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EP 227: The Ins and Outs of Relaunching in Higher Education, with Marion Viray

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Episode Description

Marion Viray is Program Manager of the Technology Leadership Development Programat Baruch College and Advisor for the Starr Career Development Program. Marion moderated our Successful Relaunchers Panel at the October 2021 iRelaunch Return to Work Conference. Marion stepped away from full-time employment to focus on childcare. In the years since, he has held a variety of freelance, adjunct, and part-time positions in higher education, many of which focus on career counseling. In this episode, Marion talks about these roles and his experience relaunching in higher education and career counseling.

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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 co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today we welcome Marion Viray. Marion is Program Manager for the Technology Leadership Program within the Star Career Development center at Baruch College. Marion moderated our Successful Relaunchers panel at the October 2021 iRelaunch Return To Work Conference. Marion stepped away from full-time employment to focus on childcare. And in the years since he's held a variety of freelance, adjunct and part-time positions in higher education, many of which focus on career counseling. In this episode, Marion will tell us about his experience relaunching as well as his expertise in higher education and career counseling.

Marion welcome to 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch.

Marion Viray: Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be here and I hope my story can inspire and motivate people who are listening to the podcast.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm sure it will. And I'm excited to have the conversation and I'd like to begin by asking you a little bit about your background and what you did prior to your career break.

And then what prompted you to take your career?

Marion Viray: Okay, great. I started my career after graduate school in academic advising. And after that quickly got into career counseling and really gravitated and really enjoyed that piece of it. So I've gotten a chance to work at different career centers around the city.

And I got a chance to work in human resources, doing IT recruiting. I also got a chance to be a diversity manager in a corporation. So it really was, the goal really for a lot of the themes of my role was really just to help people transition into the world of work and find meaningful work wherever, if that's on the education side or in the corporate side.

And prior to leaving full-time work, prior to that, after adopting my first daughter, deciding to be the primary caretaker, it was just something that when you're adopting a child, it's always never your choice. Mostly by luck and matching. And so when I decided to transition into being the primary caretaker, I decided to give up that world.

And I really enjoyed my work at the time. I was a diversity manager and really loved that type of work. And then decided to be a primary ticket caretaker and did it for about a year and a half until I found my current role here at Baruch College.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. So that's a lot. Let me just break that down a little bit. First of all, just to clarify for people who don't know, Baruch College is in New York city, so references to the city or New York City. And you're talking. Marion about adoption and how the adoption process is also very unpredictable in terms of timing.

And then you ultimately made the decision to be the lead parent, as Emory Slaughter puts it, or the primary caregiver. So you step away from the workforce. You're in that role for a year and a half. And then when did you decide it was time to take on some sort of freelance or adjunct, or how did you even decide that it was going to be a non-traditional kind of position, and what were your first steps in recognizing you wanted to do it, and then actually getting your first position?

Marion Viray: I think for so long, my work was partly my identity. being a parent, wasn't an option at the time. And when it became. on the option in a very short, very quick period of time, and I just gravitated to being a full-time parent. I would say about a year I started, part of, assessing my situation and like my own identity. Because, the first year, you're being the parent, then that becomes your identity and everything else changes around that. And so after I would say about a year, I began to feel like something in my life, like what does it look like after this kid becomes going to school and so forth for the future?

So I really, I think I would say given a whole year, I decided now, what else is there? Okay, great. I'm doing all these parenting stuff, going to the playground thing to play dates and so forth, and that's great for the kids. Then I have to think about myself, like what's in this whole parent thing for me besides, , having a child and being a parent role.

So I started just asking around, looking to see what's out there. It wasn't really looking at job boards. I was just talking to people in my network. Started having lunch meetings more for friends, and then became to transition to like professional friends and so forth. So first my friends just to get back into it, not really dressing up and just dressing how you dress when you're at home.

And my friends could do that. Then as I felt more comfortable being out with a kid with my first kid, cause I would take my child with me. It wasn't something I would like, I didn't have a babysitter at the time. So I would just take my little girl with me at the time. And so having friends, I felt like they were more comfortable if I have a continuous conversation. And so I think as I become more comfortable, so I started talking to more professional contacts. And through that, an opportunity at Baruch just organically happened. It wasn't even an application that happened. It was just a conversation, that said, if anyone hears of anything, let me know. I'm entertaining a part-time role, definitely not a full-time thing. I really want to find a balance of being at home and also, and, appeasing my sort of professional side of my identity. And so I'm in Baruch, my director now, outreach to me and say, we have this part-time opportunity.

You can give it a try, try it out for a few months. See if it works, from both sides. And I've been here for over 10 years. So worked out and I really find that it's a really good balance in being at home and doing all the PTA's on the children's homework and all that stuff. And still, also being able to do some work that helped my professional side, my professional identity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Again, you said so much there. I want to break it into some subtopics. So first of all, you said, you started out by just meeting with friends, and I love this idea that you were easing yourself into the process. You said you could dress casually. You're bringing your daughter, you might not have a continuous conversation because she might need attention and it was this way of getting you into this mode of going out to have these conversations, is that correct?

Marion Viray: Absolutely.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So that's happening. And then you said you moved to more professional contacts. So at that point, did you still take your daughter with you or did you get a babysitter? You did. Okay.

Marion Viray: I did. I did. Yeah. It was more like, like they're not cold connection. There was people I've known in my professional world. And I didn't, I wouldn't talk to them like my friends on a regular basis, or see there were like people I would know through work or through my network, but I would end up taking my daughter with me, and strategically planning it nap times and so forth. And, but I didn't, I was I'm gonna to do this. I'm going to bring the kid, this is why I stay home and focus on having the kid. And I think knowing now that my interaction with my friends, that went okay, my daughter, wasn't having a tantrum in front of everyone. I felt more comfortable to transition into that sort of more professional lunches and meetings.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So I want to ask you specific questions there. So when you're transitioning into more professionals, so these are friends of yours from work.

Marion Viray: Correct.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And so when you reached out to them, did you, what did you actually say. Hey, it'd be really fun to have lunch together, or did you say, I'm trying to figure out, or I'm starting to figure out how I want to reenter the work world. What did you actually say to them?

Marion Viray: Sure. I think I was more subtle about it. I definitely was, it's been a while, a long time know here. It'd be great to catch up. Talk to you. And I wanted to say, this is what I'm doing now. I'm playing the I'm dad. Full-time dad. but I, it'd be great to catch up and talk about how life is, depending on where they work and where I worked with them. And I think it was more like feeling the water then. I didn't want to feel like, just go in there and be like, I want to, I want you to help me with finding something.

So I felt like, if I did that conversation, Hey, I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, I didn't want that burden on them in the first meeting, especially if I hadn't worked with them for maybe a few years. Maybe the more recent one that would be, that'd be easier. My previous boss before it turned it to full-time, that was an easier cause they threw me a baby shower or they know I left.

So it was easier to say, it'd be great, you can see Olivia again and so forth. But with the ones who I haven't seen in a while, it was a little more subtle. I think it was too much to say, I'm looking for your work or I'm thinking about going. I want you to even if that's even though I'm not really meaning it in that way, it might be perceived that way. It was important to just, let's just meet up and catch up and go from there.

Carol Fishman Cohen: All right. I hope everyone is listening really carefully to this. It's such an important point, that you don't want to, when you're re-establishing relationships, especially if you haven't been in touch with someone for an extended period, you don't want to go in there in an opportunistically.

Like, how can you help me get a job? You want to rebuild your relationship with them and really connect with them on a human level and have a conversation. And that's the first conversation. It can be, maybe work doesn't even actually really come up that formerly, or maybe it does because there's something natural in the conversation that leads there, but that's not where you, what you start with.

So glad you are making this point. I think it's super, super important. When you had those conversations, where they just fun, let's reconnect conversations, and then subsequent conversations led to, or you just said, did you end the conversation by saying, where are they saying, what are you thinking about now? And then I'll keep my eye out for you. Or how did that happen or what was the timing?

Marion Viray: Absolutely. I, it definitely organically transitioned into that. What are you doing now? We would get the whole, oh my gosh, the baby's cute, how old is the baby now? all that stuff that you would do when you, when there's a new baby in the room.

I think once you got that, it's oh, what are you doing now? that conversation is what do you do besides the whole, are you thinking about other things? So I think it organically happened that way. And there were parts that I was like, oh yeah, no, absolutely, that'd be something that I can do. Or if anything comes up, there were definitely that organic conversation where it transmitted, what are you doing now? Or are you doing this for a while? Are you doing this forever? So definitely transitioned to a professional, so conversation after the formality is up talking about the baby and everything at the time. And I thought that was important. Again, it also depends on the person that I was with because most of them were, people I connected with at work.

And that's why I think I've stayed in contact with them for a certain number of years. So it was easy to, but I felt like for me, I never liked to ask. I always never, I feel uncomfortable sometimes, but I tried to steer the conversation that way. It becomes a lot more natural rather than, this is what I need from you.

And I felt like that for me, has worked a lot more than asking someone to do something for me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's really a great approach and great advice for people. So you said it didn't even take that long. You're having a number of these conversations and then you ended up having the conversation that led to the opportunity 10 years ago where you are now. What exactly was that opportunity and how was it described to you and what happened? Like how did it even turn into a job?

Marion Viray: Sure, I would say it's even started before I decided to transition into full-time work. So when I was working in this corporation, I wanted, I always enjoyed working in higher education.

And so even though I'm working in the corporate side, I try to spend some part of my work, working some with the college student population. So I did some workshops at Baruch College. I've worked, did workshop, other places I've worked at, the students that I've worked with there.. And I remember that the person who replaced me in my when I decided to transition into a full-time parent, she, I invited her to come to Baruch and speak.

And so that there's that natural transition, like she's taken over, so if you have any questions after today, talk to her, not me, cause I'm going to be a parent now thing. But then I, I think with having that conversation with my current boss, saying yeah, absolutely, I'm definitely worth doing the full-time parenting thing, but I'm open to talking about part-time work, whatever part-time I don't know what that part-time means.

Does that mean three days a week, two days a week, one day a week. I didn't really have that idea in my mind, but I was willing to do some for a part-time work, whatever that may be. And then, my boss emailed me saying, I know you're doing the, I remember her email saying, you, I know you're doing the full-time thing.

I don't want to get into the way of you being a parent, but this came, we had budget for it. And so here's what you would end up doing and which is working the career services office. And I became A go-to person for whatever they need to fill it. So if someone needs to do more career counseling stuff, I would do career counseling.

They needed someone who can do workshops, I did the workshops. So I think because I've worked for so long in career services, I could basically fill in wherever they needed me for within the department, and it was perfect because I was able to just not do one thing. And it was great that I was able to hit the ground running and I've known her for so long because I did my graduate internship at Baruch College, 21 years ago now. And so she was one of my supervisors at the time. And so career services, a small world. So you run into each other in conferences and so forth. I remember my old director, I presented at a national conference at Disneyland for a conference there. I remember my boss now had attended my presentation, I don't know, 15 years ago or something like that. So it's a small world. And, we've stayed in touch and I think this is the beauty. Like I'm sure people have heard the word networking. It wasn't like a forced network. It's these are people I enjoyed working with. These are people I've enjoyed knowing, and I've stayed in touch with them throughout the years organically, without the thought of I'm going to use this person 20 years from now for this purpose. It was just good to know these people. And it was like natural. I think in the beginning, I've always like hard time with networking because I do find myself more of an introvert than an extrovert, but I felt like it was important for my career.

So I started to nurture it slowly by slowly and I feel more comfortable with it now.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm glad you're talking about how you handle these kinds of interactions and outreach as an introvert, because I think, many of us in the audience consider ourselves introvert. And it's hard to do that networking step, and that networking step is the one that is usually the key factor leading to the job offer.

So can you talk a little bit about how your role evolved over time and what was like at different moments in time, did things change and how do they change?

Marion Viray: So I started more as a fill in with different things within the office, within the career services office. As they needed more things, I help with training our peers, students. These are students that would see other students for basic resume, LinkedIn, things like that, those edits. And then transitioned into doing alumni career counseling. So I'd focused a lot for a few years, alumni programming doing a lot of the workshops.

And I guess this is how we got together with the iRelaunch and working with that panel. There was a growing population of CIS students who are interested in technology at Baruch, it's definitely increased dramatically throughout the years. And we have other leadership programs, but we didn't have one that was focused on technology.

And I really always appreciated this group. And so when it was time to come up with a new program, like my director had asked, if anyone has any great ideas, let us know. I authored this proposal to work on this leadership program. And I authored it, got approved, it got funded, and so I became the program manager for it.

And this is the second year we've run it. And it's been hugely successful, better than I expected. But always the theme has always been helping students enter the workforce in some capacity, whether that's an internship part-time job or a full-time work.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So you're working with both current students and also alumni.

Marion Viray: Yeah. Alumni in different capacity. Working for a city university, it's not a private university funding is not always readily available, so you become like a jack of all trades, you end up doing wherever you're needed.

Carol Fishman Cohen: But the technology leadership program is for alumni.

Marion Viray: It's for undergraduates students.

Alumni, I would say the work in that they help with mentoring. They do workshops, they come back and so it's their way to give back. But the program is specifically for undergraduate current students.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. Got it. So obviously you started your career in higher education and career counseling, and then you came back to the same field.

So does that mean, determine for yourself that you were in the right field to begin with and you wanted to come back to exactly what you left?

Marion Viray: Absolutely. I started, I'm a first generation immigrant and I really didn't have people that in my world that was helping me with my career and earlier on my career.

So I never really used career services and undergraduate. And in graduates, they push it's more of a career focus. So you're when you're only there for a couple of years versus, undergraduate either for four plus years in a way. And so when I didn't, wanted to initially my career, I wanted it to be a marriage family therapist, and I was like, what I was gunning for.

And that's really what I was focusing on, was doing my license. I was going to go back to California where I grew up, for my license, to be a marriage family therapist. And then, I did this graduate internship at Baruch and it was a rotation program at the time where one semester I worked in the counseling center and another semester I would work in the career services office.

And I've never really thought of career counseling. I never heard of it. I didn't know what it was. And when I did the internship, I really, it really spoke to me. It really felt natural. I knew I've always wanted to help people. Didn't know how to do that in the beginning of my career, but I knew that was like a big theme that the type of work I was going to do was going to help people to some way.

And when I did the career counseling internship and really talk to students about their career, it really felt natural. I really, it really resonated with that type of work. And so after my first job was an academic advisor in the school, computer science and information system, and then I transitioned to be a career counselor, it really just felt natural to really help people, with the world of work. And even when I transitioned to be like a recruiter, it was always still similar in the other side, basically I would still do workshops at universities as a recruiter, I would bring in students to come on the working of the jobsite, explore the opportunities there. So it was always like the same concept. It's just, it was more focused on placement than process. as a career counselor, you're processing people's interests, career interests. Where when you working in an HR role, it's more about this is the job we're trying to place you in.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And I'm wondering if you're own experience as a relauncher has impacted the way that you approach your career counseling or speak with certain alumni, maybe who have non-traditional career paths. Has that changed at all the way you counsel people?

Marion Viray: Absolutely. Absolutely. Without a doubt, I think our experiences shape us in our interactions with people. I think I was a lot more understanding, I would say in the beginning, I would say, what's so hard about parenting when I didn't have a kid? Was always like, and when I had that kid, I realized it's very consuming, and definitely very appreciative of people who can manage to work full-time and still have a family.

So when I work with more seasoned people, and then they talk about having to leave for certain purposes, whether that's to care for someone, being a primary caretaker, whatever it may be, I definitely was much more sensitive and understanding. And definitely at the time, or when I wasn't aware about iRelaunch many years ago.

So once I was aware of this program and all these companies are really going on board to help people, who left the workforce for a number of years. I realized there are clearly a lot of employers who are appreciative of people who have to take that break for whatever reason it may be.

And I would tell you that earlier in my career, I was going to like, employers are not going to buy into that. But now that I've experienced it for myself, and having worked with different employees, I can say that, I've definitely changed in that I'm a lot more sensitive, a lot more open and understanding.

And I think employers are also understanding that there's really good talent out there who just made a personal choice or whatever that choice may be, and they decide to go back and it's not about having a big gap on their resume. And that's, it's always been for a while, that's always been frowned upon.

And I think if you can explain why you're doing that, why you did what you did, where that gap is, employers are really a lot more understanding about that gap.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. I, and I there's really been an evolution and I'm sure you've seen it, over the last 10 years that, the idea that people take career breaks for reasons that have nothing to do with their work performance it's an external factor.

And that doesn't impact their ability to be high performers again. And more employers are recognizing this and we relaunchers, we're a hidden talent pool. We still are to some degree, but to less of a degree than before.

Marion Viray: Absolutely.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. So I'm wondering if you have any advice for relaunchers who are interested in relaunching in higher education, whether they started in that field or whether they're coming to this field as a career transition.

Marion Viray: Absolutely. And higher ed is a huge industry. So it's not just about being a teacher or being an administrator. I think that's the natural thing that people might think of as the only opportunities available in higher education. But really it's pretty much every position you can think of from every universities.

So I think that because people who work, who tend to work in higher education are really people who are invested in helping people, it's really an easy way to network with people in that field. Most people are now in LinkedIn. So network with people and really outreach to people and say, I'd love to set a time to talk to you about how you got to where you are today. In higher education, I think are totally open to that. I've not heard anyone ever or met anyone that would not be open to having a conversation about how their career started in higher education. Join conferences. I think, people still love to go to conferences. Eventually once we can all be more in person, I think, and then virtual conferences, I think those are really wonderful way to explore opportunities in higher education.

Networking with professionals, definitely attending those professional conferences. Because a lot of times people network in those places for opportunities that they might have. And then lastly, like join groups. There's so many groups now with technology, there are so many groups that you can join and people share things in there.

Very useful, especially if you want to, if you're living in one state and you're looking to move the different state, that's those groups are fantastic for that, because a lot of them are nowadays are totally open to speaking virtually.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I love how you pointed out that there's so many more opportunities to work in a college and university environment that are outside of the faculty and the teaching part of it.

There's a website called higher education recruitment consortium, which is either the largest or one of the largest websites with opportunities in higher education. And I know that they divide those opportunities into faculty and teaching roles and administrative and non-teaching roles.

So if you think about everything that is involved in making a university run, it does cover the whole gamut of all different functions.

Marion Viray: Absolutely. And I would say that until I started really working there, I always thought it was always administrators, faculty, and that was it. But now it's everything from accounting to finance, to HR, to the typical things that you would think of in hiring.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We have lawyers who are working in the legal department, facilities management, landscaping, so many different types of roles that are opportunities in higher education. Marion, can you talk about any resources that might be available for Baruch alumni who are relaunchers and also for our relaunchers who are not affiliated with Baruch.

Marion Viray: For us at Baruch alum, you have tons of free resources. Not only because you're part of Baruch College, but you're part of the city university system. And so you have resources available to you, Baruch college as an undergrad.. If you did your undergraduate alumni work at Baruch, you would use to Starr Career Development Center.

If you did your graduate work, we have Graduate Career Services Office and the Graduate career services Office are all free. Tons of resources on meeting with a career counselor workshops. They even have your job databases. So that's another resource. Job database, most job databases within career services are really focused on students, but they also have tons of opportunities for alumni, not as much compared to current students, but still plenty.

And so I would say take advantage of those resources Baruch college. They also have the Baruch Alumni Association where they meet on a regular basis to just to network. And these are people coming from different industries, meeting at a local place. And it's a great resource to share things like that.

For city university, we have CUNY central, also has so like a job database that people can have access to. So it's similar to what you would have at Baruch College, except it's CUNY central, where all the CUNY diverge, I guess in a way, it's a very unique sort of dynamic that most universities don't have because it's such a huge network that they have to have the central place for CUNY to be at.

And then for people who aren't part of the CUNY system, the city university system, or Baruch, the New York public library for people who work or live in New York City and state have tons of free resource. And they actually just upgraded their whole, their whole department, so it's now everything is so it's free.

So once you get a New York public library card, also the Brooklyn public library has tons of workshops where they actually have career counselors. They have professional workshops that people that will edit resumes and do talk about interviewing. So those two places are like free, great resource where people that work and live in New York City or State.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. That's a lot. And thank you so much for sharing all of them. Marion, I want to end by asking you 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?

Marion Viray: Sure. I would say have a plan. I think what people who want to transition into the work force, especially if they're more seasoned, they just want to jump in there and start applying. And I always say, have a plan. Have an idea of how you're going to go about it, and have a little game plan. Because otherwise, what I find from my experience is people will say, I applied for 500 jobs, I'm good to go. But I would say has your resume been edited? Do you know where you're going to be looking, have you strategized how you're going to job search every day? If you haven't interviewed in a while, have you practice your interview skills? So I always say to people, don't jump right into it.

Know if everything is ready and good to go first. And then how are you going to plan to do that rather than it's just, I know everyone sometimes need a job and they just want to do it right away, but I find that's less helpful than having an idea on how you're going to go about your job search. The idea is quality over quantity. In addition to planning about jobs, job searching, are you going to be networking?

What's your job search strategy about transitioning from not working at all to working full-time, how to sort of transition from that. Because I think that's my experience from working with people, that's the number one thing I see people sometimes do is they just want to just jump right in there without knowing everything is ready to go yet.

Carol Fishman Cohen: This is fabulous advice. because that leg work that you do at the beginning to really figure out exactly what you want to be doing now. What are your interests in skills now? Where do you think you can add the most value to an employer? That takes time and it's really hard. But if you aren't starting there and with this game plan you're talking about, you are just just randomly applying for jobs and that, that whole idea of applying for hundreds of jobs online and hoping that something's going to come through.

That really rarely works for people. So I love this advice and thank you. So before we finish up, can you tell us that Baruch website or how people can get to it? Can you just tell us how to do that?

Marion Viray: The easiest way is to just Google. And this is not a plug for Google just to Google it.

I would just say Google Baruch College was this B A R U C H College and then STAR, S T A R Career Development Center, and in our website will pop up. That's the best way. Cause otherwise the website we have, we just changed it. It's not as easy to remember.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That sounds great. Marion, thank you so much for joining us.

Marion Viray: But thank you for having me. I really appreciate you inviting me to join this.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I learned a lot and I'm sure our audience will too. 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 cofounder of iRelaunch.

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 podcast 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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