When I left my role as a Marketing Director at a Fortune 500 company in 2000, I never thought it would be 14 years before I was back in the workforce. I believed my credentials (MBA from a top 15 school) and experience (10 years post-MBA) would secure my future. A little detour to focus on my young kids would never take that away. I was smart, capable in my career, receiving awards and promotions at a prestigious company. But like many relaunchers, when I was ready to relaunch, I didn’t see an open door. I applied to hundreds of jobs, that I felt more than qualified for, but the job gap was a huge red flag. I spent years trying to find an opportunity, someone who would open the door but as time went by, my energy and confidence faded.
My job gap grew from 7 years to 14 before I discovered iRelaunch and got my first break, an internship specifically for relaunchers. My job gap finally was not a huge red flag but actually part of their inclusion criteria! The 10-week program placed interns across the company with the intent to transition successful interns into full-time roles. To be successful, I had a lot to learn. First, I had to get up to speed on new ways of working (vpns, webex, chat, outlook) and really lean in to say “yes” to every opportunity I was given. This was key. I knew this was my shot to prove my worth and I wasn’t going to let my lack of confidence take away my chances. Couple other things helped me too: 1) mentoring from a senior leader – her belief in me really gave me courage. 2) support from another relauncher going through the same program – we formed our own quasi-support group to have a safe space to talk through challenges and share ideas.
At the end of the internship, everyone was hired into a full-time role, with one exception, me! The earmarked role for my position was lost in budget cuts along the way. But that didn’t diminish the experience. In those 10 weeks, I regained confidence, refreshed my skills and was hopeful that my job prospects going forward would improve. But I was heart-broken that my relaunch was incomplete.
But, just two weeks later the VP called me back. No, there wasn’t a full-time role, but he was able to extend me on contract until the end of year on an increased hourly rate. Ok, challenge accepted! I doubled down to prove my value and really opened up to stretch assignments. At the end of the year though, despite all that effort, my contract could not be extended. Again, heart-broken, but with even more experience on my resume, I walked out the door. But that wasn’t the end.
Two months later – I got another call from the VP. Interestingly, through a series of circumstances, my value to the department became very clear once I left, and he was calling to offer me a Director position! I had finally officially relaunched – and in the process, regained both the title and salary I had left in 2000.
My advice to relaunchers – take chances, lean in hard and say “yes” to opportunities – “fake it til you make it” is my favorite motto! Find your champions: friends, colleagues and mentors who see your worth even when you don’t. And don’t focus so intently on title, level or salary – focus on the opportunity. If it’s an opportunity to learn and grow, it will lead you forward. And finally, remember who you are, what skills you bring – believe in yourself because confidence and positive energy opens doors.
We caught up with Amanda to dive a little deeper into her relaunch story and the advice she has for other relaunchers...
What did you find most helpful in your relaunch journey?
The power of the cohort! Big shout out to Julie who was the only other relauncher from our cohort working from the same building. We formed a quasi-support group with weekly lunch meetings to discuss everything from what was going on with our projects, problem solving some tricky situations, talking about issues with commuting and balancing work and family. She had also been out of the workforce for 14 years so could empathize with how I felt. It was a safe space to ask stupid questions, look for advice and not worry that it was going to go on my permanent record. She understood how big this transition from being a stay a home mom to becoming a working-professional was. Without her, I think it would have been a whole lot more difficult and quite lonely. Everyone needs a Julie!
How did the Act2 return to work program at MetLife make relaunching easier for you?
The best part of relaunching through an internship program was not only that they were looking for someone like me but also the program leaders thought about the different needs of relaunchers and provided specific supports to allow us to be successful in this internship. I had been out of the workforce for 14 years – and that is a long, long time. I needed some special help to get my footing. I will be the first to admit that. I had left as a middle manager with direct reports and a good deal of responsibility – but the world of work didn’t stand still while I jumped out to focus on my family. An internship was a perfect transition tool for me – test whether I could get back into the swing of things, brush away cobwebs and get back to the professional I had tucked away.
The program supports started on day one with an extended new hire orientation which covered not only company structure and strategy but also basic refresher classes in power point, excel, outlook, how to set up meetings, etc. This was important because those little hurdles were the things that I worried about the most. The little tech glitches that would point me out as someone who didn’t belong. I know it seems silly now, but things like “how to book a conference room” worried me more than anything – but the way people work now (webex, chat) was so foreign to the way things were when I left the workforce. When you have imposter syndrome, the last thing you want to do is act like you don’t know how to jump on a webex.
I was assigned to a group, with a couple real projects and timelines to manage. It wasn’t some fluff assignment, but one that I really enjoyed. I had the chance to learn new things, to contribute and grow. I also had a senior leader who was assigned as my mentor. She was fantastic, made herself accessible and consistently supported me. We still keep in touch.
What did you find hardest about relaunching, both before your relaunch and after your successful return?
Prior to getting into the relaunch internship – the hardest thing was not having doors open based on your background and education. To me, that was a shock because I thought once I had proven myself and had a record of achievement, no one could take that away. Actually, that is not true, time can make that much less relevant.
But the hardest thing about relaunching once I started the internship was overcoming my fears and not allowing my lack of confidence to sabotage me. I had to get over the imposter syndrome, the fear of asking what I thought were “stupid questions” and just “fake it till you make it.” I made a concerted effort to say “Yes” to any assignment or task. Was that scary? Well yes, it was but it was also very cool. I got to learn about and do things I had never done, and in the end, I surprised myself about how well I did.
Recently you reached out to the relauncher community to fill a position on your team at ADP. Why do you feel it’s important for relaunchers to “pay it forward” when they are hiring?
So far, I have reached out twice to the relauncher community to try to find candidates for open roles on my team and I will keep trying. I think it’s important to “pay it forward” because as a relauncher myself, I remember all too well how it felt, seemingly locked out of the workforce because I took time away. I also remember how driven I was (as most relaunchers would be) to prove myself once I got the chance to return to work. Why would anyone not want to tap into relaunchers – when you get experience and dedication from day one? Relaunchers may need some support at the beginning but one you get them going – that experience will prove very valuable.
After you left MetLife, you went on to a position at Verizon and now at ADP. Do you still feel like a “relauncher”? Does your experience having had a career break influence anything about your professional life now?
I was grateful for the opportunity to relaunch my career. But three years later, when responsibilities of that role changed, I realized I needed to look to other opportunities and in my case, that led to a role outside MetLife. Then, when another opportunity was presented to me that lined up perfectly with my skill set – I moved again to where I am today.
Early on, I felt the label “relauncher” followed me around like a blinking neon sign. But as I ramped up, began to really contribute, that feeling began to fade. The job gap stopped defining me as much as my recent accomplishments. Of course, I had to convince myself of that and that took some time to have that confidence.
If anything, having struggled to relaunch taught me to be more intentional with my career. I want to be sure I am leveraging my best skills, the ones I enjoy and give me a good probability of being successful using. I also tried to keep in contact with those supporters I found at each company. They are the ones who might have a connection or opportunity in the future that would be perfect for you.
My current role actually reports to the person who hired me as a relauncher! When he reached out to tell me about a new role on his team, I jumped at the opportunity to work again with him. He has a knack for finding situations and projects where I can bring all my unique skills to the table and that is where I have the most fun. He’s been my biggest supporter and ally. I love my current role and the fantastic team of people I get to work with.
Did this story motivate you or inspire you!?
Do you have a relauncher success story of your own to share with us and the rest of the relauncher community?
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