If you are planning to have children in the future, or you’re in the middle of a break from the business world because you’ve recently had kids, the idea of taking time away from your career can be both appealing and daunting. Losing the momentum on your career trajectory may be less than ideal, but there’s a trend that’s gaining traction in countless companies, now. It’s called the returnship, and it is designed with parents in mind.
Taking several years off work, with no strategy for re-entry into the workforce, will likely leave you at the bottom of the pecking order wherever you end up looking for a job. Depending on the number of years you’ve spent away from your industry, there may be some minor changes, or massive shifts in technology. And yet, your experience puts you far ahead of most entry-level positions.
The returnship is like an internship, but for experienced, more mature individuals looking to gain a foothold and update their skills, after years away. It seems to have been initially developed by Goldman Sachs, close to 10 years ago, but there are more than 100 companies that now have returnship programmes, worldwide. Programmes last anywhere from two to twelve weeks, and while there’s no guarantee of hiring at the end, many do end up staying on at the company where they participated.
Every company approaches their returnship programme slightly differently. Some may pair you with a young intern who can update your technological savvy by introducing you to new software in your field. Others may feel more like a weeks-long interview process, where both parties decide at the end whether it’s a good fit.
There are plenty of good reasons to try one of these returnships out. For instance, many parents end up having multiple children over a shorter period of time, leaving very little time to return to work between pregnancies. This can add up to five or six years away, and these days, the technology and software being used can completely change in just a year or two. Six years is a lifetime, in technology terms. Having the option to become acquainted with what is new, so that your CV can reflect current skills, rather than magnifying your outdated ones, is an ideal way to make yourself more marketable.
Sometimes, a parent may choose to stay home with their children for the duration of their childhood, creating an even longer gap since the last time they worked. According to an article in The Financial Times, these people, often older women, end up working in low-level, part-time jobs, nowhere near their previous skill set. A returnship is a way for companies to bring back highly-skilled personnel with emotional maturity and organizational skills that just aren’t present in younger recruits.
There are arguments against the concept and practice of this returnship. For instance, taking part in a returnship is no guarantee that a company will hire you at the end. Essentially, that means several months of low-paying work for a company that doesn’t want you. An intern participating in a work-study programme goes back to school when the programme ends, but where does a person go who has just participated in a returnship programme? They are back to square one, looking for work through an agency or through their old contacts and, as Stacey Hawley writes for Working Mother, explaining to subsequent interviewers why you weren’t hired after your 12-week placement.
Only you can figure out what’s best for you, once you make the decision to return to the workforce. However, it’s nice to know that there are more options to help you transition than there used to be.