Return to Video

How to get back to work after a career break | Carol Fishman Cohen | TEDxBeaconStreet

  • 0:16 - 0:20
    People returning to work
    after a career break:
  • 0:20 - 0:22
    I call them relaunchers.
  • 0:22 - 0:26
    These are people who have taken
    career breaks for elder care,
  • 0:26 - 0:28
    for childcare reasons,
  • 0:28 - 0:29
    pursuing a personal interest,
  • 0:29 - 0:31
    or a personal health issue.
  • 0:32 - 0:35
    Closely related are
    career transitioners of all kinds:
  • 0:35 - 0:38
    veterans, military spouses,
  • 0:38 - 0:40
    retirees coming out of retirement,
  • 0:40 - 0:42
    or repatriating expats.
  • 0:42 - 0:45
    Returning to work
    after a career break is hard
  • 0:45 - 0:48
    because of a disconnect
    between the employers
  • 0:48 - 0:50
    and the relaunchers.
  • 0:50 - 0:54
    Employers can view hiring people
    with a gap on their resume
  • 0:54 - 0:56
    as a high-risk proposition,
  • 0:56 - 1:00
    and individuals on career break
    can have doubts about their abilities
  • 1:00 - 1:01
    to relaunch their careers,
  • 1:01 - 1:04
    especially if they've been out
    for a long time.
  • 1:05 - 1:10
    This disconnect is a problem
    that I'm trying to help solve.
  • 1:10 - 1:15
    Now, successful relaunchers
    are everywhere and in every field.
  • 1:15 - 1:17
    This is Sami Kafala.
  • 1:17 - 1:20
    He's a nuclear physicist in the UK
  • 1:20 - 1:24
    who took a five-year career break
    to be home with his five children.
  • 1:25 - 1:29
    The Singapore press recently wrote
    about nurses returning to work
  • 1:29 - 1:31
    after long career breaks.
  • 1:31 - 1:33
    And speaking of long career breaks,
  • 1:33 - 1:34
    this is Mimi Kahn.
  • 1:35 - 1:38
    She's a social worker
    in Orange County, California,
  • 1:39 - 1:42
    who returned to work
    in a social services organization
  • 1:42 - 1:45
    after a 25-year career break.
  • 1:45 - 1:47
    That's the longest career break
    that I'm aware of.
  • 1:48 - 1:50
    Prominent people take career breaks.
  • 1:50 - 1:53
    Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
  • 1:53 - 1:56
    took a five-year career break
    early in her career.
  • 1:56 - 1:59
    And then, there are
    the fictional relaunchers.
  • 1:59 - 2:02
    Probably the most famos
    is Alicia Florrick,
  • 2:02 - 2:07
    the character played by Julianna Margulies
    in the TV show The Goodwife.
  • 2:08 - 2:12
    She's a lawyer who returns to work
    after a 13-year career break.
  • 2:13 - 2:16
    Here's a real person
    who took a 13-year career break.
  • 2:16 - 2:19
    This is Tracy Shapiro, and her family.
  • 2:19 - 2:23
    Tracy answered a call for essays
    by the Today Show
  • 2:23 - 2:25
    from people who were trying
    to return to work
  • 2:25 - 2:27
    but having a difficult time of it.
  • 2:28 - 2:33
    Tracy wrote in that she was a mom of five
    who loved her time at home,
  • 2:33 - 2:36
    but she had gone through a divorce
    and needed to return to work,
  • 2:36 - 2:39
    plus she really wanted
    to bring work back into her life
  • 2:39 - 2:41
    because she loved working.
  • 2:41 - 2:43
    Tracy was doing what so many of us do
  • 2:43 - 2:47
    when we feel like we've put in
    a good day in the job search.
  • 2:47 - 2:50
    She was looking for a finance
    or accounting role,
  • 2:50 - 2:53
    and she had just spent
    the last nine months
  • 2:53 - 2:56
    very diligently researching
    companies online
  • 2:56 - 2:59
    and applying for jobs with no results.
  • 2:59 - 3:03
    I met Tracy in June of 2011,
  • 3:03 - 3:07
    when the Today Show asked me
    if I could work with her
  • 3:07 - 3:09
    to see if I could help her
    turn things around.
  • 3:09 - 3:13
    The first thing I told Tracy
    was she had to get out of the house.
  • 3:13 - 3:16
    I told her she had to go public
    with her job search
  • 3:16 - 3:20
    and tell everyone she knew
    about her interest in returning to work.
  • 3:20 - 3:24
    I also told her, "You are going
    to have a lot of conversations
  • 3:24 - 3:25
    that don't go anywhere.
  • 3:25 - 3:29
    Expect that, and don't
    be discouraged by it.
  • 3:29 - 3:30
    There will be a handful
  • 3:30 - 3:33
    that ultimately lead
    to a job opportunity."
  • 3:34 - 3:37
    I'll tell you what happened
    with Tracy in a little bit,
  • 3:37 - 3:39
    but I want to share with you
    a discovery that I made
  • 3:39 - 3:41
    when I was returning to work
  • 3:41 - 3:45
    after my own career break of 11 years
    out of the full-time workforce,
  • 3:45 - 3:50
    and that is, that people's view of you
    is frozen in time.
  • 3:51 - 3:54
    What I mean by this is,
    when you start to get in touch with people
  • 3:54 - 3:57
    and you get back in touch
    with those people from the past,
  • 3:57 - 4:00
    the people with whom you worked
    or went to school,
  • 4:00 - 4:03
    they are going to remember you as you were
  • 4:03 - 4:05
    before your career break,
  • 4:05 - 4:08
    and that's even if your sense of self
    has diminished over time,
  • 4:08 - 4:11
    as happens with so many of us
  • 4:11 - 4:14
    the farther removed we are
    from our professional identities.
  • 4:14 - 4:17
    So for example,
    you might think of yourself
  • 4:17 - 4:19
    as someone who looks like this.
  • 4:19 - 4:23
    This is me, crazy after a day
    of driving around in my minivan.
  • 4:23 - 4:26
    Or here I am in the kitchen.
  • 4:26 - 4:29
    But those people from the past,
  • 4:29 - 4:31
    they don't know about any of this.
  • 4:31 - 4:33
    They only remember you as you were,
  • 4:33 - 4:38
    and it's a great confidence boost
    to be back in touch with these people
  • 4:38 - 4:41
    and hear their enthusiasm
    about your interest in returning to work.
  • 4:43 - 4:47
    There's one more thing I remember vividly
    from my own career break,
  • 4:47 - 4:50
    and that was that I hardly kept up
    with the business news.
  • 4:50 - 4:52
    My background is in finance,
  • 4:52 - 4:54
    and I hardly kept up with any news
  • 4:54 - 4:57
    when I was home caring
    for my four young children,
  • 4:57 - 5:01
    so I was afraid I'd go into an interview
  • 5:01 - 5:04
    and start talking about a company
    that didn't exist anymore.
  • 5:04 - 5:08
    So I had to resubscribe
    to the Wall Street Journal
  • 5:08 - 5:11
    and read it for a good six months
    cover to cover before I felt
  • 5:11 - 5:15
    like I had a handle on what was going on
    in the business world again.
  • 5:15 - 5:19
    I believe relaunchers
    are a gem of the workforce,
  • 5:19 - 5:20
    and here's why.
  • 5:20 - 5:22
    Think about our life stage:
  • 5:22 - 5:26
    for those of us who took career breaks
    for childcare reasons,
  • 5:26 - 5:28
    we have fewer or no maternity leaves.
  • 5:28 - 5:29
    We did that already.
  • 5:29 - 5:33
    We have fewer spousal
    or partner job relocations.
  • 5:33 - 5:35
    We're in a more settled time of life.
  • 5:35 - 5:37
    We have great work experience.
  • 5:37 - 5:39
    We have a more mature perspective.
  • 5:39 - 5:43
    We're not trying to find ourselves
    at an employer's expense.
  • 5:43 - 5:47
    Plus we have an energy,
    an enthusiasm about returning to work
  • 5:47 - 5:50
    precisely because we've been
    away from it for a while.
  • 5:51 - 5:53
    On the flip side, I speak with employers,
  • 5:53 - 5:56
    and here are two concerns
    that employers have
  • 5:56 - 5:58
    about hiring relaunchers.
  • 5:58 - 6:01
    The first one is, employers
    are worried that relaunchers
  • 6:01 - 6:03
    are technologically obsolete.
  • 6:03 - 6:05
    Now, I can tell you,
  • 6:05 - 6:08
    having been technologically
    obsolete myself at one point,
  • 6:08 - 6:10
    that it's a temporary condition.
  • 6:11 - 6:17
    I had done my financial analysis
    so long ago that I used Lotus 1-2-3.
  • 6:17 - 6:20
    I don't know if anyone
    can even remember back that far,
  • 6:20 - 6:22
    but I had to relearn it on Excel.
  • 6:22 - 6:25
    It actually wasn't that hard.
    A lot of the commands are the same.
  • 6:26 - 6:28
    I found PowerPoint much more challenging,
  • 6:28 - 6:30
    but now I use PowerPoint all the time.
  • 6:31 - 6:36
    I tell relaunchers that employers
    expect them to come to the table
  • 6:36 - 6:39
    with a working knowledge
    of basic office management software,
  • 6:39 - 6:41
    and if they're not up to speed,
  • 6:41 - 6:43
    then it's their
    responsibility to get there.
  • 6:44 - 6:45
    And they do.
  • 6:45 - 6:49
    The second area of concern
    that employers have about relaunchers
  • 6:49 - 6:52
    is they're worried that relaunchers
    don't know what they want to do.
  • 6:53 - 6:56
    I tell relaunchers that they need
    to do the hard work
  • 6:56 - 6:59
    to figure out whether their interests
    and skills have changed
  • 6:59 - 7:01
    or have not changed
  • 7:01 - 7:03
    while they have been on career break.
  • 7:03 - 7:05
    That's not the employer's job.
  • 7:05 - 7:10
    It's the relauncher's responsibility
    to demonstrate to the employer
  • 7:10 - 7:12
    where they can add the most value.
  • 7:12 - 7:15
    Back in 2010 I started noticing something.
  • 7:16 - 7:20
    I had been tracking
    return to work programs since 2008,
  • 7:20 - 7:23
    and in 2010, I started noticing
  • 7:23 - 7:27
    the use of a short-term
    paid work opportunity,
  • 7:27 - 7:29
    whether it was called
    an internship or not,
  • 7:29 - 7:32
    but an internship-like experience,
  • 7:32 - 7:35
    as a way for professionals
    to return to work.
  • 7:35 - 7:38
    I saw Goldman Sachs and Sara Lee
  • 7:38 - 7:41
    start corporate reentry
    internship programs.
  • 7:41 - 7:46
    I saw a returning engineer,
    a nontraditional reentry candidate,
  • 7:46 - 7:50
    apply for an entry-level
    internship program in the military,
  • 7:50 - 7:53
    and then get a permanent job afterward.
  • 7:53 - 7:57
    I saw two universities
    integrate internships
  • 7:57 - 8:00
    into mid-career executive
    education programs.
  • 8:00 - 8:03
    So I wrote a report
    about what I was seeing,
  • 8:03 - 8:06
    and it became this article
    for Harvard Business Review
  • 8:06 - 8:08
    called "The 40-Year-Old Intern."
  • 8:08 - 8:11
    I have to thank the editors
    there for that title,
  • 8:11 - 8:12
    and also for this artwork
  • 8:12 - 8:17
    where you can see the 40-year-old intern
    in the midst of all the college interns.
  • 8:17 - 8:20
    And then, courtesy of Fox Business News,
  • 8:20 - 8:23
    they called the concept
    "The 50-Year-Old Intern."
  • 8:23 - 8:25
    (Laughter)
  • 8:25 - 8:29
    And just last month, a movie came out,
    called "The Intern",
  • 8:29 - 8:32
    that brought us the 70 year old intern.
  • 8:32 - 8:34
    (Laughter)
  • 8:34 - 8:38
    Robert De Niro plays the role
    of a 70 year old retiree
  • 8:38 - 8:40
    who comes out of retirement
  • 8:40 - 8:44
    to become the intern for the CEO
    of a fast growing company,
  • 8:44 - 8:45
    played by Anne Hathaway.
  • 8:46 - 8:49
    I haven't seen very many
    70 year old interns.
  • 8:50 - 8:54
    But these non-traditional internships
    are not just in the movies.
  • 8:54 - 8:58
    Five of the biggest
    financial services companies
  • 8:58 - 9:02
    have reentry internship programs
    for returning finance professionals,
  • 9:02 - 9:06
    and at this point,
    hundreds of people have participated.
  • 9:06 - 9:07
    These internships are paid,
  • 9:07 - 9:10
    and the people who move on
    to permanent roles
  • 9:10 - 9:13
    are commanding competitive salaries.
  • 9:14 - 9:17
    And now, seven of the biggest
    engineering companies
  • 9:17 - 9:21
    are piloting reentry internship programs
    for returning engineers
  • 9:21 - 9:25
    as part of an initiative
    with the Society of Women Engineers.
  • 9:26 - 9:30
    Now, why are companies embracing
    the reentry internship?
  • 9:31 - 9:34
    Because the internship allows the employer
  • 9:34 - 9:38
    to base their hiring decision
    on an actual work sample
  • 9:38 - 9:40
    instead of a series of interviews,
  • 9:40 - 9:43
    and the employer does not have to make
    that permanent hiring decision
  • 9:44 - 9:46
    until the internship period is over.
  • 9:47 - 9:51
    This testing out period
    removes the perceived risk
  • 9:51 - 9:54
    that some managers attach
    to hiring relaunchers,
  • 9:54 - 9:57
    and they are attracting
    excellent candidates
  • 9:57 - 9:59
    who are turning into great hires.
  • 9:59 - 10:01
    Think about how far we have come.
  • 10:02 - 10:05
    Before this, most employers
    were not interested
  • 10:05 - 10:07
    in engaging with relaunchers at all,
  • 10:07 - 10:11
    but now, not only
    are programs being developed
  • 10:11 - 10:13
    specifically with relaunchers in mind,
  • 10:13 - 10:16
    but you can't even apply
    for these programs
  • 10:16 - 10:18
    unless you have a gap on your resume.
  • 10:19 - 10:21
    This is the mark of real change,
  • 10:21 - 10:23
    of true institutional shift,
  • 10:23 - 10:27
    because if we can solve
    this problem for relaunchers,
  • 10:27 - 10:31
    we can solve it for other
    career transitioners too.
  • 10:31 - 10:33
    In fact, an employer just told me
  • 10:33 - 10:35
    that their veterans return to work program
  • 10:35 - 10:38
    is based on their reentry
    internship program.
  • 10:39 - 10:43
    And there's no reason why there can't be
    a retiree internship program.
  • 10:43 - 10:45
    Just like in the movie "The Intern".
  • 10:46 - 10:48
    Different pool, same concept.
  • 10:49 - 10:51
    So let me tell you
    what happened with Tracy Shapiro.
  • 10:51 - 10:54
    Remember I told her
  • 10:54 - 10:56
    that she had to tell everyone she knew
  • 10:56 - 10:58
    about her interest in returning to work.
  • 10:58 - 11:02
    Well, one critical conversation
    with another parent in her community
  • 11:02 - 11:04
    led to a job offer for Tracy,
  • 11:05 - 11:07
    and it was an accounting job
    in a finance department.
  • 11:07 - 11:09
    But it was a temp job.
  • 11:09 - 11:12
    The company told her
    there was a possibility
  • 11:12 - 11:15
    it could turn into something more,
    but no guarantees.
  • 11:15 - 11:18
    This was in the fall of 2011.
  • 11:18 - 11:21
    Tracy loved this company,
    and she loved the people
  • 11:21 - 11:24
    and the office was less
    than 10 minutes from her house.
  • 11:24 - 11:26
    So even though she had a second job offer
  • 11:26 - 11:29
    at another company
    for a permanent full-time role,
  • 11:29 - 11:33
    she decided to take her chances
    with this internship
  • 11:33 - 11:34
    and hope for the best.
  • 11:36 - 11:39
    Well, she ended up blowing away
    all of their expectations,
  • 11:39 - 11:41
    and the company not only
    made her a permanent offer
  • 11:41 - 11:43
    at the beginning of 2012,
  • 11:43 - 11:46
    but they made it even more
    interesting and challenging,
  • 11:46 - 11:48
    because they knew what Tracy could handle.
  • 11:49 - 11:51
    Fast forward to 2015,
  • 11:51 - 11:53
    Tracy's been promoted.
  • 11:53 - 11:55
    They've paid for her
    to get her MBA at night.
  • 11:55 - 11:59
    She's even hired another relauncher
    for work for her.
  • 12:00 - 12:04
    Tracy's temp job was a tryout,
  • 12:04 - 12:05
    just like an internship,
  • 12:05 - 12:11
    and it ended up being a win
    for both Tracy and her employer.
  • 12:12 - 12:16
    Now, my goal is to bring
    the reentry internship concept
  • 12:16 - 12:19
    to more and more employers,
  • 12:19 - 12:21
    but in the meantime,
  • 12:21 - 12:24
    if you are returning to work
    after a career break,
  • 12:24 - 12:30
    don't hesitate to suggest an internship
    or an internship-like arrangement
  • 12:30 - 12:36
    to an employer that does not have
    a formal reentry internship program.
  • 12:36 - 12:38
    Be their first success story,
  • 12:38 - 12:42
    and you can be the example
    for more relaunchers to come.
  • 12:42 - 12:44
    Thank you.
  • 12:44 - 12:46
    (Applause)
Title:
How to get back to work after a career break | Carol Fishman Cohen | TEDxBeaconStreet
Description:

If you've taken a career break and are now looking to return to the workforce, would you consider taking an internship? Career reentry expert Carol Fishman Cohen thinks you should. In this talk, hear about Cohen's own experience as a 40-year-old intern, her work championing the success of "relaunchers" and how employers are changing how they engage with return-to-work talent.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

more » « less
Video Language:
English
Team:
closed TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
12:53

English subtitles

Revisions Compare revisions