We’re all familiar with internships as great ways to introduce new members of the workforce to their future careers.  But what about those who have been successful in their professions for years – but then took a break from their industry?  Whether by choice or obligation, career gaps happen often to professionals across the board. Once these professionals are ready and able to return to work, it’s important that they’re offered support and guidance to re-integrate them into their field. 

What is a Returnship?

Returnships are career relaunch programs that help individuals return to work more seamlessly after taking a break. Returnship programs are typically paid, and last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Participants receive support, training, and mentorship while also adding value to their returnship company. The goal of returnships is to leave participants feeling better equipped to pick their careers back up without having to start with an entry-level position in their industry.

After a returnship ends, participants will often have the chance to apply for a full-time job at the company they did their returnship with.  Or, even if that’s not an option, they’ll have refreshed skills and an updated resume to launch their next job search with confidence.

When Would a Returnship Be Useful for Employees?

While career gaps used to be something employees strived to avoid on their resumes, they’ve become a lot more common and accepted in more recent years – especially during and after the pandemic. According to a 2022 LinkedIn Survey, over 62% of the nearly 23,000 professionals surveyed have taken a career gap at some point during their career.   

Common reasons that professionals have a career gap include:

  • Caregiving for family members
  • Raising children
  • Recovering from illness or injury
  • Pursuing other interests
  • Retirement 

Benefits to Return to Work Programs for Employers

Returnships aren’t only for the employee – employers can benefit from these return to work programs, too. If you’re considering offering a returnship program, your company could reap the following benefits:

Broaden the Pool of Candidates for Open Job Positions

It’s possible that, due to their more untraditional career path, the professionals in your returnship program would not have met the job qualifications on your open job postings. A returnship program can help companies make sure that they’re not overlooking great candidates whose backgrounds might not align with the typical education or employment history requirements on job postings. While working with your company’s returnship participants, you might find the ideal job candidate that you never would have met otherwise.

Bring in Fresh Perspectives, Backgrounds, and Experiences into the Company Culture

Returnships provide a way for your company to bring in professionals who likely took a different path to get there than many of your current staff members did. Bringing in a few fresh sets of eyes to look at the way the department works can start generating new ideas and refresh motivation. 

How to Make a Returnship Program Work at Your Company

As your company heads into the next year, it could be time to consider wether offering a returnship program is right for your business. Here’s how your company can offer a successful returnship program:

Set Up the Logistics

Most returnship programs are geared toward professionals who have left the career field for a year or more.  Your company should determine how long of a career break an individual needs to have taken in order to qualify for your returnship program, and make that clear on the application posting.  It’s also important to determine what compensation your returnship participants will receive, how long the program will last, and what it will entail.  You’ll want to set clear expectations of what job functions the participants will perform at your company, and what type of mentorship and training they should expect to receive.

Help Participants in your Return to Work Program Regain Their Footing

Keep in mind that the goal of the returnship is to help the participants feel prepared to re-enter the workforce as competent professionals.  Help returnship professionals build confidence at work through a good mixture of professional development and hands-on experience.

A great way to integrate returnship participants into your team and also equip them to be confident leaders in their next role is by involving them in an engaging leadership-building activity like Leadership Stories. Team building activities like that can help individuals naturally improve their leadership skills while enjoying time together as a group.

Immerse Renturnship Participants into the Company Culture

Take time to make sure that returnship participants feel included in the company culture.  It can be intimidating to enter a company as a new and temporary member of the team, especially if there are only a couple of returnships offered at your company at a time.  Ensure that returnship participants have an opportunity to network with the other employees in your office. Team building activities for the workplace (or virtual team building activities if you’re a remote office) can be a great way to do this. Events like the Nexus Speed Networking Event provide a quick and entertaining way to get your returnship participants and full-time employees talking and connecting! 

Keep an Eye Out for Participants Who Would Be Excellent Full-Time Employees

And of course, don’t forget that the highlight of this experience is potentially finding an ideal new permanent fit for your company. Throughout the returnship, you’ll have the chance to see if these professionals who are ready to return to the workforce could be the next great employees at your business.

Anna Webber

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