If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, a returnship may be what you need to build a bridge to your next job. It’s basically an internship designed for older and more experienced employees.
The concept was pioneered by Goldman Sachs in 2008, and has spread to more than 100 other companies. While professional women who took time off to have children are the most obvious candidates, it may be worthwhile for anyone who’s followed a nontraditional career path.
Show employers that you can still make a contribution. Take a look at how to use a returnship to relaunch your professional life.
Finding a Returnship
1. Browse online. Some organizations like iRelaunch and Path Forward specialize in providing resources for returning professionals. You can also search for information on LinkedIn and other general career sites.
2. Attend conferences. Industry events such as conferences and happy hours are an efficient way to meet company representatives face to face. Be ready to follow up if they express interest.
3. Use word of mouth. You can use your network for returnship leads the same way you rely on it for job hunting. Ask for introductions and referrals.
4. Contact previous employers. Maybe your last employer runs a reentry program or would like to start one. Invite a former colleague out to test the waters.
5. Go back to school. Smart companies are recruiting seasoned professionals from university continuing education programs. If you’re already taking courses, talk with your professors or check the campus career center.
Completing a Returnship
1. Clarify your expectations. Most programs offer no guarantee of employment, but some hire a high percentage of their graduates. Compensation also varies widely from no pay to a competitive rate. Ensure you understand and agree with the terms.
2. Find a mentor. Ideally, you’ll be assigned a mentor who can guide you through your transition. If not, see if you can find an employee you admire, and make your own arrangement.
3. Support your classmates. Being in a reentry program with other participants has its advantages. You can share experiences, encouragement, and feedback.
4. Expand your network. Use your temporary position to make lasting connections. Introduce yourself to at least 3 new colleagues each week. Attend social events and communicate in person when possible instead of relying on email.
5. Gather references. Are you running low on recent references? Once you make a positive impression, you can start asking others to vouch for you. That may include the program coordinator, your fellow returnees, and other company executives.
6. Brush up your skills. Maybe there was no such thing as coding and Groupon the last time you sat in a cubicle. Seek out tasks that will update your technology skills and help bring you up to speed on industry trends.
7. Polish your resume. Now that you’ve done the background work, you can put together a resume that search engines and hiring managers will love. Pay attention to effective keywords. Highlight your accomplishments and customize your pitch for each position.
8. Explore other options. While returnships offer many benefits, your career strategy needs to suit your individual strengths and vision. You may prefer to look for a permanent position immediately. You may decide that branding yourself as a contract worker or independent consultant better suits your professional image.
Preparing for the second act in your career is probably going to require more than sending out resumes. A returnship is one way to adjust back to office culture and a 9 to 5 routine while you develop new contacts and update your skills.