Many women will need to take a break from the workforce at some point in their careers to care for small children or aging parents. When they are ready to return, job seekers may find the re-entry rocky, but they can borrow a strategy from the movie “The Intern.” More businesses are welcoming the pool of skilled women who have a gap in their resumes. An increasing number of employers are offering temporary internships to help women pick up their careers again. Some are providing more formal “returnships” to help caregivers rebuild.
If you are planning to take a break or contemplating a return, you can look to some of those businesses as a model on how to shape a mid-career internship. They offer useful strategies on finding ways to strengthen skills and approach employers.
Here’s some advice from career counselors who have developed “returnship” programs:
Stay in touch: Don’t neglect networking from home while you are engaged in caregiving. Keep up with former co-workers and bosses. Reconnect with people you’ve let fall away while you are meeting new contacts at the grocery store or your child’s school play.
Develop professional skills: Take a professional development course or sign up for a new degree program. Go online for courses if scheduling time to sit in a classroom is difficult during your caregiving phase. Join new professional groups or renew your relationship with old ones; they can put you in touch with internships.
Consider a temporary job: Even if the work won’t last, you’ll rebuild confidence along with experience while exercising your skills. You can offer to work for a trial period at less than your market rate to get a foot in the door.
Don’t be shy: Taking a time-out to care for family is only going to become more common. Nearly one-third of college-educated women have done this already, and employers expect to see the numbers grown. Be honest about your need to take care of your family, and emphasize that you are ready to return to work.
You can find guidance by taking a look at these “returnship” programs:
Goldman Sachs pioneered and trademarked the “returnship” in 2008. Other financial giants that offer the programs are Credit Suisse and JPMorgan.
“Returnship” opportunities can be found at Baker Botts and the legal department of Amazon through The OnRamp Fellowship.
The Society for Women Engineers is working to expand the STEM Re-Entry Task Force, which helped provide 2015 and 2016 opportunities with seven companies.
A nonprofit, Path Forward, will be a spinoff from the 20-week paid “returnship” program of data solutions provider Return Path. The new non-profit will help other companies start their own programs.
A new website, Après, helps match returning workers with employers through options such as temporary work, pro bono work and contract consulting as well as traditional positions. The Après site targets employers who are looking for both experienced professionals who are out of the workforce as well as gender diversity.