Getting Started

Why older jobseekers should explore the world of “returnships”

Written by Eric Titner

Those among us who have been in the workforce for a while have no doubt witnessed a tidal wave of change in the work world—everything from technological innovation to globalization and how employers and employees approach the very notion of work has undergone seismic shifts in recent years, and it can be a real challenge to keep up.

If you’re someone who has taken a career break—for whatever reason—and are looking to jump back in to employment, the challenge to get up to speed can be even more daunting. On top of this perception gap, your skill set and industry knowledge may need a refresh or revamp.

What is a returnship and who is it for?

Although this may seem like an insurmountable obstacle, jumping back into an industry in order to build a new career is completely doable. Companies are recognizing that a significant and potentially valuable segment of the workforce consists of those who are looking to return to work after an extended absence, and are making a real effort to help these individuals make the transition back.

As a result, we’re seeing a rise in the number of companies that are offering “returnships,” which are essentially internships for experienced job hunters who are looking to return to work but need a refresher period—to get up to speed regarding changes in their industry and rebuild their skills. In many instances, individuals who re-enter the workforce through a returnship are able to get back on their professional feet, prove themselves, and get satisfying full-time positions.

How to find a returnship opportunity

Does this sound like just the sort of opportunity you’re looking for? If so, there are a few options for snagging a returnship. Some companies have established structured returnship programs that you can apply to, and the number of companies who are developing similar initiatives is on the rise.

For example, IBM has a formal 12-week reentry program for experienced technologists as part of its initiative to diversify its workforce and source the best available talent at various levels. You can search directly to determine companies in your industry who have similar programs; often, companies will provide information for applying for returnship and open employment positions directly on their websites. Try creating a targeted list of companies in your field that you’d like to work for, and do some research to determine if they offer returnship or reentry programs that you might be qualified for. If not, you can always contact their HR departments and suggest that they consider starting such a program—if you can effectively convince them of the potential benefits for doing so you just may be among their first set of program participants.

Returning to work after an extended absence can be a real challenge in today’s rapidly changing, ultra-competitive work environment—but it certainly isn’t an impossible mission. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while and are eager to get back in, consider a returnship program in your area. It just might be the perfect bridge between your current situation and full-time employment.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.