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Relauncher of the Month

March 2023

Zarmeen Hussain relaunched as a Senior Associate, Benefits Analyst at GroupM, a media investment company based in NYC after a 14 year career break. 

Her message to all the relaunchers and women trying to re-enter the workforce is- Keep your “4 P’s" strong- Prayers, Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance and it will happen!

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

I have always believed that age is only a number. I kept telling myself that, even when my planned career break of 2 years turned to 5 and then finally 14 years. I was working as an HR Manager until 2007 when we had to move to Shanghai for my husband's job. I thought I could restart in 2010, but I was hit with an unfortunate health situation. By the time I recovered, more time passed. We had moved back to New Jersey- a new state with no support system. I decided to put everything behind and concentrate on my daughter. We will figure out things later. But by the time she got more independent, I started thinking -What is next for me?

I was fortunate to get a Human Resources consultant(contract) role in a start-up through a referral from my network. I quickly realised that I need more hand holding and this role might not be the best suited for me at the moment. Soon, thanks to a staffing agency referral, I was offered a HR coordinator role at the Saks store. I assisted Human Resource Business Partner’s to log contact tracing on excel sheets of store employees on Covid exposure during that critical time.  These experiences set the ball rolling for me that culminated in getting my dream offer at GroupM, a media investment company based in NYC.

A five year long journey from constant rejections to short term consulting gigs, finally opened the door for me to restart my career in Corporate America in a full time capacity!

Zarmeen wtc

Constructive criticism is like liquid gold!
The key to constructive criticism is that it is focused on behavior, not the person. It is intended to help us see where we can improve and provide specific feedback on what we can do differently. It is not meant to tear us down or make us feel bad. So be open-minded, don't take it personally, ask questions, take action, and thank the person for their feedback.

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

How did you approach relaunching your career in a new country? 

  1. Discerning my interests and upskilling : I wanted to be in the Human Resources industry as I thought I was cut out for it.  I enrolled in a SHRM certification and took baby steps to understand if I really want to do this. I spent the most time in figuring out this part!
  2. Understanding cultural nuances- When I decided to relaunch, I immersed myself in LinkedIn to look at more people like me who had a career break- my contemporaries. I came across mostly women,  mid 30s with a maximum of 2-3 years of career gap who had taken a pause when they were at higher designation. I thought to myself- that I had to pause only 3 years into my career and when I had to move countries. I started thinking what do I bring to the table? And the answer was - my lifeskills, my wisdom, my soft skills.
  3. Being patient- This was also the time when I came across the iRelaunch Return to work Forum and learned about the Return to Work conference and the roadmap. I loved the roadmap- the strategies and the actionable steps. I took the accountability lesson seriously and started doing mock interviews sessions with my friends to get feedback.
  4. Being open to different opportunities: I knew that since I am an immigrant and starting in a new country, it may take time to find the perfect job. I was open to taking up temporary or contract work to gain experience and build my network.

How did you zero in on Human Resource as an industry to relaunch?

To my mind, Human Resources is a big umbrella that houses so many functionalities-  Benefits,  People Analytics, Operations, Talent and Acquisition , Recruitment etc. 

When I was contemplating returning to the workforce after my break, I wanted to find out whether I really wanted to do Human Resources or not. I remember the first time I walked into the SHRM certification class. And surely after a week, it was a personal endorsement. Now the next step was how do I navigate from here ? As in it was a 3.5 month course with a certification examination. I had to think through the costs involved, the efforts and how valuable is it? Thanks to my assigned mentors for helping me make that decision. They created a rubric for me with the questions- If this is your skill on a scale of one to 10, where were you when you left? The softwares/HRMS systems must have changed over the course of time. And they helped me gauge with my skill at that point with that level of software skill, this is where I could be. So what do I need to do now to bridge that gap? I took the certification and updated myself that set me up for success!

How did having a mentor impact your journey?

My mentors were instrumental in my relaunch. 
  1. They gave me the confidence that hard skills are forever changing and I can pick them up with the right certifications and upskilling. The soft skills and the transferable skills that I have amassed during my break are unique and will take me a long way. 
  2. They helped me look at everything from first principles. From advising me to apply for jobs even with 80% or less match to not being afraid of taking up space and wearing the head scarf with elan, my mentor has been a godsend. 
  3. They also encouraged me  to network extensively, even people who are 20 years younger without any judgments or pre conceived notions. And I am glad I did that as I was so pleasantly certified how supportive they were. A little spark gives you so much confidence. 
Zarmeen group M

A mentor cannot be a random person. Choose wisely. I remember asking my mentor- Tell me about my hijab. Is it going to be a barrier?

To which my mentor responded- 'You don't have to change yourself. Everybody has space here. And if a company does not accept you for who you are, that's okay too. You're not going to work for that company because deep down it'll always bother you and you will not perform your hundred percent'

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This success story was documented by Rochna Pant

Did this story motivate you or inspire you!?

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