Reserved for seasoned workers, a returnship is a short-term, non-commital way to recruit and support talented employees. Pay - if offered – is often less than what you may earn in a full-time post, but the potential to get hired after the stint is usually solid. The trend is quite popular, particularly among the stay-at-hom mom set seeking employment after several years out of the labor force.
Carol Fishman Cohen, author of Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, as well as the co-founder of the career re-entry program iRelaunch, says returnships are for those who “typically have a big gap on their resume, a number of years out of the workforce…and hiring managers view that gap in different ways.” In an Internet-based field, for example, missing a year or two could mean a chasm of lost experience that could make it difficult to land a job.
Returnships gives mature workers a chance to prove their value and perhaps more importantly, offer training that can help someone who’s been away get accustomed to changes in the field that can ease re-entry.
Returnships are also a great deal for employers. There’s a massive amount of talent available in more mature workers. In fact, almost all potential returnship candidates hold bachelor’s degrees, 75% hold graduate degrees, and three-quarters worked for at least a decade before taking their break, says Fishman Cohen. She writes in the Harvard Business Review:
“Returning professionals offer enlightened employers a rare opportunity: They allow them to hire people who have a level of maturity and experience not found in younger recruits and who are at a life stage where parental leaves and spousal job relocations are most likely behind them. In short, these applicants are an excellent investment.”
Goldman Sachs was one of the first firms to launch such a program – they coined the term when they offered a returnship program for the first time in 2008, and due to it’s success, has since tripled its size. Food giant Sara Lee, and even online retailers, software companies and start-ups are launching similar opportunities. Sometimes referred to as “Executive Internships”, candidates are invited to a trial period lasting a period of weeks or months and, like college-aged interns, may earn little or no pay. But, they get the chance to prove they have what it takes to be hired full-time.
If you’re looking for a returnship, consider these steps:
Research Existing Programs
In addition to the ones mentioned, MIT, Pace Law School, the National Institutes of Health, and U Mass McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, are among employers with active returnship programs. Other organizations like Encore.org, championed by AARP, highlight the value of experience and maturity for older workers, and help connect opportunities with those seeking encore careers.
Attend Returnship Conferences
Regional meetings, such as the Return to Work Conference sponsored by iRelaunch, offer a great way to learn about trends, as well as opportunities to network with progressive employers.
Take Advantage of Placement Agencies
Staffing firm MomCorps specializes in flexible workplace solutions, and 10 Til 2 is a placement agency for part-time, professional gigs. Both agencies offer returning professionals resources into placement. For workers interested in trying out a new career, Vocation Vacations and Pivot Planet allow you to pay for mentoring or experience in your dream job.
Broaden Your Search
As well, traditional job boards are full of opportunities if you know how to dig. Search under “temp work”, “contract work”, “executive interns”, “special projects”, “externships” and “fellowships”. If a company is skeptical of a gap in your resume, suggest that they temporarily hire you for a returnship/internship, or in a consulting role. This shows them you’re serious and ready to prove your skills.
Take volunteer roles that are in line with your career goals. For example, if you want to manage construction, volunteer on a weekend build at Habitat for Humanity. This will add depth to a resume and can expand your contacts.
Use Who You Know
The fact is, 70 percent of hires still come through a personal connection. Finding a champion for you—either a friend, a fellow return-to-work-er, or simply someone who admires your work and skills. Keep in contact with former supervisors, peers and those who were junior to you, as those are the same people who will inevitably move on to managerial roles. You might even be able to find fill-in at a former employer: offer to cover maternity leaves, or do short-term projects or consulting work. And finally, keep up with your field: read articles, stay on mailing lists, and even send research or articles to your former employer to maintain the connection — and, to keep your competitive edge.