A Returnship Can Help You Rejoin the Workforce
Taking a break to be a caregiver doesn’t have to break your career.
You left your job a few years ago to raise your children or care for an aging parent. Now you’re more than ready to restart your career. But how do you approach potential employers when you have a substantial gap on your resume? Companies are finding a solution to this scenario that benefits both themselves and employees. It’s called a returnship.
Why Do People Take Career Breaks?
There are plenty of reasons people press pause on their careers. Some have to leave their jobs to care for aging or ill relatives. Working parents may even have their pay or hours reduced (or quit their job altogether) in order to stay home full-time to care for their children.
Other employees who temporarily leave the workforce include retired military, those with temporary health issues, entrepreneurs who started businesses that did not succeed, and retirees who have realized they’re not ready to stop working.
But an article in Time magazine points out what many caregivers know—once you leave the workforce, it can be very difficult to find a way back in. To take just one example, of the women who take a career break to raise children, 93 percent want to return to work. About 74 percent find a way to return, but just 40 percent find full-time jobs. One potential answer to this problem is to apply to returnships.
What Is a Returnship?
Returnships—also called return-to-work programs—are structured like an internship. Internships offer people a chance to learn new skills in a given industry by working on a temporary basis that can last anywhere from a few months to a year. Return-to-work programs are open to people who have worked full-time for at least five years prior to taking a break of two years or longer. Returnship participants receive training that updates and builds on the skills they already have.
Return-to-work programs are primarily found at large tech, finance, and consulting firms. These are paid positions, sometimes with benefits, and are usually full-time.
The primary focus of training tends to be on bringing returners up to date on new trends in their field, software, and technologies. This can include new coding languages, sales-tracking programs, phone-based apps, social media, regulations, and virtual meeting technology. Returnships also boost participants’ confidence and give them connections back to the working world through dedicated mentorship and networking.
At the end of the program, workers are often hired by the company they worked for. But even if a returner’s program does not result in an immediate job offer, participants have new skills and experience to update their resumes, which will make it easier to apply for other positions.
How to Find a Returnship
While you could approach companies one by one to see if they offer a program for returners, there are resources that help to match returning employees to companies. One example is a non-profit group called Path Forward, which has helped numerous companies create return-to-work programs. They’ve seen about 80 percent of the participating returners hired full-time at the conclusion of their programs.
Which Companies Offer Returnships?
Hundreds of companies offer returnships—and they’re becoming more common. One of the most popular programs is Amazon’s. It started when a group of female workers with children formed a group called the “Momazonians.” The group of 2,000 developed a 16-week paid and benefit-eligible program to help former workers who had taken time off to care for children reintegrate into the workforce. Participants receive feedback throughout the process and may be offered full-time employment at Amazon upon completion of the program.
Other well-known companies that have created return-to-work programs include:
- Asana: 18-Week Return-to-Work Program
- Audible: Next Chapter
- Comcast: Act Two
- Intuit: Again
- Microsoft: LEAP Engineering Acceleration Program
- P. Morgan: ReEntry
How to Apply to a Returnship
Just like with any job, you’ll need a resume, cover letter, and references to apply for a return-to-work program. And of course, once your application is chosen, you’ll need to prepare for a few rounds of job interviews. Here’s how to get started.
1. Update Your Resume
Even though you might be a little rusty, you know the value of a good resume. Dust off the one you used previously or start from scratch using one of the samples from the Monster library.
Since you’re applying for a return-to-work program, the employer expects to see a gap in employment. But you don’t have to leave a blank space on your resume to represent the time you were away from the corporate world. Include part-time, freelance, and volunteer work like chairing a committee or leading a fundraising event at your child’s school, especially if you learned new skills in the process.
2. Write a Cover Letter
For job seekers who want to return to the workforce after an extended break, your cover letter can be even more important than your resume. Use your cover letter to emphasize your enthusiasm for the program, go into depth about your experience, and briefly explain why you took a break. We have a sample cover letter for an unemployed job seeker to help you get started.
3. Gather References
It’s a great idea to keep in touch with your network even when you’re taking a career break. But, if you’re like many caregivers, you might have found yourself a little too busy buying groceries, going to doctor’s appointments, or changing diapers to send holiday cards to business contacts every year.
The good news is that it’s never too late to reconnect with your professional network. Before you apply to a returnship, spend a little time writing emails, chatting on the phone, or getting coffee with contacts you haven’t spoken to in a while. Then, when you ask for a reference, your contacts will know what you’ve been up to and what your new career goals are.
4. Apply Online
In addition to submitting a standard application package, most programs will ask candidates to complete an online questionnaire that asks how long you’ve been out of the workforce and how many years of experience you had before you left.
5. Ace Your Interview
When you get the opportunity to interview for a returnship, there are some essential things to keep in mind. First, be positive rather than apologetic. Leaving a job to care for a loved one is a noble cause and one that is familiar to hiring managers. Then, to put the employer at ease, emphasize that it was a one-time situation that is now resolved rather than a recurring pattern. Finally, discuss what you learned during your time away from the workforce and why you’re excited to restart your career.
Beyond the Returnship: Monster Is Here to Help You Jump Back In
Every returner needs a multi-pronged approach to their job search: While you’re applying for returnships, try going directly back into the pond by searching here on Monster to see what’s available in your field. The first step is to create a Monster profile. We can put your resume in front of recruiters and employers who are constantly looking for new candidates. You can also get job opportunities emailed to you as they’re posted. You took a big step to leave the workforce, now it’s time for Monster to help you step back in.