Why do you do what you do?

I want women (and men) who leave the work force to know they can resume their professional lives.

Taking a career break used to be considered “career suicide.” But, I survived it.

In 2001, I relaunched my career at a prominent investment firm after 11 years out of the full-time work force following the birth of my first of four children. It was unusual enough that HBS documented my experiences in a 2003 case. With no resources on the topic, and few role models, I had to figure everything out for myself. I learned the importance of thinking deeply about what I wanted for the next stage of my career.

I learned that my former co-workers still viewed me as the successful professional I had been, and didn’t share my self-doubts. I learned it was possible to update my pitifully out-of-date skills.

Together with Vivian Steir Rabin, HBS ’86, I co-authored the book we wish we could have consulted when navigating our own returns: Back on the Career Track (2007).

Today, through our company iRelaunch, we are on a mission to help others on career break and to impress upon employers the high quality and workforce readiness of returning professionals.

— Carol Fishman Cohen

Photography by Stephen Cohen