Forbes | Taking a Career Break? Talk to This Woman First

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Keynoting at her iRelaunch Return to Work Conference (Courtesy Zacker Images)

Carol Fishman Cohen is the Co-founder of iRelaunch, a company dedicated to connecting on-ramping professionals returning to work with employers interested in hiring from this talent pool. iRelaunch has engaged in over 230 return-to-work programs and presentations and maintains a vast network of connections with university alumni associations and professional organizations to help reach millions of relaunchers internationally.

Cohen's TED Talk How to Get Back to Work After a Career Break has been translated into 25 languages and has been viewed over 1.3 million times. She is also the co-leader of the STEM Reentry Task Force with the Society of Women Engineers, which in 2016 had seven global engineering-based companies piloting reentry internship programs with more to come in 2017. Career breaks have long been typical for women, and an increasing number of men find themselves needing the insights that Cohen provides for a successful return to the workforce. Sooner or later, all of us may need the help that Cohen and her partners at iRelaunch can provide.

Pivotal Moment of Reinvention

Resuming my career at age 42, and after 11 years out of the full time workforce, by joining Bain Capital, and then having that journey become the subject of a Harvard Business School case study.

Role Model

One of the highlights of our book research for Back on the Career Track was interviewing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in person (she hadn’t retired yet) about how she returned to work following five years at home with her sons. She is one of my most powerful role models.

Also, a personal hero of mine is Brenda Barnes, the former CEO of Pepsico North America who famously took a 7 year career break and returned as COO, and a short time later, CEO, of Sara Lee Corporation. Not only is she a role model for relaunchers, she also created Returnships@SaraLee in 2008, one of the first corporate reentry internship programs. At our 19th iRelaunch Return to Work Conference, before a capacity crowd at Columbia University, we awarded our very first iRelaunch Pioneering Relauncher Award to Brenda Barnes.

Biggest Current Goal

To work with groups of companies in a range of industry segments to create formal career reentry programs, especially involving internships, or internship-like experiences. To demonstrate to employers the quality of the return-to-work talent pool, and the important signaling to their Millennial employees that having a reentry program represents. Millennials are expected to take career breaks in large numbers, so this is an important point for forward-looking employers.

30th Birthday

I was just about to have my first child. Little did I know that, while on maternity leave with that child from my corporate finance job at Drexel Burnham Lambert, Drexel would collapse, precipitating my career break. I went on to have three more children over the next five years.

Professional Accomplishments that Make You Smile

1. Having multiple commercial publishers interested in our Back on the Career Track book proposal leading to an auction for the publishing rights.

2. Having my local TEDxBeaconStreet talk get elevated to the big TED platform where over 1.3 million people have viewed it – only about 3% of the local talks got elevated.

3. Originating and co-leading the STEM Reentry Task Force with the Society of Women Engineers, in which global companies such as IBM and GM have piloted and expanded reentry internship programs for returning technical professionals. One of the senior executives involved said the experience of piloting the program was the most significant and satisfying professional experience of her career.

4. Hearing from hundreds of relaunchers whose lives have been transformed by returning to work after a career break who say they couldn't have done it without iRelaunch.

Recent (Business) Reading

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis (excellent!). My favorite business book is When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management, by Roger Lowenstein.

This post originally published at Forbes

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