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Relauncher of the Month

March 2022

Shay Baker is the new leader of “Return Utah,” Utah’s return to work program that launched in the fall of 2021. Utah is the first state to run a return to work program. Shay was a relauncher participant in the inaugural cohort of Return Utah and was asked at the end of her returnship to take the lead role of the Return Utah program, which has more than doubled in size for the next cohort starting in January. Shay, a former reporter and producer who also spent four years as a human resources specialist earlier in her career, used her strong communications, media and public relations background in her Return Utah role at the State’s Commerce Department.

Click here to view the one-page profile we compiled to highlight Shay's career path!

I was on a career break for eight years. Just prior to that, I was working as a television reporter and producer at KTVX, the Salt Lake City ABC affiliate. The news industry has little work/life balance, in general it is super busy - you're on call all the time. So, I chose to go on a career break when I had my first child because my husband was traveling a lot for his job at that time, and it would have been difficult for me to work weekends and to be working 15 days straight. It's hard to drop off your baby in the morning to a babysitter and then get called in to breaking news and try to pick them up at 11:00 PM. That just doesn't really work.

Thankfully we were financially able to allow me to stay home and raise our family. We now have three children - my oldest is eight, we have a five-year-old, and a one-year-old. All girls.

I first noticed the program in the media when it was announced. I thought it was a fantastic idea. However, I wasn't ready to seek a job at the time. A couple of months later, a neighbor of mine asked if I would come speak with the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce and discuss communication strategies, and a potential role there. I did. The department was undergoing changes and was in need of a communications re-haul including a new Communications Director. That was a full-time position I was not ready for. Frankly, I'm not sure the department was ready to hire a returner at that time either. They needed someone who could work full-time and hit the ground running. I had communications experience, but not as a director. Therefore, the department hired that role with someone who was ready to take it while calling me to apply for a 16-week returnship as a communication specialist. I interviewed and got the job and worked as part of the Communications team on several large projects.

I was so fortunate that the Department of Commerce is run by a returner, Margaret Busse, who was out of the workforce for over a decade to raise her children. She's highly educated, she's extremely bright and brilliant, and she was excited to get the department involved in this program.

One of the first things Margaret said when we met in our initial meeting was, “I've been there. It's scary.” And that really made me feel comfortable. She had that sense of what it's like to return to a job after a career break - how it's nerve wracking and scary, but also really exciting at the same time.

And I was so impressed by the people who worked in the department: attorneys, MBAs, highly educated and experienced people in the private sector who came to the state to make a difference. Everyone was very kind and welcoming.

After the 16-week returnship, I was offered the position of Program Director for the Return Utah return to work initiative. The program was originally established by Dan Chadwick, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, and Jenny Wakefield, Director of Recruiting & Talent Acquisition for the State of Utah Department of Human Resource Management and all of the Division of Human Resources Team. Dan and Jenny were given a directive from Lieutenant Governor's office to establish the program, and they made it seamless. It was a wonderful experience for those of us in the inaugural cohort, and I'm forever impressed. Every time I go to get to work, I think “I can't believe the work they had to do to get this started.”

My job now is to take the program to new heights and utilize my marketing and communications experience to help the program grow. I’m also utilizing some HR experience I had in the past to help make this program successful on all fronts and to make it innovative and interesting. I talk with my fellow cohort participants, and I utilize their suggestions because I want to make sure future programs provide a positive experience for our returners. That's very important to me.

Another priority is to establish the program so that it is sustainable. I want to make sure that if I step away, the program has gained enough of a footing and reputation to ensure opportunities for relaunchers in the future.

We caught up with Shay to dive a little deeper into her relaunch story and the advice she has for other relaunchers...

What advice would you like to give relaunchers about that first step back into the workforce?

Just be brave. I think it's scary when you've been out of the workforce, There's a lot of self-doubt.

It's terrifying to just rewrite your resume. And how do you go into an interview when you haven't really had a conversation that was work-related in many years? In my case I felt like my vocabulary wasn't up to par, so I practiced interviewing. I love to interview. Back in the day when I was younger, I used to do pageants and interviewing was my strength. But oh my gosh, did I struggle as an adult who felt like I hadn't had an intelligent conversation in years. I made my husband ask me questions. I rehearsed in the mirror as I would put my makeup on in the morning for a week or two, because I just was unfamiliar with it.

My second tip would be to utilize your network. When I was working on my resume, I called some friends and I said, “I'm sending you this resume. What do you think? What do you think I should do?” I talked to people. I got ideas.

I had a few friends who were willing to hear about all my concerns, all of the things that excited me about the opportunity. And they were so supportive. I had a friend who even talked to her husband about it, and then she texted me and said, “TJ wants to talk to you and give his opinion.” It meant a lot to me that so many people were cheering for me and my success.

So, utilize that network when you feel like you need that extra confidence boost, and then once you're feeling comfortable with yourself, just be grateful and humble to all those that helped you get there.

How did you overcome doubts about your return to work?

Right before I started, I took my eight-year-old daughter to a dance store to buy tap shoes because the dance season was starting. This was about a week before my returnship was scheduled to start. I'd accepted the job, but I had not secured childcare. I was really torn. The idea of having someone else watch my kids really made me uncomfortable, because I had never done it.

When we went into this dance store, I saw a postcard on the counter of two dancers and the text said, “Do big and scary things.”

So, I bought one of the postcards for myself and one for my daughters. And when I got home, I said to my husband, “this childcare thing's going to work out. We're going to find somebody.” And we did the next day. When I started my job, I hung the postcard up right there in front of me.

I'm a firm believer in doing “big and scary” things in general in your life. But I think when you have not been working for a while, your confidence does take a hit. You wonder if you can really do the things that people think you can do.

So, I think sometimes we think too much about it. If you want to do it, just do it. And the rest will work out from there. It always does. Everything will get worked out on the way.

For more information about Shay and the Return Utah program, listen to Shay’s 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch podcast with Carol Fishman Cohen.

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