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Episode 210: Negotiating Compensation When Relaunching in a RTW Program or Not, with Bryn Panee Burkhart

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Episode Description

Bryn Panee Burkhart is Principal and Founder of Next Evolution Leadership Coaching and Career Management, and currently serves as an Institute Fellow at Simmons University’s Institute for Inclusive Leadership. She previously oversaw Alumni Career Services at the MIT Sloan School of Management and was a speaker at our November 2020 Return to Work Conference. Bryn discusses compensation: how employers determine compensation structures, how relaunchers should prepare for compensation conversations, and exactly what to say during compensation discussions when relaunching via a return to work (RTW) program or hired directly. This discussion is full of practical, detailed advice and scripts that relaunchers can use with potential employers. Note at 27:14 Bryn gives specific language to use when negotiating compensation when "converting" to a permanent hire after a returnship or when discussing an offer that is not part of a return to work program.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and cofounder of iRelaunch and your host. Today, we welcome Bryn Panee Burkhart. We first met Bryn during her 15 year career at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she oversaw Alumni Career Services.

She is now principal and founder of Next Evolution Leadership Coaching and Career Management, and is serving as an institute fellow at Simmons University's Institute for Inclusive Leadership. Bryn holds a BA in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master's in higher education from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.

She's a certified coach through the Co-active Training Institute and the International Coaching Federation. Bryn is going to talk to us today about compensation, how employers determine compensation structures, and how relaunchers should prepare for compensation conversations with potential employers.

Bryn, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Hi, Carol. Thanks so much for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, this is such an important topic for relaunchers, and we really appreciate your expertise. And I'm just going to mention that we were so fortunate to have you partner with us last year at our virtual Return to Work Conference where you were a welcome speaker on day two in your role at the time, at MIT. And you also produced a couple of videos, one was about preparing for your relaunch, and another was on compensation. So we know you have special expertise in this area, and why don't we get right into it? I want to start first by asking you, how do you define compensation and what are the components that go into a compensation package?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Okay. Well, compensation is monetary payment given to an individual in exchange for their services. So in the workplace compensation is what is earned by employees. Now, when we look at a compensation package, it typically includes one or more of the following: a base salary, which is your guaranteed income determined by the scope of your role; then there are sometimes short-term incentives like bonuses, and those are based on either your individual performance at the company, or it could be based on the day-to-day performance of the company itself and given across the organization. There are perhaps long-term incentives like stock options or restricted stock units, RSUs that will give you equity in the company, but those are typically not paid out until you've been there an average of three to five years, that's why they're long-term incentives.

And a final component to a compensation package is benefits. So healthcare and retirement benefits are most common, like a 401k plan, because those are giving you and your family security.

There are also perks that some companies will throw in, childcare subsidies, free childcare, which is awesome, free meals, gym memberships, allowances towards your cell phone. These things can add up and be a really nice value add to the total compensation package.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And I remember when we used to go into the office regularly, there might be parking or public transportation subsidies also.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Absolutely, yes, and dry cleaning. I mean, there's a lot of different things, right?

Carol Fishman Cohen: So, for our audience, this is really important to recognize. We're not just talking about the straight salary part of the equation here, that there are many more parts. And it's worth making a list of all of these parts and then being aware of what the options are, because they're all part of the conversation. So, Bryn, how do companies determine their compensation structure and the different kinds, I know you said bonuses, there's signing bonuses, there's bonuses, as you said, for individuals or team performance, how do they figure all of that out?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: So I'm glad you asked this because I think it is important for everyone to know that every organization has a formal process by which they determine what they're going to pay their employees. It typically goes like this, a company's compensation structure is defined by their compensation philosophy, and that is driven by the leader or the leaders of the organization.

So companies carefully consider how they want to use their capital to attract, to retain and promote talent. Compensation is a reward system used to get people in, keep people there and to move people up. So company leaders set a vision for what type of talent they want to attract, how much they want to pay that talent, how much they want to pay their employees, and how they want to pay their employees, meaning a combination of base bonus, base long-term, whatever makes sense. That's going to depend on the life cycle of the company. And from there, they're going to create salary bands for different peer groups or levels that make sense for that organization.

Companies will also benchmark their internal compensation structure that they've created against the marketplace. They want to ensure that their compensation offerings are enough but not excessive. So to get an idea of how to pay their employees competitively, there are compensation analysts, or they will hire compensation consultants to go out and look at where companies tend to recruit talent, where talent employees go after they leave an organization. And then they'll collect a lot of market data, proxy reports, SEC filings, 990s, published industry surveys. They're going to take this information, they'll analyze it and then use it to review their internal compensation structure against the market.

So the bottom line is companies want to be comparable to their peers, but they need to evaluate the financial impact of making any adjustments.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. You don't even think about that.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Yes. It's been carefully crafted and I think it is also worth noting, I mentioned that the compensation structure of a company will oftentimes reflect the life cycle. So a startup that is low on capital is typically going to pay below market value base salary, but they will typically offer you above market equity, right? Maybe even founder's equity. So it's high risk, high reward.

Whereas a mature company is going to pay a high market value salary and will typically offer competitive short and long-term incentives. So it just depends on their position in the market and where they're at in terms of their growth cycle.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And this is a hot topic right now, can people live in different places and still work? And if they do live in different places, then does the salary piece of the compensation get adjusted based on that new location, because maybe the cost of living is different there? That's a newer part of the conversation now, right?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: It is. And I actually had the chance to listen to a compensation consultant earlier this winter. This question was posed to her in a conference I was attending, and this compensation consultant said that she projects that companies will still pay based on fair labor, not location. Which I think is really important for people who are considering remote work, that it doesn't matter if they live in the middle of the country or in a more remote location, they should still be paid by what they bring to the table.

I think one thing I would say that's really important for relaunchers to know, is that maintaining the internal equity is going to be important for a company when they're hiring talent. So they want to honor those salary bands and those pay grades that they've researched and crafted. That's one thing that I think is important for relaunchers to understand. There are some factors here, there is a process. And so what they need to do is determine where they might fit into that particular company salary.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I just want to highlight for the audience a little more on this point, maintaining internal equity. So that means when you come in at a certain salary level, or compensation level, it has to be appropriate relative to other people who are already in the organization and where they might be in terms of their salary or compensation levels. And that's tricky territory, because you could say that, if someone is maybe coming in at what you consider below the salary and they say, "We have to keep it this way because of equity inside the organization," then maybe you want to talk about, "Can you give me a bonus?"

So there's something outside that salary conversation that gives you that kind of equity that you're expecting based on what you're seeing in the market.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: And then that gets into salary negotiation, which is actually a whole different web podcast, because salary negotiation conversations, at that point, there is an offer, there's more you can evaluate. But I think as you are preparing to relaunch and you're going to engage in these compensation conversations, which I know are intimidating for people, because money is hard to talk about. I think just knowing there's internal equity that will need to be maintained as a really good starting point.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great point. Okay. I want to shift the conversation from the employer perspective to the relauncher perspective, because this is such a hot topic, such an important topic for relaunchers. Relaunchers want to know, what steps can they take to understand their market value? They've been on career break for different amounts of time. Some people might be pivoting to a new career and coming into a more entry level, but we also want to talk about the people who are returning to something similar to what they left. And everyone has this question, "Do I try to come in at the same level?" "Should I expect to come in lower?" And just wanted to know your opinion on when they should be researching this. What should they be researching? How do they get data to understand this better?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Okay. So let's unpack the question a little bit. So first of all, just as we talked about how companies do benchmarking to make sure they're paying their talent at a competitive rate, it's really important for relaunchers to invest time doing their own research and getting a handle on their potential market value based on their target roles, their target industries. So the goal of research, because I think it's important "what am I trying to do here" is, you're trying to establish a fair salary range so that you can then take that out and test it and have effective compensation conversations.

Now I would not do this research until you have some clarity or direction around your next steps. Perhaps you know an industry or role or company that you want to target, you're going to want to reserve this for when you're prepared to start networking and effectively engage in networking conversations.

This means that you've done all of your preparation. I call it your groundwork. When you're really clear on the skills that you want to be using, when you know your priorities as they relate to a job search, when you've taken the time to craft your narrative, your pitch, when you've effectively positioned yourself on LinkedIn and gotten your resume ready to go, then you're ready to do this from a place of strength, a place of confidence. That's really important.

Okay. So in terms of data, where do I find, where do I start? Data points. Okay. So if you're looking to return to work in a similar role, perhaps your past salary, depending on how long you've been out of the workforce might be a good comparable, at the very least it's a starting point. So you're going to just want to be getting different data points. Of course you'll want to find other points of reference.

And if you're looking to pivot, as you mentioned, changing function or industry, you're going to have to find new data points. So one option is seeing if the major professional association or organization that represents your target industry or function, do they conduct salary surveys or publish salary reports? If they don't own these resources, they might be able to point you in the right direction. For example, I was just working with someone who is a CFA, a chartered financial analyst, and is looking to move and wanted to find, what are salary ranges based on this geographic location? And so he went to the CFA Institute, which is the accrediting body. Try and find that larger body that governs your industry, that can be helpful.

If you have a graduate degree, another place you could look is to your alma mater, where did you graduate from undergrad and graduate school programs? Sometimes your career services office publishes employment reports. And again, if you're more seasoned or you've been out of school for a while, perhaps this isn't relevant, but I'll say during my time at MIT Sloan, I worked with dozens of relaunchers, and we always looked at the MBA employment report to get a sense of what's the current market value. That's really helpful when you're assessing different industries.

There are, of course, these online resources, salary focused platforms, Glass Door,,, even LinkedIn has a salary tool. Those are probably the major ones. There's lots of other little ones as well. And you can get data from these sites. However, what's important to know here is that the data is collected anonymously, so it can't be vetted and it would not be a credible source of information. Perhaps if you're talking with a company you can't say, "Glassdoor tells me that I should be paid X amount." Nevertheless, what we're doing here is we're getting lots of different points of data that you can then synthesize and start to hone a fair salary range for yourself.

So I would check out all those sites, enter the criteria. see what spits back to you because all these different sites have different ways of aggregating and collecting data.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, I think I'll just throw in, I think, Fairy Godboss has salary information. And there is, I thought it was government related, but it's the Occupational Handbook Guide, it's O N E T also has hundreds or thousands of different salary data points, depending on what the role is. But again, I think that some of these are averages and they need to be, as you're saying, part of a bigger data point, a number that you're collecting to come up with this range.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Correct. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes reports too. So you can Google to your heart's content. I think that the point is just, first of all, always look at where they source their information from, because as we know the web is a wonderful and dangerous place when it comes to factual information.

And then, just to keep it in mind, is it sussing out against all the other more reliable data that you're going to get? So to that point, should we talk about reliable data? ‘Cause I think we've talked about different websites.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So we should talk about reliable data and also how you enhance that with maybe individual conversations you have with people who are in your market or in your field, or maybe even in a company that you're going to be applying to.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: So when I talk about reliable data, it really is about talking to people. In my opinion, the most valuable information can be found by having conversations. For example, external recruiters, they can be very knowledgeable about compensation for the various roles in the markets in which they specialize.

So if you have relationships there or can get introductions, ask for a short conversation. Also, you could consider being a little bold, cold call, cold email. If you find recruiters that specialize in an area that you're targeting and tell them you're doing some research, as you prepare to return to work after a career break, see if they'll give you 15 minutes of their time, perhaps they'll be impressed by your diligence and give you some nice, good nuggets of info. I've seen it work before. And I always say to my clients, why not? What do you have to lose? So you can't be afraid here. You need to own this, own this search. Get information as you can, and recruiters can be great sources of information.

But to your point, Carol, I think your best bet is by doing informational interviews with former colleagues, or people in the industry, or the companies you're targeting. Because these are personal conversations, you can often yield some really excellent and reliable anecdotal data.

Relaunchers should be thinking about, they're going to actively be identifying the work they want to do, and they need to be identifying the people in their network who can help them understand the lay of the land. So I encourage my clients to capitalize on networking conversations to get salary data, asking a neutral question. "What are your thoughts on the compensation level for someone in this role?" That's a perfectly reasonable, fair question.

Asking something like, "Are there any insights you can share about your company's compensation philosophy or structure that would help me as I'm preparing to go back to work?" That's a really nice way to tee it up. It's not invasive. You're not asking someone, “What do you make?" You're just trying to get the range. You could even share, "I've been doing some preliminary research, here's what I'm seeing. What do you think? Any reactions to that?" So you're using them to help you, again, you're wanting to get to a point where you can get to that fair market range.

So you'll want to synthesize all these different places that you're getting information. Even put it together in a chart. I'll have my clients chart it out from low to high, and that way you can start to get closer to a fair range that you can then go and test out when you're in compensation conversations.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And maybe the two outliers, the high and the low, you throw it out. And so that gets you more focused on a narrower range. And I just want to make a comment, when you're saying "informational interviews," with some people, it is just a conversation. You're calling up your old buddy from college or, someone who you used to work with, and you can just say something broad, "Can you just give me a ballpark range of what someone might be making, if they're, let's say a third year associate or a vice-president in corporate finance, in an investment bank," and see what the person says. They might give you a range. Again, like you're saying, Bryn, you're not saying to the person, "Tell me how much you make." You're asking them for some sort of a ballpark and range or estimate.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: And of course, this will depend on the rapport you've established. If this is someone you know well, it's going to be easier than someone that perhaps, you've been teed up, you're a second degree connection, I guess I'm using LinkedIn terms, but you've been introduced, you don't know that person well. But you can still ask those people that question, it's fair.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. And I think people wouldn't be offended at all, they wouldn't think it was an inappropriate question.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Correct.

Carol Fishman Cohen: They can decide how much information they want to reveal or not, but it's not like they would be like, "Whoa, I can't believe you asked me that." I think they might expect to be asked that. So can you talk about this concept of employers and relaunchers being on the same side of the table for compensation discussions? What do you mean by that? I heard you talk about it, what do you mean by it and why is it important?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Sure. Okay. So often, I think, as I mentioned, it's intimidating to come back after a career break and talk about money and think about advocating for yourself. And I think most people start to assume that conversations, salary conversations are going to be oppositional, that that recruiter or that hiring manager is going to low ball them, or they want to hire them as cheaply as possible. And that causes the, I guess the relauncher in this case, to feel like they have to be guarded and really hold tight to their position. And that's just not productive. So one of my key pieces of advice here is: assume good intentions.

Know that while recruiters do need to maintain internal equity, they will try to be flexible more often than not if you are a desirable candidate. Hiring managers want their potential hires to be happy about their compensation package. They want you to come in and be motivated to perform at a high level. Most recruiters, and of course there's some exceptions to this, but most people really are not trying to get you as cheap as possible. But they are going to have to maintain that internal equity that we discussed.

So when I talk about getting on the same side of the table, I think about these two people negotiating on opposite ends of the table. And what you want to do is you want to bring goodwill and good faith to the conversation.

Assume good intentions, and know and believe that the recruiter really is motivated to have a constructive, collaborative conversation around compensation. In fact, one piece of dialogue that I recommend when you're asked about salary expectations, is to say something like, "I appreciate your asking. I know it's an important subject for both of us." This signals that you're prepared, it's a business conversation, and let's have this discussion. It's a confidence play too.

So I think it's really nice to have some receptive language when you're asked about money rather than panic. Having that confidence play, it also helps you build rapport with that company representative or to whomever you're speaking. And likability is a really powerful factor when it comes to your leverage there. So by being receptive, you are showing, "Okay, let's have this conversation," and it can lead to easier, more successful compensation conversations.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Bryn, I'm going to ask you about some specific scenarios that pertains to relaunchers in a minute, but I'm just curious, I love that language that you just used. I want to know if you can repeat it one more time, and then can you say what happens after that? How do you not, you're always given that advice, "Don't say the first number," but how do you handle the next part of the conversation?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Okay. All right. So first of all, a disclaimer, compensation is a complicated subject and there's no one size fits all here. Okay? So these discussions are going to be highly individual. They're going to be tailored to your specific situation, to your background, to your career objective, to the company's compensation philosophy, what conversations have already occurred, who the players are, et cetera. So, bottom line, context is important here.

But I have a simple formula that I often advise clients to use in compensation conversations that can help better leverage these discussions. So when you're asked a question, such as, "What are your salary expectations, or what might you be looking for in a base salary?"

You want to acknowledge the question by responding with a statement. So that statement I just gave you that you wanted me to repeat, which was, "I appreciate that you're asking, I know it's an important subject for both of us." That could be your first statement back. So you're acknowledging that the question was answered.

Then you're going to open up the conversation by asking a question of your own. So the formula would be, make a statement, ask a question. I guess let's talk about a specific scenario, because the question that you're going to ask back is going to be motivated by where you're at.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So I have two scenarios. One of them is, and this is clearly scenarios that are specific to relaunching. So one has to do with being in a return to work program, a formal returnship or other kinds of return to work program at an employer. And the other one where there is no program.

So the first one is, I'm applying to, and actually I'm being accepted by a company returnship program. And let's say they're telling me that everyone's getting paid $37 an hour, because they've actually changed it into an hourly format. And we can talk about the different ways that returnships are compensated, but a flat compensation level for let's say, 16 weeks. And then I would hopefully, if I do well, be converting into a full-time job and having some sort of negotiation at that point about what level I'm converting at, at what compensation. And I will give the caveat that there are some return to work programs where you're just applying to the program and others where you're actually applying to a specific role that's already at a particular level. But let's say I'm in a role category that's in between. I'm in a role category for a flat compensation level during the internship, and then I'm going to be having that conversation, converting to the full-time job.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: All right. Because at this point, you're in the final stages, right? You've been there for 16 weeks and I hope you've utilized those 16 weeks to, as you said, gain some more insight into what a full-time offer might be or the range of the offer.

But in this scenario, you have credibility. Obviously you've been performing at an optimal level since you're talking about full-time employment. And I'm going to assume that this person is motivated to stay with the firm. But they want to maximize their compensation.

So if they are asked about their salary expectations, I think you want your statement, right? We're going to go back to that statement/question formula. Their statement wants to show your interest and confidence in the role. So perhaps you want to say, for example, "What are your salary expectations as we discuss moving you into full-time employment?"

And of course you could say, "Thank you so much for asking it's important to both of us." I would then say something like, " I've enjoyed my 16 weeks here. I am confident that I can come in and add immediate value and leverage my expertise in X, Y, Z." Or you can highlight your skillset. Remind them that you've had some wins during this returnship. Demonstrate your skillset relevant to the position and basically say, "I know I can add a lot of value to this role." Okay, so that might be your statement. And then I think you should embrace these money conversations, because it is your opportunity to anchor yourself.

So let's say you have an idea of a range, so let's talk about a range. Okay. So you could then say, "My understanding from conversations I've had during the course of my returnship and other research I've done, is that a salary range for this position would be around $90,000 to $110,000 a year." Then comes your question. "Can you give me a sense of how that might fit within your compensation structure or the company's compensation structure?"

So you're testing things out here, and the beauty of asking a question is, you're volleying it back, and you're asking for their point of view for their perspective. So the conversation is collaborative. It's a back and forth. You're getting on the same side of the table to go back to the previous question. You're showing, "Okay, this is what I see. What do you see?" It's not oppositional. It's collaborative. And it's also key at this point in the conversation, because you are so far along, to demonstrate that you understand that internal equity is important to the company and you want to respect that.

So you use different language, but once you're at the final stages, that's where you want to say, "I know you need to honor that equity structure within the organization, but here's what I see. What are your thoughts on that?" Does that make sense?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. So I have a few questions for you. In that example you just gave, the relauncher is actually saying a number, like a range, and putting that out there first. And so, are you saying that's okay to do because it's a range and it's based on some external data collection, as well as conversations in the company, and that kind of from a negotiation standpoint still puts you in a strong position?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Yes. And I know there are opinions on whether or not to answer. There's a lot of people who think, let's stonewall. In my opinion, I think it does you no harm to respond with real numbers and give a range. You're always going to be working with a range. And so I would rather you earn these relationship points I talked about, because of that likability factor, I'd rather you earn relationship points by giving a response with a fair range, rather than dodging the question. And at that point too, HR, they need this information. So they want to make sure that we're playing in the same ballpark.

I mean, it's a little different, you've been in the returnship program. It's not like you're all of a sudden going to ask for this exorbitant amount of money. But they also want to ask, "What are you expecting?" So to that point, if you said "$90 to $110K," and that was off the mark, and they said, "Well, that's actually not within the band." Then you use the statement/question formula again, and say, another piece of dialogue I could offer would be something like this. "I'd like to come in at a competitive level and be situated to succeed. So could you give me a sense of the compensation range for this role?" So that's your statement. You're still saying I want to come in at a competitive level. What's the range, right? Or another question you could ask could be, "From your perspective, what parameters do we need to work within?" So again, you are saying, "Okay, it's too high. I still want to come in at a competitive level. So what do I need to know?" You're being a team player. It's very collaborative. It's very congenial.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, I think this is a great approach, especially given the fact that you've already been inside the company and you've had this returnship and you've had this incredible opportunity to have transitional support and mentorship and all that programming piece in addition to a paid role.

So the idea that this is a collaborative conversation, I think really is important, for the relauncher in the process. And I just want to remind the relaunchers, the company wants you to succeed. They want you to convert. And as you're saying, Bryn, they want you to feel like you're converting on fair terms.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Correct. Absolutely. So assume good intentions.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And then the other thing I just want to point out is that relaunchers will tell us, they feel they have more power in these conversations because during the returnship, they've not only proven to the employer, they've proven to themselves that they can do it.

One other piece about that, and this is a very hot topic on the employer side right now, in terms of level and compensation when people convert, is that both the employer and the relauncher tend to be kind of risk averse. And the relauncher might be thinking, "Yeah, I've proven myself, but you know, I did take a 10 year career break and so maybe I should come in at a slightly more junior level," and the employer might be thinking, "We want to set the person up for success."

So sometimes they err on the side of a little bit more junior. And then what happens is the relauncher progresses at a faster rate than the relauncher or the employer anticipated. And one of the things we're talking to employers about is part of being in the returnship program, some sort of level adjustment that might be off cycle once you convert, but that's another conversation. But I just wanted to put that out there that these are conversations that are going on inside companies that offer these programs.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Can I respond to that? I think one thing I have advised relaunchers before, when they were negotiating, and remember, this is really broader compensation conversations we're talking about today. Salary negotiation is, there's some different tactics here, but one of the negotiating tools I've had relaunchers use is say, "Could we look at this after another three months or six months and do a salary review?"

I do find overall, and this is just overall, that if you take a salary range that is beneath you, you're going to feel resentful. And that's hard. I know when you've been out of the workforce for a while you're just so happy to be paid. But there's some gut instinct too, Carol. You kind of know when you're worth more, so really pay attention to that. And don't ignore that because it will come back if you end up accepting a role at a salary that you know is less than what you're worth.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And relaunchers will say, "Be a little bit aggressive with yourself and your expectations of yourself, and don't be so risk averse, and see what that conversation yields with the employer."

It could be that you're still in a situation where the employer is saying, "Let's go with this level right now." But as you're suggesting, Bryn, we'll have another conversation about it in three months or six months. Or maybe the employer's gonna push too and say, "You can do it. Let's have you convert at this higher level." And I also think that the more experience employers have running their returnship programs, then the more open they are and comfortable they are with being aggressive about having relaunchers convert at that higher level. Because they've had experience with what happens after relaunchers have that ramp up period of them being in the role for a while.

So all of this is super interesting. One more scenario I want to talk to you about, because many people in our audience, and many relaunchers return to work without the benefit of a return to work program. I know I did. When I went back to work, there was not a program. So let's say there's no program, and I'm the relauncher, I haven't worked in 10 years. I live in a state where it's not legal for the company to ask me what I made before in my pre-career break role. And maybe I'm trying to weigh in my mind, I don't have the benefit of a returnship or some sort of interim program to test what level I should be at. I'm not really even sure in my own mind if I should be coming in at a more junior level or come in right where I left." Comments there about the conversation that relaunchers should be having?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Yes. Okay. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, you're still going to want to have had some sort of thought process around the skills you want to be using, where compensation factors into your priorities for getting back to work. Carol, I'll reference the three Cs.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's four Cs now.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Sorry, four Cs, yes, that you talked about, that are so valuable and I have used when I'm coaching relaunchers. So thinking about the culture of the company, the compensation, the content of your role, and the control that you have over your schedule.

And then, as you've said, you're never going to get all four. But you want to think about the priority order here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Let me just make a comment on that. So we say, you shouldn't have to trade more than one C to get back on the career track. And if you're perceiving that you're trading the compensation piece, you will make up that compensation over time.

So yes, you may get all four Cs ultimately, but sometimes in the step of the actual relaunch, you have to give up one temporarily.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Great. Yes. Thank you for clarifying that. That's very true. So for this scenario, you have an idea of what you want to be doing, where your priorities are, and you will have wanted to do some preliminary market research.

So you will have some sort of way to anchor yourself. Again, there's different stages, right? Let's say you're an active candidate, you see a role, you're having a first conversation, perhaps with a recruiter and they say, "What would you be looking for in a salary?" Here you're going to use that statement/question formula again. And your statement could be something like this. "Well, I've done some preliminary research and what I'm seeing is a range of anywhere from $80,000 to a $100,000 base for this level of a role. Can you give me your thoughts on this?" So again, it's a very, it's an introductory conversation.

You don't have to think about internal equity. You're just trying to test it. You're testing the market. So that might be a really nice way to start the conversation. And then see where it goes from there. The beauty of the statement/question formula is you can keep it going back all day long. So for someone that doesn't have a background, or hasn't had proven credibility at a company, you just want to put it out there and see the reaction. You can always say, "For these roles, I've been talking to friends and family and I've got some anecdotal data. So this is where I've been grounding myself. But,I'd appreciate your reaction. What do you see from where you sit?"

Carol Fishman Cohen: I like that. All right. Excellent. Wow, Bryn, so much excellent information here. And I love the detail, the scripting, the actual language that people should be using. And I'm sure our audience is gaining tremendous value from this. So thank you so much. I want to close by asking you the question that 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?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Okay, well, I listen to your podcast, so I knew this question was coming. And I've always thought, what would I want relaunchers to know? Okay. What I know for sure, here's my advice, it's a little long. But what I know for sure in working with relaunchers, is that the three keys to a successful return to work are this: preparation, practice and confidence.

If you do your preparation, all that groundwork I talked about, you understand those core competencies and your priorities, you're tending to your branding and your positioning so you can be more grounded in confidence and you can attack this return to work from a place of strength. If you then make time to practice, practice, practice, practice your stories out loud, own them in your voice. Really own it. And by stories, your pitch, your answers to potential interviewer salary questions, right? Then you can conduct your relaunch with clarity and confidence. Confidence is key. I always say, you don't want to wing this when you need to nail it.

So, preparation, practice, and that's going to breed confidence.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great advice. Thank you so much. Bryn, how can our audience find out more about your work at Next Evolution?

Bryn Panee Burkhart: Sure. I'd invite people to go to my website, which is, all one word, and they can find out a little bit more about me and the work that I do.

I also have a company page on LinkedIn. I'd invite you to follow me there. And that is Next Evolution-Coach, if you go to LinkedIn, or you can just type in Next Evolution coaching should pop up.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great. All right, Bryn, thank you so much for joining us today.

Bryn Panee Burkhart: It was a pleasure Carol, I love the work you're doing. I believe so strongly in it. So all the best.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you so much.

And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host.

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