes every single time, but committing to learning from doing debriefs, like I mentioned before, but personally reflecting on, "Okay, how did that go? This went well. This I could have done better. I need to know more about this. Who can I ask? Where's the expert? I can tap into this podcast feedback, et cetera." Just this commitment to going easy on yourself and knowing it's going to take a bit to build up your confidence, but having it an intentional plan to do that I think is important.

Cheryl McGee Wallace: That's really great. I do agree about the importance of confidence because the level of confidence can even make the difference between someone making the decision to apply in the first place.

I think that's excellent advice for our audience. Miranda, thank you very much for joining us today.

Miranda Kalinowski: Thanks so much for having me, Cheryl, it's been a delight.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today we welcome Becca Rosenthal. Becca Rosenthal is not a relauncher and she graduated college in 2015, so she is much younger and much earlier in her career than typical guests that we have on our podcasts. We asked her to join us today because of the unlikely route she took to what is now a highly technical career.

She is now a software engineer at Reddit where she has been for almost three years. And we're going to find out how she did it and what the bootcamp was like and what her work has been like since. Becca, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Becca Rosenthal: Thank you so much for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So Becca, I wanted to ask you, what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience even if it's something that we've already talked about today?

Becca Rosenthal: So I have two. Number one is, be shameless. You already don't have a job at any of these companies, and so your life doesn't change at all if you receive an email informing you that you still don't have a job at this company. And so you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose, so just go for it. The other piece of advice is to figure out how to give the elevator pitch of your story, which connects your past skills to what you want to do on the technical side, because your background has value. So pretending like you don't have a decade of working in schools doesn't help you as an engineer. Instead talking about all of the skills that are transferable from your life, working in schools is going to be more beneficial. So for example, if you work in a school, think about how many different types of people you had to learn how to communicate with, students and administrators and parents and teachers of all types, and all of the various BS you had to put up with. Great. That is a skill. That is transferable. All of these interpersonal skills are so important.

Anybody can learn how to code. Anybody can learn these skills. Some people will have more and less of an aptitude towards it, but anybody can learn the hard skills. The soft skills are the challenge. And so really index on communicating how these soft skills transition and translate into a hard skill based environment.

Oh, and then actually I have a secret part three. One more, which is, tech is a team sport. Tech is a team sport, and so find your people who are going to empower and encourage you, and when you are just more confused and frustrated, you can call and they'll be like, "Oh yeah, me too." Everybody feels imposter syndrome. Nobody knows what they're doing, even if they're twenty years on the job. And so find your community that'll make you feel good because it is hard.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, love it.That is such great advice and actually great advice for people across the board in tech and outside of tech too, but especially in technical roles as you're describing. Becca, thank you so much for joining us today.

Becca Rosenthal: Thank you for having me. This was fun.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Today, we welcome Sue Hoppin. Sue is a nationally recognized expert on military spouse and family issues. She has more than twenty years of experience developing programs focusing on military issues, serving as spokesperson, and reaching out to train top tier, military affiliated groups, veteran and military services organizations, and key leadership within major military commands.

Sue is the co-author of A Family's Guide to the Military for the popular "Dummy” series and the founder of the National Military Spouse Network, a professional development and networking membership organization supporting the professional career and entrepreneurial goals of military spouses. Sue currently serves as a member of the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education for the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

She was a presidential appointee to the Board of Visitors of the United States Air Force Academy, and served as the first deputy director for spouse outreach for the Military Officers Association of America, known as MOA for short, and she was charged with creating and spearheading military spouse initiatives for the 375,000 member association. Sue and I met when she was at MOA and we profiled her relaunch success story there.

I also served as an advisor on career continuity issues to the National Military Spouse Network Organization that Sue founded and runs. Sue, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Sue Hoppin: Oh, Carol. I'm so happy to be here. Thank you so much for the invitation.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We are thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with you.

You relaunched your career at MOA fifteen years ago now, in 2005. And I wanted to ask you, looking back on your relaunch, is there anything you would've done differently, but it's almost the same question that we ask all of our podcast guests, which is what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today? So just want to know between those two questions, can you give some advice or talk about something that you might've done differently?

Sue Hoppin: Sure. I think some things that I would have done differently is I shouldn't have waited to start. I think I was just waiting to start my career when my spouse retired, and that was foolish. I should have done what I could to chip away at it throughout the years. I started, I think, five years before he retired, but I should have done more. I'm really fortunate that I fell into strategic volunteering, but I think people should put that into their toolkit of ways to stay relevant.

And that would be one of my recommendations to stay relevant. But the other thing I should have done was I should have been better at keeping up with industry trends, meaning salary, like what's a current salary, how you can negotiate compensation packages. The compensation packages that exist now are different than when I relaunched fifteen years ago.

And so I think a better understanding of those would help. You have to trust, but verify, especially for the people coming out of the military community, our community is a bit of a bubble. Most people live by a certain creed that involves honesty and integrity. So entering the workforce, I trusted everyone

and took them at their word. And it sounds really naive, but not everyone is an honest broker and you can run into dishonest people and people might be less than moral.

I know that sounds really crazy, because everybody assumes you have to understand that, that's just a matter of course. But coming out of the military community after you're there for twenty, thirty years, it's not homogenous, but on some things about honesty, integrity, it's homogenous.

And so I think the other thing, the final thing that I would recommend for people is please stay relevant and keep everything up to date even before you relaunch. Be disciplined about keeping up with your connections on LinkedIn and in-person. You don't do that when you need them, you just maintain those relationships throughout. And then I think that includes maintaining up-to-date bios and headshots, because you never know when an opportunity is going to rise and you want to be ready.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So much great advice there condensed into a small amount of time. Sue, thank you so much for joining us.

Sue Hoppin: Thank you so much for this opportunity, Carol. It's been so lovely catching up with you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's been lovely having the conversation Sue, thanks for joining us.

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 are returned to work tools and resources, go to

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