Back to work

Back to work

iRelaunch helps women reenter the workforce

Carol Fishman Cohen, left, and Rachel Book
Carol Fishman Cohen, left, and Rachel Book

If you are a woman, sitting on your couch, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life, then put March 21 at 7 p.m. on your calendar. That’s when Carol Fishman Cohen will talk about how you can go about finding a job that’s right for you.

For those of you who have never heard of her, Ms. Fishman Cohen is the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch. This organization is dedicated to helping women become “relaunchers,” restarting their careers or even starting new ones, after they have been out of the work place for an extended period of time. Ms. Fishman Cohen gave a TED talk, “How to get back to work after a career break.” Clearly she hit a nerve with it, because it was viewed over 1.4 million times and has been translated into 27 languages. She also wrote a Harvard Business Review Article, “The 40 Year Old Intern.” iRelaunch runs seminars that advise women on all aspects of rejoining the workplace, including resume writing, interviewing techniques, and everything in between; it also runs meetings, similar to job fairs, where companies and future employees come to meet each other.

In other words, iRelaunch gives its participants every opportunity to relaunch into the business world.

Rachel Book of Bergenfield is responsible for connecting Ms. Fishman Cohen with Project Ezrah, a local organization that helps people who are unemployed or are in financial crisis.”Some women choose not to go back to work after they have children, or if they are in a caregiving position to someone who is ill,” Ms. Book said. “But the years go by, and they find themselves in a position where they either want to go back to work, or for financial reasons, they need to go back to work.

“Whatever the reason may be, they just don’t know where to start. This is where Carol Fishman Cohen can help.”

Ms. Book leads diversity recruiting strategies for a large financial services firm. Before that, she built and led similar programs at Bloomberg and AT&T. She has 18 years of experience in corporate recruiting. In the last seven or so years, she has been focused on helping companies build strategies to attract diverse talent — people who come from communities that are underrepresented in the workforce or who are members of protected classes. She works to recruit women to finance and tech, as well as African Americans and Latinos, military veterans, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBT. Part of Ms. Book’s job has been running internships for women who are getting back into the workplace after career breaks. “Some of them have been out for two years, some longer, but we give them mentors and teach them technology skills and reintroduce them to the corporate culture,” she said. Ms. Book has found that not all the women with whom she works decide to stay in those jobs, she said, but even if half of them do, that means it’s been a success.

Ms. Book approached Project Ezrah late last year and volunteered to create career programming and resources specifically for women, whose needs often are not the same as men’s. “There are so many challenges facing women looking to return to work after an extended career break,” she said. “They aren’t sure if they want to continue in the same career area, they don’t know how to represent their nonprofit, volunteer, or Rodan + Fields experience, they are disconnected from their professional networks, and they are really intimidated by technology.” (Rodan + Fields is a skincare line that recruits salespeople online.) So Ms. Book met with Project Ezrah’s director, Robert Hoenig, hoping, at first, for a women’s career initiative that could address those needs.

The first part of that initiative was a talk given at the Young Israel of Teaneck about the work that goes into a job search — researching what’s available, writing a resume networking. The second part, which is going on now, is called the Maayanot Genius Bar. It’s for women who are looking to learn about technology but are intimidated by it. Ms. Book employ s “reverse mentoring,” with students working with adults, tutoring them. “It has been a really successful venture,” Ms. Book said. “The students love being able to teach their ‘students,’ and everyone is finding it mutually beneficial.”

The Genius Bar meets during Maayanot’s club period — Wednesdays from 11:40 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. The last class will meet on March 22. When they signed up for the class, women were able to indicate in which areas they need help. This ranges from understanding Google drive to photo editing to a general knowledge of social media.

Chani Karen Laifer of Teaneck, an attorney now in private practice, specializing in matrimonial law, went back to work after 15 years. “The experience was daunting at first,” she said. “But I realized what a positive example I was setting for my daughters. It’s difficult if we view it as fulfilling one role at the expense of the other. We as women need to find the right balance between our professional and personal lives.”

Gila Guzman of Teaneck, who now is known as “Coach Gila” and is the founder of Main Asset health (, went from being an attorney to a nutritional coach. “It’s OK to invest in a career and then change your mind,” she said. “Yes, it’s scary, but feel the fear and do it anyway. Move outside your comfort zone — that is where the magic happens.

“If you realize that you have a passion for something else, go after it, even though it may be hard for a few years.”

Who: Carol Fishman Cohen

What: Will talk about job searching for women, for Project Ezrah

Where: At Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 389 West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck

When: On Tuesday, March 21, at 7 p.m.

RSVP: Email

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