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EP 258: How One Couple Managed Their "Dual Relaunch," with Corey & LaBrena Settles

Corey and La Brena Settles

Episode Description

Today we are airing the audio version of our previously released video interview with Corey and LaBrena Settles, both military veterans who later relaunched their careers within a five year period; Corey after a 2 year career break for eldercare reasons and LaBrena after a 17-year career break focused primarily on childcare.
We discuss how Corey and LaBrena coordinated the timing of their relaunches, what kinds of conversations they had leading up to their double relaunch, how it actually played out in real time and the ways Corey and LaBrena supported each other before, during and after their career breaks. We will also hear about the family sabbatical they took in Costa Rica. Join us for this rare opportunity to hear from one couple about their two relaunches.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, and today we bring you a special edition videocast highlighting how one couple managed two career relaunches within five years. We call it the double relaunch. What happens when spouses or partners take overlapping career breaks and relaunch their careers?

Today we speak with Corey and LaBrena Settles, both veterans who took overlapping career breaks for different reasons. Sabrina took two career breaks totalling 18 years for childcare, and Corey left the workforce for two years when his father was ill. Corey relaunched at Johnson & Johnson in a senior procurement role before moving to Bank of America to become the chief procurement officer for their global technology and operations group.

LaBrena relaunched for the second time at Wells Fargo in 2020. She began as a senior process engineer and was recently promoted to lead business execution consultant. We will discuss how they coordinated the timing of their relaunches, what kinds of conversations they had leading up to their double relaunch, how it actually played out in real time, and how Corey and LaBrena supported each other before, during, and after their career breaks.

LaBrena and Corey, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

LaBrena Settles: Thank you for having us.

Corey Settles: Thank you. Looking forward to it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So let's start by setting the stage and I'm wondering if both of you or either one of you could give us some background about how you first met as a couple.

Corey Settles: Yeah, sure. We were both military officers and we were stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, which is about an hour north of Austin.

Ironically, we met in Dallas, Texas at a football game, and I saw her, she was standing there with her cousin and I was like, oh, she looks really, really good. I need to figure out how I can get in touch with her. So about a month later we met from a mutual friend. and then it started from there.

So it's been a great, fun filled 27 years since we met, I believe. And we have two daughters. We have one that is a junior at North Carolina A&T University, and then we have one that's a freshman at Howard University as well..

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great. Thank you for giving us the background. LaBrena, can you please take us through your career path up to the time when you took your first career break?

LaBrena Settles: Sure. So my career started straight out of high school. I actually joined the Army Reserves, enlisted and, but I had an academic scholarship, so I ended up joining the R O T C program my junior year of high school. And upon graduating from college, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army on active duty.

So I was a Medical Service Corps officer. So in a total, I did nine years in the military, four and a half were in the Army Reserves as a enlisted, and then the other four and a half were on active duty as a Medical Service Corps officer. So I met Corey while I was stationed at Fort Hood, and within seven months we were engaged, but we waited, another 18 months before we actually got married.

And, we knew that we wanted to start our family fairly quickly. No pressure of course from the in-laws who were the only ones in their friend groups, and their group of friends who did not have grandchildren. But we actually started trying within our first year of marriage to have a child. And we did all of our planning. We had started saving money. We knew that we both wanted to be out of the military by the time we started our family. And Corey was scheduled to be discharged that December. I was scheduled also to graduate with my master's degree in December. And once we started trying to have a child, our child actually was due to be born in December as well.

Yeah. So all of those three things.

Carol Fishman Cohen: A lot going on.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, all three of those things were actually happening in December. Our youngest daughter, Cameron, decided that she wanted to be born early, so she came in to try to disrupt our plans, she came, she was born in November and in the middle of my biggest paper, the dissertation was due because she wanted to be present at the graduation.

I was scheduled to be out of the military shortly after maternity leave. And so everything happened all at once, finished school, finished, got out of the military, had a child, and it was still just shortly after our first year of marriage, so we were still newlyweds.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. So that's a lot going on. And is that what led to your first career break? You decided to take it at that time?

LaBrena Settles: ? Yes. like I said, we had decided that we both wanted to be out of the military just to create a little bit more stability for our families.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Corey, what was happening with your career during this time?

Corey Settles: During this time, as I got outta the military, I went to work at Dell Computers and in a variety of supply chain and engineering roles for about 10 years.

Actually, I was commuting back and forth to Austin, Texas, an hour drive each way. It was incredibly, actually, it was a stressful time in our lives. But it was fun. It was invigorating to know that I was working at Dell Computers. Dude, you're gonna get you a Dell or whatever if you guys remember that.

And just, being close to my family and my mom and my dad and having the girls there. So it was just a a good time for

Carol Fishman Cohen: You had retired from the military, you began your role at Dell, there's , you had a child, LaBrena, you're on career break. There is a lot of transition going on within a very short period of time, and I wanna know if you could tell us a little bit about how you managed all of that change, and was it a lot of coordination and conversation?

Were you both on the same page at the same time? Bring us back, to that period.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, so it, it was stressful as he mentioned. We had planned for the career break, so we had started saving to get down to that one salary, but we had said it would be a year or two. And he was traveling back and forth and I did the first five months because I had been exhausted and I used that time to recuperate 'cause again I had just gotten outta the military. I was work, had been working full-time. I was pregnant and I was in my master's degree and I was just exhausted. But we had not really planned for the emotional transition for me of going from working, to just, to being a mom and wife. And so that was really difficult for me. But I did well the first five months.

But after that, I started giving him a lot of issues when he was coming home. I wasn't very nice. And I, I, didn't have that support system in place of like community. His family was close by. But you know, people my age who had children my age, I didn't have that outlet and I had not planned for that.

And so that was very difficult for me. And all of the, my community were used to be my coworkers, and I didn't have that anymore. They were busy going on with their own lives. And I was at home with a newborn, which was great that I was able to do that. But I had not planned for like, who am I now?

Who, what is my identity? And I felt like that caused some churn for me. And so around month nine of me just giving him a hard time and him tired of hearing it, we decided it was time for me to go back to work. Yeah. And so we started, I said I really wanted to give it a first year, but I needed to back into that date.

So I started going ahead and doing my resume, getting myself prepared for interviews, and I posted for a role not thinking that much would come up, come from it. And the guy called me and I was actually hired for a role as a healthcare service representative for Pfizer within two weeks of me actually really looking for a job.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow.

LaBrena Settles: But I was able to negotiate an additional month in preparation, to prepare our family. But we had a good support system from his family. His mom was more than happy to provide care for her grandchild while we, her only grandchild while we both went back to work.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That is very unusual that you were able to relaunch your career so quickly, after starting your job search.

And also, I want to point out for our audience about, you've mentioned a couple of times the financial planning that you took time and care to do that allowed you to be on one income for a while and have career breaks and have, maybe, breaks in income streams. So that's a really important piece of being able to take career breaks for different reasons to the extent that we can choose to take them.

So I just wanna make sure that, that we emphasize that.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, I don't wanna downplay the financial piece of it. It was very stressful for us going down to one salary, but we were very, we had to be more intentional about the things that we spent money on. And we had made it a point early in our marriage to really live below our means and to try to save as much as possible.

And so that was very helpful. But it still was stressful.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. Thank you for just giving us the background on that. It's really important. Corey, can you comment at all on making the shift from the military to the corporate world and what that experience was like and how you were able to find that opportunity at Dell?

Corey Settles: Yeah, I found the opportunity at Dell, it was a former, West Pointer who was there, and they referred me to the hiring manager in an engineering project manager role. . So the transition was pretty seamless. The folks in the tech community, they're driven individuals just like the driven individuals in the military.

There's leadership skills that, of course you learn in the military. But just the basics, things of, integrity and just trying to get the job done and using data to come up with the best solutions. Those are the things that I gleaned, there were easily transferrable skills to, the civilian sector.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you. And, LaBrena, I want to now bring us to the point where you ended up taking a second career break and may, can you walk us through what happened at Pfizer and what all of that timing was?

LaBrena Settles: Yeah. I, like I said, I worked for Pfizer for, I guess it was close to, around that time, around two, two and a half years.

And we decided that we wanted to expand our family and so we, we started the financial planning again, of putting aside money and, got pregnant relatively quickly. And I'm trying to remember as far as the planning goes, we just had conversations, but this time it was more so of, I didn't, we didn't set a time limit on when I would go back.

The last time we had set one to two years, this time we didn't put a time limit on it and it ended up being 17 years.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yep. That's a long time. And I'm wondering, so is that the main difference in terms of your approach to your second career break versus the first is that you didn't put a limit on it or were there other things that maybe you learned from the first career break that you factored in the second.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah. Yeah, good question. I did learn, a little bit. I actually, I got very involved with my community and church. I had met some fellow moms who had children, that were similarly aged. I was able to really, I was volunteering. I also, really decided that I was gonna build out our property management company, so I got really involved in other things throughout the years.

I was able to help start a psychology clinic as well, and ran that for seven years. So I did more things in that time period and I, I really focus more on connections. But I also, my time was mine to do with it as I pleased even with the property management, and the, doing the psychology clinic, I also was, my time was mine.

That control to be there for the kids. Yeah. I was still able to be there for the kids. I was able to be there for him as a wife and just be present, but use my time in the way that I wanted. .

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. So 17 years is a long career break and and I know that in 2014, which was about a decade into your second career break, Corey, you stepped away from your position at Amazon.

And can you tell us a little bit about what prompted that decision?

Corey Settles: Yeah, I stepped away in 2014 primarily because my dad had a terminal illness. He was, for about three and a half years, and every time I would go back from Seattle to Texas, you could see that he was getting progressively worse.

And it was really taking a toll on my mom, who was the sole caregiver of him at that time. And so, decided, that I would take a year off. That was the plan. We discussed that. We were fortunate again, to have the financial finances to, to do that, and we decided, hey, let's take this time off so I can spend some dedicated time with him.

And then also we went to Costa Rica, and that's a whole other story. But, during that time, but we, and, but we really wanted to really maximize this time and my career break.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. There, there are two pieces to that I'd love to talk about more, and the time that, that you had with your father and also the Costa Rica piece.

So which one of those happened first and how long were you in Costa Rica and how did you even think about that country and what you were gonna do and the whole concept of taking a sabbatical there?

Corey Settles: Yeah, so if anyone watches House Hunters, I'm not given a plug out for HGTV, but international house hunter, people would go to all these different countries and stay there for a year or several months. And that was in 2008, we saw that. We're like, wow, we really want to do that someday. . And then, it's 2014. I know that I just can't be really, of course I wanna spend time with my dad, but I just need a break. I need some separation. And also, we wanted the kids to experience a new culture and things like that. So what we decided to do is we were going to go to Costa Rica. I would spend two weeks with my dad in central Texas, and then I would fly back to Costa Rica, and do that. And so that's what we decided. And we're like, how do we decide Costa Rica?

We just looked on Google Maps. Google Maps is great.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And you pointed, like just found it.

Corey Settles: Yeah. We, we wanted to go to a beach and,

LaBrena Settles: And we wanted to learn Spanish.

Corey Settles: We, yeah, we wanted to learn Spanish and, oh, I didn't, but she did. But we saw the beaches of Puerto Rico and we saw the beaches of Panama and then we saw the beaches of Costa Rica and they on Google Maps on that day, or the satellite, it looked, Costa Rica, beaches looked well.

And then, so we just said, okay, we're gonna go there and then to tap to top it off, they had a great, bilingual school for the kids. And, basically it was like six months later she was getting on a plane from Seattle with the kids. Cause I had to stay back to, take care of things in Seattle. And she was in Costa Rica speaking Spanish and getting stuff done.

LaBrena Settles: What he didn't mention is we had again, now he might have mentioned it, we had never visited.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, so you just, this is your first time.

LaBrena Settles: I had the girls, all of our bags, we had put everything in storage in Costa Rica, and he was dealing with the storage stuff, on the back end. But I had, full load of bags, the girls and had never visited.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. And it's so incredible!

LaBrena Settles: I had a [unclear] that used to be deadly.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I wanted to ask you some details from your perspective, LaBrena, about what it was like to do all of this. So I'm hearing the beginning and I'm really blown away that you were able to just be super adventurous, have this experience, and just be open to whatever happened.

So can you take us there, like you, you arrived, you have your kids, you have all these bags. I guess they're, they have to go being enrolled in school, but like you had to find a place to live. Like how did you do it?

LaBrena Settles: So we did a lot of planning before I got there. I was responsible for the exit plan and he was responsible for the entry plan, the reentry plan, back into the States.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, I was nervous, I was scared, the best way to combat that is through preparation. I had already had conversations with the school, had done interviews. The girls had gotten accepted, had gotten in contact with a realtor over there, had them do like a video on, I think it was with WhatsApp or something to walk through the apartment.

We had seen pictures, so I had a place to stay. Had reserved a rental car 'cause we didn't have transportation. The girls were enrolled in school. We got the uniforms for them and everything, but, going through customs that first time with all of those bags, and when we got there I was like, oh my goodness, this is like really real.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We're really doing this.

LaBrena Settles: We were really doing this. And, and Corey, he wasn't scheduled to come for three weeks, and so I was on the ground trying to figure it all out. .

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. I love it, and I wanted to actually think about the experience from your perspective, Corey, because at this point you were getting things settled on the back end, as LaBrena said, you are going to join your family in Costa Rica, but you also have your father in Texas. And so what, can you talk a little bit about that time and how you split your time between the two locations and how that went?

Corey Settles: Yeah, so I spent two, I, it was planned for two weeks at a time visiting him, helping my mom, and getting him to the appointments and things like that.

And then, spending the time with, LaBrena and the girls, and it was just a bittersweet time. Costa Rica's beautiful. We're on a beach. It's like paradise and all those things, but, in the back of my head was my father was passing. And it was an incredibly, hard time for the entire family.

And just coming to grips with, that it will be a new normal. And I took that time. I felt like it, it was needed and I'm just in incredibly grateful that I did take that time and had those last moments with my father.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So you had that time, that precious time with your father, and then did you go back to Costa Rica after that and spend more time as a family, or were you already getting ready to move back at that point?

Corey Settles: Yeah, so we originally said it was going to be a year. We left in August of that year. August of 2014, and he passed in March of 2015. So after he passed, we spent, we went back to Costa Rica for a few months, primarily LaBrena and I. And then, we came back in probably from June, all the way up until 2016, I believe, that we were staying with my mom, helping her get affairs in order and things like that.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, so he passed in March of 2015 and the girls were still in school, so we went back until they graduated and they graduated in June.

And then once they graduated, we came back and we stayed with his mom. And part of the reason we, we stayed there was again, we were a very close-knit family. And we had lived five minutes away from them for almost 15 years. And we were, we had our only grandkids and it was very tough. All of us were really grieving and so we, we chose to stay there with her. To help everyone get through that time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. You're carrying a pretty fresh and heavy grief load and you're managing this time, Corey, with your mother. And were you thinking at this at some point that you were going to go back to work or was that not in the plan yet?

Corey Settles: Yeah, that was the plan that I was gonna go back to work and I was doing some reach outs, even while I was in Costa Rica of new opportunities and things like that. However, I wanted to make sure that the role that I went back to was a role that I really wanted, not just the first role that someone would want to hire me kind of thing.

So I was pretty meticulous and pretty, intentional about the roles that I sought. And so it, it took time and, we came to a point where LaBrena was like, it's been a year, what's going on here? We need to make a decision. And I just wasn't in the game at that time. And we had to work through that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So can you talk to us a little bit about, you ended up taking this position Johnson & Johnson, it resulted in an out-of-state move, but can you bring us up to that point, did you have any other interviews that happened before that and how did you handle the job search process.

Corey Settles: Absolutely. I had, several interviews and I actually had an offer from one company in Atlanta.

However, it wasn't what my salary expectations were or what the market was charging, and the hiring manager was like, look, you don't have a job anyway. What are you complaining about? Some money is better than no money. And, that type of response was really maddening. Yeah, I don't have a job, I need you to respect my humanity and respect what I am or what I bring to the job. And and those types of companies you don't wanna work for anyway, because, that's the culture of, that you just don't want to be a part of. But when I went to Johnson & Johnson, it was just a great opportunity. Johnson & Johnson is a great company. They care about their people, their patients, and things of that nature.

So I was really excited about getting that offer from Johnson & Johnson. However, I was still grieving and had to deal with those kinds of emotions as you know, went through that process.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So there are a few things here I just want, I wanna call out, first of all, how you talk about that that was, you got an offer and you were not gonna take it because you could tell that the culture was not the right culture by the way that conversation unfolded. And I think that's pretty gutsy because you're, you have this offer at hand and you're deciding, I'm gonna pass this up because it's not the right match, and I know it's not, and I'm gonna keep going and looking without knowing what's happening next.

So just the idea that you really, you had pride. You were not gonna be deterred by someone who was trying to categorize you in a certain way, and really sort of cater to what could have been a vulnerability by saying, Hey, you're not, you're unemployed anyway. To me it feels like it was a really hard thing to do, and, but I think it was just a, such a great illustration for our audience of when it's not the right match.

LaBrena Settles: Again, it comes down to respect. He hates being disrespected, and that's what he felt like in that moment.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Corey, I wanted to know about the Johnson & Johnson conversations that ended up with the offer. Did the, how was the elder care career break discussed? Did you talk about it as a sabbatical, a family sabbatical?

Did you talk about it in terms of being in an elder care situation? How did you talk about your career break with them?

Corey Settles: I talked about it was a career break to, take care of my father and they would, if they read the resume, they're like, Costa Rica, what's going on here? It's kinda crazy. And, it would just be a topic and most folks who heard the story, they're like, wow, I wish I would've done that with my father or my mother, or my sister was ill, or I had the opportunity to do that. And so they're much, nine times out of 10 or 99 out of a hundred times, people are like, wow, that's amazing.

And so, you know, I wouldn't shy away from, having those discussions in the interview. It's your story and if you don't want to tell your story or the company doesn't want to hear your story, then you probably don't wanna work for them. Of course, they're gonna, of course it's a paycheck or a job or whatever you need to provide for your family, but it just takes one person to believe your story.

And you're, and believe me, I got rejected a lot. I got rejected a lot and my feelings were hurt or whatever. But if one person believes your story, you're in there, right? And then you can fly. So don't give up on that. It's your story. You own it, go tell it. And someone will latch onto it and you'll have success.

LaBrena Settles: and one thing we always talk about is money is fungible. Time is not. And that's what we really learned from the experience of losing his father is time. Time is very precious. You don't know how much you have.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And the idea though, and I just wanna call this out for our audience about when you're on an elder care career break, you're often in a situation where the person who you're caring for dies, and then you are in mourning and you're grieving and everyone has a certain comfort level with how much of that story they wanna tell before it gets too emotional for them, or, what the timing is. So there's that piece of it. And then you combine that with a job search where, Corey, as you're saying, there's a lot of rejection, in the mix and It takes a lot to, to be having those conversations in under the, those circumstances.

From your perspective, when Corey was on this job search, he had said no to that one. There was rejection. The Johnson & Johnson offer comes along. What was your reaction to that?

LaBrena Settles: Well, there were a couple of instances where he had said no to other jobs and, I had, again, we were staying with his mom. All of our stuff was in storage in Seattle. We were driving her car, staying with her. We were paying her money, but I still, we were used to having our own place, right? . And the no after no to other jobs, I'm like, what's the deal? I understood the other one 'cause it wasn't, the guy was mean, he wasn't respectful.

So I understood that. But the other ones, it's okay, give me what you're looking for. What are you looking for? Explain this to me. 'Cause I need a plan. So I didn't, we didn't see anything, he couldn't give any rationale about the Johnson & Johnson job that, that, that would just, knock us out of the running for that.

So I'm like, okay, you gonna take this one. I'm ready to go. The girls need to be settled. They need to be, we need to have them settled by next year. You know, they, we didn't want them to move this year because they were finishing off school, but we were in what may almost May then, April, we were in April timeframe, so they were gonna be outta school in May.

Wanna move over the summer, let them get settled for school for August. It's time to go. Yeah.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. I want to now think about that next transition. So Corey's about to take this Johnson & Johnson job, I'm guessing it's Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick, in New Jersey. And happened at this point in terms of your thinking about, we're moving again, we have to establish again, and did it make you think at all about the timing of your return to work or were you not, was that not even part of the thought process yet?

LaBrena Settles: Off and on over the years, I would always bring up, maybe it's time for me to go back to work, but then, once I started making some traction or doing a couple of things, we would move again or just made the decision that now wasn't the right time or, and I felt like truthfully my purpose was being fulfilled by me staying home.

And so just made the decision at that time too as well, that, maybe once we get settled, then I'll start looking again, but, just getting the family acclimated to a new area. The girls were, I think Cameron was entering middle school, and which is a really difficult time.

And Yeah. And so we just really focused on, over the years of me being the foundation, laying the foundation, he would go out to work and I made sure that once we moved, that everything was settled, and we would get those connections made. I made sure the girls always said, mommy always tried to make us friends, so .

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's great.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah. Yeah. So I just, that was my role, just laying the foundation for everything and getting us acclimated to a new area.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And at some point when you were thinking even if the relaunch was a couple of years out or more, , were you thinking at all about what you might be doing and whether you should be reskilling or upskilling and, if you did, what kinds of things were you looking at?

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, so again, over the years I was doing community service work. I was volunteering, And I had done the psychology clinic, but once we moved from Texas, and the property management, both of those things were in Texas. So once we started moving, I started more on the community service volunteering, so doing projects with, different nonprofit organizations.

And I really started thinking about, well, Camille is, once Camille graduates from high school, that's the youngest. It's like, well, what am I gonna do? And so I started trying to figure those things out and really focusing in on what my skills were just intrinsically, naturally that came to me and I realized that I really enjoyed process improvement and project management.

As I started doing those certifications. And then once I obtained those certifications, I actually put those certifications to work by doing the volunteer work. And those things helped lay the foundation for me to be able to have things to speak to in an interview. It gave me bullet points on my resume and it kept me relatively current.

Carol Fishman Cohen: ,

So these were specific certificate, they're credentials or certificate programs?

LaBrena Settles: Yeah. Yeah. So for processed improvement, I did the Lean Six Sigma. So I got the belts for that. They're various belts. And then, for project management, I got my PMI certification and I also did Scrum Master certifications for project management.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And then you,

LaBrena Settles: I had also gotten a compliance certification, so there are a couple of false starts in there, and me just figuring out what I really wanted to. And, but I ended up, I'm in compliance now. But I ended up not using it doing the prep work. I didn't volunteer using it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: . Yeah. It's interesting that, so you do the coursework and then for some of that coursework you're able to find volunteer work where you can apply it.

LaBrena Settles: Exactly.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I see. That's a very good strategy. Yeah. So when you decided actively to start looking for your second relaunch, your next job, can you bring us through some of the conversations you had or some of the milestone moments in that process and what actually led to the job opportunity that you got?

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, so once we moved to Charlotte, so moved past New Jersey.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Another move.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah. He ended up taking a role at Bank of America in Charlotte. And once I got here, I didn't know many people, but I did, I had a network that I was able to tap into. And I realized that some of these people I called my sisters, my friends, my fellow volunteers, they actually had full-time jobs and they were really high powered in their in their positions. But they were using their times on the weekends to do volunteer work. So I got a chance to work with them in some different projects. And so once I was ready to start going back to work, I tapped into that network. And, but first, but let me back up. Before I actually decided to go to work, I had to have those conversations with myself to get myself mentally ready and get my self esteem to a place where it would be the work that I had done in the volunteering, I had to put a value to that within myself first. And, and realize that somebody would actually be willing to pay for the things that I was doing, cause I was volunteering. I had to put a dollar amount to it. And that things that I was doing, it really was valuable. I didn't it took a while for me to get to that point.

And I had never been really insecure about anything in my life. And so when I started having conversations with him or with my friends, They did, they couldn't receive that. They were like, not you're not insecure. You're very confident. I can't imagine you having those, those insecurities.

And so it would be blown off a little bit. And so I just got sort of decided, okay, let me just figure out a way to deal with this myself. And the best way that I could deal with it really would be through being overly prepared. So I got my resume, and I started, putting those bullet points down at the different volunteer work, the different projects that I was doing, and I tapped into the network by, Hey, can you take a look at my resume for me?

What do you think I need to update? What do you think I need to change? Does this make sense? And then, Hey, do you know anybody who's in process improvement? Do you know anybody in project management? And they made those connections for me because they had seen my work and they were comfortable putting their name behind me.

But at the same time, I needed to feel confident that I would not embarrass them or myself when I actually spoke to these people, right? And when I would go into the conversations with some of these referrals, I made sure that I had my questions already ready, that, my resume was up to par.

I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of those conversations. And, and so that was very helpful. The next thing that I did was I had gotten questions from some of these people who were like, they were hiring project managers, they were hiring process and improvement people. So I'm like, Hey, what's a typical interview question? Can you gimme a list of 10 that I would be able to look at? And I took, I think I ended up with about 20 or 30 questions and I narrowed 'em down into like categories and I put answers to each one of them. And then I looked at my stories that I had, the different projects that I had and, I use them in a way that is oh, these six can actually answer the, these 20 questions. . And that was very helpful too. So I had my standard six answers that I was able to just apply to various questions and, and so that narrowed down the things that I needed to think about, and it made me be a little bit more focused in my interview, whenever I got to that point.

Carol Fishman Cohen: LaBrena, you're ta sorry to interrupt you. I just wanna just take this moment right here because you're talking about so many excellent strategies for relaunchers. You you met people as volunteers who were actually working. So you had, and you had this networking piece. You asked them for feedback on your resume, you got the questions from them, and then you were able to be at a point where you actually asked for, did they know any jobs that were available in your area, in your area of, focus. So you did that, that networking piece, and just to call out that so many of us do a lot of volunteer work when we're relaunching and people who you meet as a volunteer can be very powerful. Yeah. So like LaBrena, you're saying they could vouch for you because they saw the work you did together when you were volunteering together.

LaBrena Settles: Exactly.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So that's really important. And then the other piece, this over preparing it makes you more confident. And the other thing that you're saying you had these six answers were good for these questions that, that you had already researched the questions in advance, essentially, writing that story, having the anecdotes, almost memorizing it like like a script.

LaBrena Settles: And I actually took those six questions as well and I floated them around to the people who were actually doing the work and saying, Hey, what do you think about this? Does this make sense?

Carol Fishman Cohen: So then you ultimately got offered the Wells Fargo position.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, but, just back up a second, I also decided I needed, I didn't have a lot of experience in doing mock in doing interviews, so I set up mock interviews with, people who, a friend of mine actually she worked at, she was a director at a hospital and I'm like, Hey, can you interview me? And I thought it would be, really relaxing, kinda, I'll give you a little bit of feedback. The meanest interviewer I have ever come across. She was like very rude.

She turned her back on me, was working on the computer after she'd asked a question. She would cut me off. She would look at me. She was doing all these things and she told me these are some situations that you might incur, you might run into. I just want you to be prepared. That's it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That was great.

LaBrena Settles: That was very helpful. . That was very helpful to me and it helped me feel like, okay, I can get through this, I'll be ok.

Carol Fishman Cohen: This mock interview piece, talking to your friends who are working, who are hiring managers who have this experience, and I love that she made it really hard on you.

LaBrena Settles: It was, yeah. She was not nice. We still talk about it. We can laugh about it now, but I was, my feelings were hurt .

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. But it was such good preparation. It was a gift in a way. Okay, so you went through that interview process and then what happened in terms of getting the offer.

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, I ended up, I had two offers actually. Had two job offers and I ended up, one was a risk role and then the other one was process improvement role. And I ended up taking a process improvement role.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And, can you talk a little bit, both of you about what is happening now with each of your careers?

Corey Settles: Yeah, a absolutely. Actually tomorrow will be my last day at Bank of America and I'm transitioning to Google and I will be located in Atlanta, running their data center infrastructure supply chain. So I'm really excited about that new opportunity. Opportunity here at Bank of America has been phenomenal. Work with some great folks. Learned a lot. . But I'm also excited about this new opportunity starting at about a week's time.


Carol Fishman Cohen: What it's, what a moment that you're about to do that. And does that mean that's another move from North Carolina to Atlanta?

Corey Settles: Yeah, it's another move. Another, fear and trepidation. With every move there's always something new, right? I think I've moved a lot. You would think getting outta the military, that's what we do, we move. But we've moved more since I've been in the civilian world, than ever. But there's up upsides to that and there's some downsides as well. But, overall it's been a good run.

LaBrena Settles: That's Google .

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wait, what did you say?

LaBrena Settles: I said, and it's Google.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's, yeah, it's really exciting. Congratulations, Corey.

That's awesome. And, LaBrena, I'm wondering, so how are you thinking about this?

LaBrena Settles: I actually just got promoted in January at Wells Fargo, and so we're trying to, we're trying to figure that out. I think my whole plan was to get promoted within 18 to 24 months. And I was actually promoted within 15 months. So I was all excited about my role and I still am. But then he was also interviewing and he ended up taking a Google, the Google role. So I'm, we're trying to navigate what makes sense.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Right. So you've both shared a lot about taking career breaks for different reasons, overlapping career breaks, moving, a lot of transition, a lot of communication and coordination with each other.

I'm wondering if you could share with our audience, your best piece of advice, even if it's something that we've already talked about today. And I'd love to hear from each of you.

Corey Settles: Yeah, I would say, don't settle, because you have to look at yourself in the mirror every single morning and feel good that you made the right decision.

And of course, life is filled with peaks and valleys and you may feel like you're in that valley, you just have to make a decision right there. And perhaps you don't. And it'll get lonely and you'll feel like you're in the wilderness, but, stand true to your principles and don't settle.

And the one thing I really wanna, piggyback on what LaBrena was saying, being over prepared. What I've learned from her is that, my goodness, she's always over prepared. And I take that into my work now, right? I'm like, Corey, did you do your best? Are you prepared? Is your team prepared? And if you're not, that's on you.

And so the results don't come out like you want it to, and you didn't prepare, so that's all on you. So over prepare, put in the work. It's not easy. And that's what she's done is she's put in the work and people will applaud you for that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: LaBrena, anything to add?

LaBrena Settles: Yeah, I guess the biggest thing I would say is, don't let anyone else write your story. Write your own story. A lot of people will put limitations on you. They will tell you what you can and cannot do, but you be the author of how you want your life to turn out. And again, put in the work. I was told, no one would give you six figures for, you know, you haven't worked in 17 years.

You, you coming off the couch eating bon-bons and going to corporate America. No one's gonna pay you. You're not gonna be able to get a job. And then once I did get the job, you're being too aggressive with wanting to get promoted within 18 to 24 months. But allow your work to speak for you, put in the work, put in the time, and create your own story, not someone else's.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. This is incredible advice. filtering out all of that negativity, and negative input that you might be getting from other people or just, or the economy or something like that. Filtering that out. Not settling, Corey, coming back to that point, that you illustrated so vividly and is such a great example for our relauncher audience.

And, LaBrena, the over preparing and the putting in the work. So really great advice for everyone. I wanna thank both of you for sharing a lot and for, giving us this inside view of what was happening during the course of many years, over two decades. And I, there's a lot for us to learn and a lot that we appreciate. So thank you very much.

Corey Settles: Thank you.

LaBrena Settles: Thank you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch the podcast where we talk about return to work strategies, advice and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen. CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. I hope that all of you who are listening who are relaunching will check out our resources on iRelaunch.Com and make sure that you sign up for our Job Board and make sure you're on our mailing list. You will get our weekly return to work report, which is full of opportunities specifically for people who have taken career breaks.

Thanks for joining us.

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