Friday, May 07, 2021

On Tuesday, March 21, at Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Project Ezrah will host speaker Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch, a career re-entry firm focusing on helping people return to work after a career break. The evening will explain the concept of relaunchers as well as offer strategies, resources and insight on what it takes to plan a return to work after an extended career break.

A relauncher herself, Cohen took an 11-year career break while raising her four children. She re-entered the financial industry in 2001 and understands firsthand the transition period after one returns from a prolonged leave. Feeling very isolated during that time, she, along with her colleague Vivian Steir Rabin, co-authored a book called “Back on the Career Track,” often referred to as the bible of career re-entry. While researching information for the book, they interviewed over 100 women and spoke with various recruiters and employers. Throughout this process, they were often asked to speak at conferences and create programs, which ultimately led to the creation of iRelaunch in 2007. Their first order of business was to establish their own return-to-work event titled the “iRelaunch Return to Work Conference,” which is held annually at Columbia University in New York City. The conference is extremely popular and sells out every year. Last fall there were over 600 people in attendance and close to 200 waitlisted. Cohen’s TED Talk “How to get back to work after a career break” has been viewed almost 1.5 million times and translated into 27 languages. People and companies from all over the world get in touch after they view the TED Talk.

A relauncher can be anyone who has taken an extended leave from work for various reasons, most often but not exclusive to child or elder care. It can be as little as two or as long as 20 years; no matter what the timeframe, many companies offer job opportunities to this population of people. There are a growing number of companies in various industries nationwide that are piloting re-entry programs. These programs are basically internships offering potential candidates the chance to re-enter their field or perhaps a new field, and transition back into a viable career. “From the company’s perspective, using internships as a testing ground lowers the perceived risk of engaging with the return-to-work pool. Not only can the company evaluate the intern on an actual work sample instead of a series of interviews, but the company does not have to make the permanent hiring decision until the internship period is over,” explains Cohen. “The conversion rates from interns to long-term hires is impressively high; for example, the financial services sector reentry programs are ‘converting’ roughly 50 percent to over 90 percent of their interns depending on the program and the year.”

There are a variety of strengths in the relauncher pool and employees are recognizing this. Relaunchers are typically very energetic and enthusiastic about re-entering the workforce, and once trained, often accelerate at a fast pace. In addition, they are usually at a more stable stage of life, allowing them an uninterrupted return to work.

Rachel Book, director of diversity and recruiting for a large financial services firm, sees the expansion of relaunching programs as a renaissance. She believes relaunchers have a perspective that add significant value as is evident in the success of re-entry internship programs. A Teaneck resident, Book volunteers for Project Ezrah’s Career Readiness Development Program and is delighted to be able to offer the community an opportunity to hear from Cohen, a true leader in the field of relaunchers. “In our community, there is an increased amount of financial pressure often creating a sudden need to return to work,” articulated Book. She believes that there is a vast amount of people who could benefit from this discussion.

“We are excited that Rachel Book volunteered to leverage her network to get a fantastic speaker to engage our community on a very real topic. We hope anyone considering getting back to the workforce in any capacity will take advantage of this opportunity,” commented Jeff Mendelson, director of employment at Project Ezrah.

The evening will focus on strategies to help candidates re-enter the workforce equipped with the necessary skills to succeed. After an extended leave, many applicants feel bewildered by the application process itself and lack the confidence required to get back out there. Cohen will discuss confidence-building strategies, resources for learning necessary office skills, how to go public with your job search and ultimately how to explain your career break to an interviewer.

Cohen will offer participants an opportunity to ask questions and share concerns. There are many members of the community that for one reason or another are seeking an opportunity to get back to work. Through the help of Project Ezrah’s Career Readiness Development Program and the generosity of Carol Fishman Cohen, this evening is sure to offer a wealth of information and guidance to those individuals. The event is free of charge and will be held at Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 389 West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck at 7 p.m.

By Andrea Nissel