What Is a Returnship?

For people who've taken a career break, returnships might be just the thing to get them up to speed.

If you left the workforce for a while or have taken a break, you might be wondering what skills recruiters are looking for these days or how to explain resume gaps. Maybe you need to brush up on tech skills—like Slack or social media—that may not have been a part of the workplace before you took time off.

Returnships can help with all these—but what is a returnship, and how do you go about finding one?

What is a returnship?

“Returnships are designed to help professionals who have taken a career break, often for family or personal reasons, re-enter the workforce,” explains Michael Samuel, founder of CEOMichaelHR, a company that helps job seekers. “These programs are temporary positions that provide an opportunity for individuals to gain practical experience, build their professional networks, and transition back into full-time employment.”

Returnships are helpful for people who need to get used to a different work style (like decisions made on the spot) or for people who are re-entering into a virtual or hybrid work environment when all they’ve previously known is wearing a suit and working 9 to 5 in an office.

“Applying to a returnship rather than a permanent job removes one of the biggest obstacles to re-entering the workforce: the fact that employers normally prefer someone who has recent and relevant experience,” explains Kelly Donovan, principal of Kelly Donovan & Associates, a job search company. “Returnships are the opposite because they cater to candidates who have been out of the workforce for an extended period.”

Returnships indicate an acceptance of people who take time off for family or other personal reasons. “Employers are now recognizing the importance of supporting individuals who have taken extended periods away from work for various reasons and offering them a platform to re-enter the workforce,” explains career coach Brian Fenerty.

What are the benefits of a returnship?

Group of candidates waiting for their interview against a blue backgroundDean Mitchell/Getty Images

Learning

“Returnships give you the opportunity to learn about the latest industry insights and changes in a way that’s not overwhelming,” offers Andrew Fennell, former recruiter and director at StandOut CV. “This could be knowledge that you might not be able to pick up by reading industry publications yourself.”

Pacing

“Returnships are less of a mental challenge than heading straight back into a full-time role, as the returnship is a set program with designed milestones/goals specific to certain types of employees,” says Fennell.

Confidence building

“Going through a returnship program can help you regain your confidence in the professional world after an extended break,” says Darren Shafae, founder of ResumeBlaze. “You’ll be able to show employers that you have the skills and experience they’re looking for and make yourself stand out in a competitive job market.”

Updating skills

Skills, particularly tech skills, need to be updated regularly, and it can be hard to figure out how to catch up. “Returnships provide a great opportunity to brush up on the latest technology and trends in the industry,” Shafae explains. “Through hands-on experience, you’ll learn how to use current software and hardware technologies.” It can also be a way to brush up on your soft skills after time away.

Adding to your network

Everyone needs a network, especially those returning to work who could benefit from guidance and mentorship. “Returnships are ideal for expanding your network,” Fenerty says. Don’t forget to brush up on how to network.

You may get the job!

Like internships, many companies offer returnships because they’re looking to hire. “The companies that are running these programs are looking to hire from the ranks of returners, and that alone may make them worth the time and effort,” Fenerty says.

Companies that offer returnship programs

You can find returnship programs at a number of companies including:

Sources:

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Jaime Stathis
Jaime Alexis Stathis is a nonfiction writer who covers humans, wildlife, technology, social justice, and everything related to being a human being on a constantly evolving planet. Jaime is working on a novel about a heroine who saves herself and a memoir about caring for her grandmother through the dark stages of dementia.