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Episode 97: Jacqueline Welch, CHRO and CDO, Freddie Mac and Relauncher, shares her best advice.

Jaqueline welch

Episode Description

Jacqueline Welch, a two time relauncher and one of the most senior relaunchers we know, talks candidly about her relaunch success and shares wide-ranging advice, including the value of silence in negotiating, "closing the loop" with those who helped you during your relaunch, and for those currently working who are anticipating a future relaunch, the call you should always take (more on that in the podcast!).

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch,the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chair and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host for today. Today we welcome Jacqueline Welch, the chief human resources officer and chief diversity officer of Freddie Mac. Jacqueline is the most senior relauncher we are aware of who is currently serving in her role. She took a four year career break and we are going to talk about her relaunch success story. We at iRelaunch recently partnered with Freddie Mac on a career reentry event that we held at Freddie Mac headquarters.

Hi, Jackie! Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Jacqueline Welch: Hello, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to have this conversation with you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, I'm very excited too, and I'm so grateful for you to spend time with us today.

Jacqueline Welch: I would like to extend that gratitude to you. The fact that this organization exists to me is such a huge, bright spot relative to one of the tools available to folks who are looking to intentionally manage their careers. So thank you for the work that you've done in this area.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Thank you for saying that. Jackie, before we get started in talking about your relaunch success story, can you just give our listeners a little background about Freddie Mac? What does it do? How many employees are there? Where is it based?

Jacqueline Welch: So, Freddie Mac was chartered by Congress in 1970 to bring accessibility, affordability, and liquidity to the secondary mortgage place. It is a $2 trillion balance sheet organization. And we're headquartered here on a four building campus in Northern Virginia.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. Thank you, that's super helpful. Now, turning to your personal story. Can you give us some background and walk through what your career was before you took your career break?

Jacqueline Welch: Yeah, so I'm old, so there's a lot. I'll try to keep it brief. And in preparation for this, I was thinking, how to talk about when one's career actually began. And partly what I need to say here is, I'm first generation American, my family are immigrants from Central America. And, just your typical immigrant story in terms of hard working, big dreams and moving to the United States. So quite literally my first job was when I was 10. Although I don't know if I should say that on public record because the IRS might try to come and retroactively get some FICA from me. But I sold Avon from door to door after school. And it was such a vivid memory. New York City is a grid system and my parents were very specific with me. I would have to do it before the streetlights came on and still get my homework done before bedtime.

So I would come home, grab my little Avon bag and go four blocks in each direction, and then get home, get my homework done and go to bed. So this idea of work has been ingrained in my DNA for a really, really long time. But thinking more specifically about undergrad, my first job out of school was in retail.

I was a buyer with Lord and Taylor in New York City, which is where I was born and raised. From there, part-time at night while working at Lord and Taylor, I earned a master of science degree in human resources. And when I completed that degree in 1995, back when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth, I left New York and moved to Atlanta with the idea of joining a consulting firm.

That was what I had trained my career ambitions on. And my first job was with Towers Perrin, what was then Towers Perrin eventually became Willis Towers Watson. I got recruited from Towers Perrin to join what was then Anderson Consulting and subsequently became Accenture. Although we hadn't talked about this before, it occurs to me that this is actually my second break as it were. Everybody has a 9/11 story. The very short version of mine is, while working for Towers and then Anderson was a seven year period of time. And I quite literally got on a plane every week to go to this assignment or that, which at the time was perfect. My husband and I didn't have any children, and weren't thinking about starting a family.

But we're starting to think about that seven years in, and, right around the same time as when the 9/11 attacks occurred, I'm certain a lot of people have similar stories. I don't think mine is particularly unique, but you have that, at least I had, that clarifying moment around, "I don't want to do this anymore."

So I left what was then Anderson, or at that point had become Accenture, and my plan was to take a year off in fact. So that was the first time I stepped off the career ladder as it were. My intention was to take a year off. Six months in through two very different groups of friends, I learned about an opportunity with a very traditional manufacturing company, also based in Georgia. At the time it was called Rock Tenn Company, it's now WestRock. And six months into my self-imposed sabbatical, I went to work for WestRock, well, Rock Tenn. I got recruited from there by Time Warner, which at the time owned Turner Broadcasting, which at the time was based in Atlanta.

And so that began an almost six years stint with Turner Broadcasting. And then the meteor relaunch story starts there. I left Turner. I joined in 2008, I left in 2013. At this point, my husband and I in fact had children. They're now 13 and nine, but going backwards, obviously they were a lot younger then. And at the same time as our children were starting to matriculate and have higher needs from us as parents, my dad got ill. So, my husband and I sat around the proverbial kitchen table and decided, if there were ever a time our whole family would benefit from one of us being home full time, that was the time. And so we did the math and figured out no one was going to die of starvation. And so given everything that was going on, and my personal strong desire to be there for my dad, I stepped off again with the intention of being his primary care giver.

So that's when the real relaunch story, I think for purposes of this conversation, began.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. It's like you had a double reason for your career break. You had childcare and you had elder care at the same time. So what happened during your career break? How long were you on it, and what made you decide that it was time to go back?

Jacqueline Welch: Preparing for this was a lot of fun for me cause you know, things sound so neat, and you live your life forward and you understand it backwards.

I don't know, transparently, that my intention was to take so much time off. I was committed to the idea that I would take however much time was necessary to get my father back to a healthy place. But it was that vague. We didn't know he had a convergence of illnesses, that was just, it wasn't a situation where you could go, "Oh, in exactly 18 months, he'll be back to himself, and then you can get back to your regular program or scheduled life." So it's important for me to declare upfront that it wasn't very neat. Unlike the first sabbatical where I was time bound and I said, "This year I'm going to take a year off." This one was just nebulous and free floating. I also want to make the distinction that if it were just that our children were young, I don't know that I would have self-imposed any kind of sabbatical.

It was the combination of the two. I think people arrive at this decision to sidestep or get off the career ladder for any number of reasons. And again, mine was pressure points from two places. And so once I got my dad to a place where he was independent again, and we had a good medical prognosis, that was probably about two years.

And in terms of what that was like, it was a complete, full time house, spouse and caregiver. And now I have a level of respect for people for whom that's their day-to-day life. Like, literally get up in the morning, get the kids fed, get them to school, come back, get dad dressed and fed and ready to take him to his various therapies, get him home in time for lunch and fed, then turn around and go get the kids, get them to their various locations, get them home and fed, homework, get back to dad, feed dad. So, literally from, call it, six o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock at night, it really is being fully available to folks who are dependent on you. It was quite the experience.

Two years of that being really all I was doing, and then, an interesting thing happened again, just in the spirit of full transparency of things. I don't know that I was as planful as it all looks and worked out. But literally what happened is that over the years, I've gathered a number of friends who have left big consulting organizations or big companies and hung out their own shingle.

And one friend in particular called me one day and said, "I have this piece of work. It's too much for me, but I don't want to say no. Can you help me behind the scenes, cobble together a framework for XYZ?" And at that point, I did have some capacity, because again, daddy was a lot more healthy and less dependent on me as his primary caregiver.

I said, "Oh yeah, sure. I'll do that." And this is to show you how naive, "Yeah, sure. I'll do that." I didn't say, "It's going to cost this much," or "It's going to take this number of hours." I was just like, "Oh, when do you need it by? Sure. I'll do that." And so I fondly refer to myself as the reluctant consultant because that happened, and then it happened again, and then it kept happening. And so before I knew it, I had a consulting business. Although now it's hilarious to me because my husband would quite literally have to remind me to invoice people. Like, "Did you actually send an invoice?" So now I find myself thinking like what's an hourly rate? I really sort of backed into that.

So maybe that's nine months, a year, and to your point about "why go back," to be clear, I am neither a Harris, I did not marry for money and I've never hit the lottery. So I work. We've talked about that at the very front end. So at some point you're doing the math and you're thinking, "Yeah, I have to get back to work." And so I sat down and did what most people do when they're thinking about what's next for their career, and made all kinds of lists. Would we be willing to move? What kinds of industries am I interested in? What kind of work do I think I want to do? What kind of person do I want to work for? What's my vision for the team that I want to be part of? Just to start getting my mind thinking about, "Yes, I’m going back to work."

And I started going to interviews. And here's another thing that kind of serendipitously happened. I had this one interview. It was fantastic. I mean, the woman that would have been my boss, it was Kismet, and we could just not get the money to work. It was just impractical. I can't work for that. She's sad about it. I'm sad about it. And she says, "Well, how about we carve out some blocks while I'm still looking for this perfect person, this unicorn, that you can help me keep the momentum going." So again, another piece of consulting work. And so at that point I go, "Huh," now we're starting to gel, "maybe I could do this in a way that's reasonable and continues this level of flexibility I've come to enjoy."

So that went on for almost another year. And, I think I would have continued doing that except I really do enjoy being inside of an organization and having a little bit more structure. So there was a point at which I went, "Okay, I need to start putting myself out there," parenthetically and if we’re speaking in terms of finding another full-time opportunity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: You know, I'm hearing so many themes here as you're speaking, Jackie, from "I didn't mean to take so much time," over, "I didn't think or know how much time I was going to take off at the beginning." And you hear this from relaunchers, you think you're only going to be out for a year or two and you were out for about four years. And some people wake up one morning and all of a sudden 10 years have gone by. Or they started out with a career break for childcare reasons, and then all of a sudden they had an elder care responsibility come into their lives right as they were thinking about going back to work. So then their career break gets extended. And also this whole concept about, how you can never, with relaunching, I feel, you can never generalize from one person's experience because everyone has so many unique factors that contribute to the length of their career break or why they took it, or when they decided to go back to work. So every person's story is unique.

And the other piece about, then this is so important about how you say you sort of "backed in almost accidentally" into these consulting opportunities, and having this friend network and having people know who you were as a professional and know that they could just reconnect and tap into your talents almost seamlessly. So there's a lot there about who you were as a professional before you took your career break and people having that frozen in time view of you, when they reconnected for these consulting opportunities. But, in hindsight that consulting situation was very... Yeah.

Jacqueline Welch: I was just about to say that. Thank you. Those are very nice things to say, and so thank you, period. I will add to that though, you've made an important point around seven years of consulting. I sat down once to figure out, how many organizations does that mean I've worked through, right?

And so between my time at Towers Perrin and combining that with my time at Anderson Consulting, I literally walked the halls of more than 50 different companies across industries, some domestic, some international, main industry. And so for anyone in any role that you're in, I think the learning point here is to take stock of what you do, how you do it, where you've done it and who you've done it with.

Those are impressions that are being made on you, and you on the situation and the scenario. So your point around "people remember," and you should too. Like I said, I accidentally became a consultant, but I had been more thoughtful about it, I would have gone, why didn't I just call Accenture and say, "Hey, look, I don't want to join a firm, but to the extent that you're looking for individual contributors in this emerging gig economy, I could do some work for you in that capacity."

Which I think is becoming more and more easy to do because we're all getting socialized to the gig economy and gig workers. But if I were paying more attention, I would have gotten there faster and on my own, as opposed to serendipitously. It worked out. So I'm not complaining. But I am making that observation for others.

Don't forego where you've been, what you've done and who you've done it with, because somewhere, there might be a bridge between working full-time and not working at all that you can straddle until you determine what you want your next scenario to be and to look like.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's such an important point. And actually hold that thought for a minute, because I wanted to talk about that in just a minute. But I do want to remind our audience and people who might've just tuned in that you are listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch. This is your host, Carol Fishman Cohen. I'm speaking with Jacqueline Welch, chief human resources officer and chief diversity officer of Freddie Mac. And she's also a relauncher, and we're deep into talking about Jackie's relaunch success story.

But this whole idea of what you're saying about taking stock of what you've done and who you've done it with, you did this in the most brilliant way.

And the idea that you're thinking, what's the narrative here, that I have walked the halls of 50 companies during my seven years of consulting to think about putting it in that language. It's really powerful. So you had this ability to not only take stock, but to figure out how you were going to tell that part of your story.

Jacqueline Welch: Thank you for that. Again, but you live your life forward and you understand it backwards, and I had time and space to do it. So one of the things that's come out of this experience for me is, pretty early in my career, so March 4th, just a day on a calendar, but it quite literally is the only day of the year that tells you what to do "march forth."

So for the last, I don't know, like 15 years, I literally will take that day off and do that. Take stock of the things that you've done because you can't wait until you're under pressure, like, where have I worked? What have I done? The brain doesn't work like that. But if you create space to do that inventory-taking as it were, then when you find yourself in whatever scenario, you're not scrambling. You already have, or you've already pondered and considered your story.

So that's another thing I would say is, don't wait till you have to go back to work. The other thing that's important to say, 'cause I feel like I'd be a complete fraud if I didn't say it is, I had money. So that's a huge determining factor about what you can do and how long you can do it.

Now that cost me. I don't say that in a flippant way, 'cause I'm still not a Harris, I still haven't won the lottery, and I've married for love. It cost me, and so there were four years where I was not earning a steady income, nor was I getting a match for a 401k or a pension, and I still had healthcare costs.

So partly there's a mathematical side of the equation as well. And so years and years ago, there was always that advice around, have nine to 12 months of emergency savings. I don't hear that said often enough now, particularly to young people. But you've got to have something set aside because you can't plan for everything.

And so not having the pressure of the financial burden was a huge blessing to me, and so don't forego that part of the equation.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Such excellent advice. So, can you talk a little bit about the actual moments or milestones that led to you getting your job back at Freddie Mac, and what were the conversations, who were the people, what happened?

Jacqueline Welch: Yeah, so there's a lot of pre-work. Like literally, for the level at which I'd been working at that point, my husband and I sat down. I'm like, "If I want to operate at this sort of executive level, there's a strong possibility I'd have to leave Atlanta." So we had to cognitively put our minds around, if we had to move, where would we move? And we made a short list of what our places would be, we wouldn't even have to have a conversation. And this for us is a huge consideration, our children are young, we're African-Americans. I got calls from places in the middle of the country and I'm going, "Well, I just looked at the census data and we would be IT. And so I don't know, but I don't want to raise my children in that kind of environment." So that's a big question again, to the extent that you can think about these things before rubber meets the road, you should, because it takes the emotionality out of it. So we had the short list of, where would I go?

I did also have a list of companies that I was interested in. For me, I think once we get to a certain point in your career, the question becomes, if you are as good as you think you are, can you take your skills from industry to industry? And because of all the consulting experiences and then the experiences with freestanding organizations, I narrowed down to either financial services or healthcare.

So again, this is just a framework. It's not to say, "If it doesn't show up in exactly this way, I'm not going to pursue it." But it's again, to get the mind active around, okay, what are the conversations then? If this is a list of companies and these are the industries I'm thinking about, and these are the geographies, we need to use our tools then. Look at your LinkedIn, who are the people who are in these industries or these geographies that can get some introductions to you? If you have a list of companies, you can start looking at, well, who knows somebody in that company? I think people forego the "ask for a favor" element of it. So I started putting it out there, like, "Here's my list: 1. I'm thinking about getting back into the marketplace; 2. These are the kinds of things I'm thinking of; 3. Based on what I know about you, are you willing to make these kinds of introductions for me?" And I would do that every day for two or three hours, like a job. The other thing I would say is, and again, this may not be applicable to everyone on the phone, but at a certain point in your career, you start getting called by search professionals.

And I'm always flabbergasted when I meet people who say, "Oh no, that's not for me." And they won't even have the conversation. I go, "I don't care how committed you are to your current organization. You need to take every call." And you need to take every call for two reasons: one, to understand where your skill set fits into the current marketplace. And then even more importantly, the call might not be for you. If I had a dollar for the number of leads I've passed on to other people and for whom it worked out, like my husband always says, "Why don't you just do search? You do realize that." And just to be part of that give and take economy, you don't have anything to give if you're closing yourself off. So take every call. What's the worst that can happen? And in my case, at this point, there are any number of search professionals whom I have "helped," that they think of when these great jobs take place or come available.

And as quiet as it's kept, some of those plum jobs are still very much the economy of who knows you and who recommends you. So those are the kinds of things, but again, the deliberateness around, what do you want to do next? How do you want to do it? Even if it's just an exercise, it starts to train the brain to focus. And it starts to give you a way to put yourself back into the open market.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. That advice, even for people who are currently working, who might be anticipating a future career break, to make sure you take those calls for search professionals. Additionally, it's even more important because once you're on an extended career break, you don't get as many calls from search professionals. So, if you already have the relationships built from before, wow, that's a great piece of advice.

Jacqueline Welch: And I will tell you when I landed, I literally sent out an email that had the subject line, "I've landed." And I told every person I touched, "Here's how it was resolved. I'm heading to Freddie Mac to do X, Y, Z. If there's anything I can do for you or someone in your network, I hope you'll let me know."

So, you have to close out those loops. Relationships are active organisms and the tendency is to just go to them when you need something, which now, if you need something, fine, ask. But you should also just tend to them in terms of, "Oh, you gave me this piece of advice, here's how it panned out." "Oh, you made this introduction. I met with that person and here's a summary of what all took place." At the end of the day, we're still all humans and we want human contact.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So this is a very detailed logistics question, but did you keep spreadsheets? Did you keep track of all the people that helped you or did you just have an amazing memory?

Jacqueline Welch: Ma'am, I'm looking at a stack of four notebooks that cover this time or period, 'cause I'm still very much a write things down person. And so quite literally, there would be in a notebook, a section called Carol Fishman Cohen, it would record the outcomes of our conversations.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow.

Jacqueline Welch: Yeah, but you've got to commit yourself. And again, I'm not holding myself out as this exemplar. Remember, seven years of consulting, so you do learn something. So anybody working has learned something, but I think sometimes the disconnect, the dissonance is we don't apply what we do at work to our personal lives. Even when I was taking care of my dad, I would show up at doctor's appointments with binders that were tabbed and color-coded. Because that's what I learned to do in consulting. That's how you keep track. Why would I commit this to memory? There's too much. So think about, recycle your skills for your own advantage.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Right. Can we just switch gears for a minute? I'm interested in, what was life like on the personal side when you went back to work? Did you have family meetings about this big change in everyone's routine? Or, how did it happen?

Jacqueline Welch: It's funny that you would call it family meetings. We've always had family meetings. We go around the table, who's on deck for what? What's going on this week, who needs what for school or their field trips, are either of the grownups traveling, standard operating procedure in our home. So with respect to the question though, it's funny because I saw that in preparing for this, and again, we had the benefit of the hindsight view, but when you're going through, at least in our family dynamic, we were going through it. It was happening live. So I wasn't pooling in the way that I'm looking back now and trying to categorize it. Does that make sense? So now I'm putting all this language around it, but it was just happening. I'm putting this language in this process and this is how, but it was really just things unfolded.

And I remember interviewing, and so the kids noticed that I was traveling for this interview or that interview. And I would explain, "Yes, mommy's looking for a new job." And anytime it was a company that looked promising, we'd go to the website and I'd say, "Here's what they do," just to get them grounded on what’s commerce and economy. I mean, we're capitalists, so we try to get them to understand markets and all those things, at the level that they were at that time.

And when things got really material with Freddie Mac, we involved them with coming here to look for a place to live and those kinds of tactile experiences. You just figure out the age appropriateness determines what level of involvement they have. But to your question, do they remember it? They don't remember it as the time mommy was relaunching, what they remember is, "Remember when we could go anywhere, anytime?" Now I say, "Well, you do know I do work and I have an allotment of vacation days." So it's not, you just pop up and go or stay home from work today. I have an obligation So they feel it in those kinds of ways. Our oldest just turned 13. I think now, retroactively appreciating, "Wow, my mom was home for four years." But while it was happening, I don't know that they were making that comparison and contrast. They just knew things were happening, right? Real time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And, I love the way you brought your kids into the process. They were almost invested alongside you because you were talking about your interviews and researching those companies online with them and getting their feedback, even if you weren't maybe taking their feedback because they were young. But just the idea that you were engaged with them around the job search.

Jacqueline Welch: Yeah, we tried. So, my husband's an entrepreneur. And like I said at the start of our conversation, I'm very much a corporate person. And so we feel like they have a really wonderful view of two options of how one might maintain oneself and one's family.

So he does his best to expose them to, "Yes, I'm doing invoices. Come, let me show you how this works." I do my best, the kids come to work with me. To your point, when we were thinking about what next, we involved them at their level of understanding. And certainly because of their tech savviness, "Go look this up for me and tell me what you find out" or, "Look up this person's name and see what you get."

So we tried to make it an experience for them as well. So far so good. As parents, we all do the best we know how, and it's not till they're like 21 and older, and we're paying for therapy bills potentially that, "Okay. That didn't work out like I thought." So, it sort of feels like we're good, but we'll see.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, exactly. But, the idea that you took them to work, this is actually something that we tell parents to do, especially when their kids are younger. So when they hear that mom's at work, they actually have a visual for what that means.

Jacqueline Welch: It's so interesting that you would say that, Carol. I'm a child of the seventies and my mom was so ahead of her time. She would take me to work with her. This was long before there was any “take your daughters to work day” or “take your daughters and sons day,” right? It was practical, again, working class, there's no nanny that stays home if school closes or what's going on. So she would take me to work and she would set up a card table for me and she'd make a little name tag for me.

And she would tell all her colleagues, "My daughter's coming to work." And they would come up with these tasks for me to do, like I would file, I would type envelopes and they would pay me. I would show up and they'd be like, "I'm going to pay you $5 if you'll file for me." "Absolutely!" "I'll pay you another $5 if you'll type these envelopes." Now, were these things real? I'll never know.

But to your point, the whole idea of, "Oh, this is where mommy goes every day." That question got answered for me. I knew where she was going. My dad worked nights, so I didn't have the opportunity to see his workplace, but yeah, my mom made it very intimate for me. And so I want that experience for my own children.

And I will tell you, this is how, again, you have to mind your own experiences. Here at Freddie Mac, we are about to do a “take your parent to work” day, because I think that curiosity around, what does my child do all day, I don't think that curiosity where your loved one is goes away. And so now early experience to me, 'cause I go, “I know the second my children start to work.”

I'm going to want to, "Okay. So tell me about your desk. And what do you eat, and where's the parking?" I'm going to want to know that. So for our interns, we're actually going to do a “take your parents to work” day.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, that's great. I love it. We are running out of time, but there's one question I want to make sure that I get a chance to ask you. So you've been back now for a few years. What is it like being back? And can you just talk about, maybe break it into two sections? The first year you're back, and did it feel like riding a bike again and you just went back into it? Or was there a sort of a learning curve period?

And then how do you look at it now? Retrospectively?

Jacqueline Welch: Right, ‘cause the retrospective view is a lot more clean. I would say that first year, using that unconscious incompetence scale, that first year I felt very much consciously competent. Because of the consulting, I understood the rhythm and cadence of a workplace, so that wasn't much to get used to. For me, it was okay, this is a whole new set of people, not in my geography. I've left Atlanta, I'm in a new place. So it's getting used to that rhythm and cadence of a different geography. The DMV is very different from Atlanta, just in terms of again, within a cadence. And then I'd never, aside from having a mortgage, I didn't know anything about the mortgage business. So there was a learning curve of, okay, new industry, understanding the nuts and bolts generally. And then more specifically get about the business of understanding the economic model of Freddie Mac. So there was a lot for me to do. I didn't have any issue or challenge around my core competencies, my human resources competencies, but there were these other things to very quickly become a student of, new geography, new industry, new company.

That first year was really, and I would encourage people when you're leaving, to prioritize, “What do I need to learn?” Have a sense of, “How do I want to approach this?” And then hit the ground with, “Who can help me with this?” “Who can help me understand the economic model for making money around here?” “Who can help me understand what's the school system?” Make those lists of, “What do I need to know?” Try to clump them in a way that's manageable, and then be about the business of finding resources that can get you confident.

By the way, and I think the other thing I would suggest is when you come back, use "I'm new" for at least a year. I think up until a year, people will tolerate that. So use it.

"I'm still new," and you can see people's faces soften, "She's still new." So use that to your advantage. I do think that day 366, it expires. So year two then really becomes, how am I delivering? What are the relationships that I've established? And what is the next level of relationship that I have to establish? And then for me too, it was, lift up beyond the four walls or Freddie Mac and start thinking about, how do I reestablish Jackie Welch in a new market? So now I'm in the mid Atlantic. It has nothing to do with Atlanta. So now you can start thinking, if you have the capacity, about which organizations to join, which conferences make sense. 'Cause you're not only relaunching into a new career, in some instances, at least in my instance, I had gone off the grid almost completely, and then relaunched into a new market. So there was a lot of work to do in terms of reestablishing myself writ large.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent advice. So I want to ask you now the question that we end with on our podcasts and we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is what is your best piece of advice? You've shared so much incredible advice, but if you could pick one piece for our relauncher audience. What is your favorite piece of advice, even if it's something we've already talked about today?

Jacqueline Welch: And we actually didn't talk about it, and it only occurred to me now when you're asking this question, so I'm glad you did.

What we haven't talked about that I think is important generally speaking, but then certainly when you're relaunching, is compensation. And so what I would like for people to do, if you take notes here is where you should pick up your implements and capture this because it's really important.

It is important for you to advocate for yourself. And as it relates to pay, how that advocacy looks is the following question. What is the range of pay for this position, and what do you need to see me do or hear that I've done that would get me to the high end of that range? And then stop talking.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. You want to repeat that one more time? It's so important.

Jacqueline Welch: What is the range of pay for this position, and what do you need to see me do or know what I have done to be at the top end of that range? And then stop talking. No, "because," and then explanation, none of that. Just let the person dignify the question.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, it's hard to do that. You have to coach yourself ahead of time to stop talking.

Jacqueline Welch: Yep, you gotta practice. Literally sit across from someone and practice the discomfort of the silence. They have the information. And I would also say that if they're reluctant to give you that, that's a data point, so now you're talking about an organization that is probably not very transparent, and do you want to work there? You might be okay with that, but just recognize it's a data point. And then if they give you the range and say, you're here, then either you accept that or you go, "Well, no, I see it differently. And here's why," and be prepared. And "I need more money" is not a good response.

So you now have information in terms of what you're looking for and it's now your responsibility to go, "Actually, I've done that. Let me tell you about the time that I XYZ, which sounds exactly like what you just said." But you got to work with the facts, take the emotionalism out of it, get the facts on the table and respond from there.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. Okay, Jackie, one more question before we close, and that is you're a relauncher and we're interested in, how does that influence how you look at relaunchers as potential hires? And as far as Freddie Mac is concerned, what is the interest in hiring relaunchers?

Jacqueline Welch: It's a great question. And I would pull up to say, I am keenly, as the organization, so I say I, but Freddie Mac, we are keenly interested in workforce shaping. So really thinking about where's the business going and where is the talent to drive the business going to come from? So to preclude any segment of the available talent pool is a self-inflicted wound.

It's relaunchers, it's people that are on the spectrum for autism, it's the whole ball of wax. If there's a skill set you possess that can help us advance the business, we're going to go after that pool of available talent. So that aside, having now relaunched myself twice, this is a population that's battle-tested and we're not teaching folks how to come to work for the very first time.

If anything, doing some tweaks around the edges as it were, right? So an incredible source of talent, be it moms or dads who are coming back after taking care of children or elder care or themselves, military veterans, people who are just looking to reconfigure how they've approached their career and repurpose prior skill sets, it's all talent.

And so it behooves any organization to include relaunchers in that talent pool.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. I can't thank you enough, Jackie. This has just been a terrific conversation. Thank you for joining us today.

Jacqueline Welch: Thank you for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chairman and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch, go to

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