What’s a Returnship and Where Can You Find One?

What is a returnship? 

Returnships, also known as career re-entry programs, are corporate programs made to help employees return to the workforce after a long hiatus. These programs are typically geared toward women, who disproportionately leave the workforce to raise children or care for relatives. With the pressure of balancing work and home responsibilities causing women to leave the workforce in droves, re-entry programs are a hot topic as a potential solution to help women re-enter the workforce. However, re-entry programs aren’t solely for women. Rather, they’re for anyone who’s had to take a work hiatus, including veterans or previous retirees. 

As Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion continue to be a growing focus in the workplace, major companies have invested in returnship programs as a way to broaden the talent pool and get and retain more women employees. If you’ve made the decision to re-enter the workplace, a returnship can feel like a soft landing. Depending on how long you’ve been out of work, a lot may have changed, including technology and work culture, for example. The benefit of such programs is that people get a chance to gain new skills, receive mentorship, make new connections, and some companies even offer permanent placement at the end, just like an internship. Large companies like Dell, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft have a re-entry program. 

Is a returnship right for me?

If a returnship is something you’re interested in, a simple Google search will produce a list of companies offering these opportunities. Just like any other job opportunity, it’s prudent to research the company and think critically about whether it is the right opportunity for you and whether it is aligned with your goals. You should evaluate a returnship opportunity in the same way you would any other job opportunity, including whether the company is a good place for women. 

While returnships seem like a great idea, the concept has its critics. Critics believe that re-entry programs undervalue women’s skills and experiences. Another criticism is that the programs are highly competitive and may not result in a permanent offer. It’s because of these criticisms that re-entry programs should be considered a last result, if you’re unable to gain employment by more traditional avenues. 

Alternatives to a returnship

Returnships aren’t the only way back into the workforce after a hiatus. Women looking to return to the workforce should start with a thorough career development plan, which will help them identify any skills gaps they may have. In addition to mitigating skill gaps, women should engage in networking activities to tap into the 70% of job opportunities that aren’t posted. In addition to networking, building a strong personal brand that reflects competence and experience, despite your hiatus, can help employers focus on what really matters – your skills and ability, not your time away. Lastly, creating a strong portfolio of work can help demonstrate your skills to a prospective employer and can help women achieve their goal of going back to work.