As career changes and professional breaks become more common, employers try to accommodate the employees by coming up with various initiatives facilitating the adjustment process. Life is now more dynamic than ever, so a more prominent understanding of taking breaks from work can be observed.
An employee who has pressed pause on their career for a bit, whatever their reason may be, is no less valuable - something that certain companies acknowledge by implementing returnship programmes.
A returnship is an initiative meant to aid employees returning to the workplace after an extended break in easing back into the professional environment. Its name derives from “internship”, as the idea behind it is similar. A returnship also constitutes a training period of extended mentorship, but is meant for those who already have certain experience in the field.
It doesn’t assume teaching everything from scratch, but rather cushions the impact of being hit with the reality of the professional world after having had limited contact with it for a few years. Certain changes might have occurred over that time, and the role of an internship is to help the employee catch up with them.
It is a commonly known fact that a skill we haven’t used for a long time becomes stagnant. If we know how to drive a car, we will never truly forget it, but it might take a while to remember everything and regain our previous confidence once we sit behind the wheel after years without driving.
The same applies to the skills we need at work - remembering them and getting back to the level of competency we’d had before our break will take time. A returnship is meant to give us exactly that time; something we wouldn’t always have if we returned straight to a regular full-time position.
A typical returnship lasts from a few weeks up to a few months. It is usually a bit shorter than a standard internship as, again, the employer doesn’t require to be taught all the ropes all over again, but rather needs initial guidance to ease back into their field.
Depending on how much experience we’d had before taking the break, normally a few weeks is just enough for a professional to regain their footing. However, it is possible to encounter returnship opportunities that last longer than that. It all depends on the company.
A returnship is commonly a paid opportunity. The salary will depend on an individual company’s policy - some returning employees enjoy the full wage for their experience and level of seniority.
Others receive part of what they would make in a standard full-time position until the training period finishes. It is best to discuss it beforehand with the recruiter so that the expectations concerning the financial aspects are clear on both sides.
Just like with internships, many employers offer full-time positions to employees who have completed a returnship in the company. After investing the time and money in training and mentoring returning professionals, it is in their best interest to welcome them onboard afterwards. Provided, of course, that the employees’ performance has been satisfactory during the returnship.
This is another matter that should be explained during the recruitment process. If the hiring manager doesn’t volunteer the information of their own accord, it is all right for the candidate to ask about the possibility of securing a full-time position after the training period is over. It shows motivation and proves that you’re thinking about engaging with the company in a long term - something that recruiters appreciate.
Now that we answered some most commonly asked questions about the details of returnship jobs, let’s focus on why, exactly, you should consider such an opportunity.
Returning to work after a significant break is stressful enough. Coming back straight into a full-time position might just add to the overwhelming character of the situation. If you have the chance to take advantage of a returnship opportunity, grab onto it.
Whereas you may be pretty much left to your own devices and forced to figure things out on your own in a regular position, a returnship will guarantee constant support.
There will be someone dedicated to monitoring your progress, offering advice, and answering questions. You won’t have to feel guilty about filling your colleagues’ precious time with your doubts - during a returnship, one or a few of them will be actually assigned the role of your mentor.
Why sentence yourself to a hard landing when you can soften the blow and make your life easier? A returnship is a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer.
You receive the support you need and deserve, and the company makes sure the new team member is given a proper introduction into the environment and is being watched over while they adjust.
Change is an inseparable part of everyday life. Especially now, when the world is more dynamic than ever, changes occur all the time. Depending on how much time off work you’ve taken, they might be more or less noticeable to you once you come back.
However, no matter how long your break was, one thing is for certain; there will be some changes. Smaller or bigger, you will have to be aware of them and adjust to the new reality they’d introduced.
The reasons for taking a career break differ, so everyone enjoys a varied ability to follow the news in their industry. Someone may have stayed up-to-date with the latest updates, while others could have been cut off from them for the most part.
This is completely understandable, so various lengths of returnship programmes may apply to employees in different situations. For some, a few weeks will be enough to catch up, others may require a few months. The aim behind a returnship is to offer guidance until you feel secure on your own two feet, so make sure to find an opportunity that meets your requirements.
There was most likely motivation behind why you decided to press pause on your career. Whatever it was, it may have changed you as a person to a varying extent. Regardless of the motive itself, time alone changes a person. Who you are after a few months or years may not be who you were when you left the office for the last time.
You may not even realise how much you’ve changed as an individual - both personally and professionally - until you return to work. Therefore, it is crucial to determine how comfortable you still feel in the area you have previously excelled in.
A returnship gives you more flexibility in that area than a full-time job. Standard contracts, even if temporary, usually last a bit longer than a few weeks or months. Even a contract with no end date may come with financial consequences if you decide to terminate it too soon.
A returnship may lead to a full-time position if that’s what both you and the employer want, but it is not set in stone. It is much less overwhelming to go through a few weeks or months of doing something you don’t particularly enjoy anymore rather than a year or two.
A returnship is definitely less of a commitment than a full-time position and therefore might be a safer solution when you’re not certain if your old job still brings you satisfaction after a break. It is completely normal to discover you are no longer interested in pursuing your previous profession and decide on a career change.
You don’t have to worry about forgetting how to do something you used to excel at all together. All you need is some time to remember, and you’ll be back in your element before you know it. What you shouldn’t deny, however, is the opportunity to gain some new skills.
During your returnship, you may have access to various courses and learning platforms provided by the company. Take full advantage of them - after all, they were suggested to you to help you develop.
Subscriptions to professional learning platforms and training centres can be quite costly, and while they are definitely worth every penny, not everyone is able to afford them; especially if they have been unemployed for a while.
Once businesses invest in training platforms for their employees, they will want to get their money’s worth and have as many workers profit from them as possible. Therefore, you will be encouraged to boost your skills and broaden your knowledge through whatever platform the company recommends to you.
Your main task while completing a returnship is to develop, so you won’t have to feel guilty about spending time completing courses during your working hours. However, remember to keep a balance between learning new skills and polishing the ones you already have.
All you learn must also be relevant to the field you’re getting re-introduced into, of course. Distribute your time wisely between completing your actual tasks and developing your skills once you tick all the priorities off the to-do list.
You may be worried about how an employment gap may be perceived on your CV. The truth is, many recruiters are not bothered about such gaps as much anymore and will most likely be understanding if they’re backed with a sensible reason.
However, if the perspective of looking for a full-time position after a career break stresses you out, a returnship opportunity might be a good solution. The very aim of it is to help ease returning workers back into their jobs.
They are specifically designed for employees who have experienced an extended professional break, so you don’t have to be worried about your application being discarded on the grounds of a gap in employment.
Just like internships are a common starting point for those entering into a particular industry for the first time, returnships are a good alternative for those re-entering the workforce. Recruiters are more understanding of the lack of professional experience when they recruit for internship positions.
The same can be said about candidates for returnships. It is obvious that someone who applies for a returnship job in the first place must have a reason to do so, and therefore won’t be judged based on the recently experienced break.
Once you can add a returnship position to your resume, it may provide you with the confidence you need in applying for the full-time job afterwards. Completing a returnship will prove that you are a motivated employee and have taken the effort to get re-introduced to the industry. Future recruiters will pay attention to this much more than the previous gap in employment.
Networking is a crucial element of professional life. The issue with a network is, it requires constant engagement and care. You will want to stay in regular touch with your connections in order to upkeep good relationships with them. And once you take a break from your career, this might not be possible.
Therefore, it may be that your professional network will suffer the effects of the career break. Next to your skills, it will be another thing you will need to put effort into rebuilding. Don’t worry, though, because a returnship is a brilliant opportunity to do just that!
Joining a team, you will meet dozens of new people. Throughout your returnship, you will most likely engage with many of them, as everyone may be involved in some part of your training. Use the new contacts to rebuild your network.
Now that you’re familiar with the definition of returnship, its facts and benefits, you’re probably wondering one thing…
It is true that there are not as many returnship opportunities as there are regular, full-time jobs. Just like with internships, not all companies have the means for it or can afford the time to train a returning employee. That is not to say that finding a returnship borders on impossible - you just need to know where to look.
Amazon (multidimensional technology company)
AIG Life (insurance)
Wood Mackenzie (research & consultancy)
Oracle (computer technology)
Synopsys (electronic design automation)
ACCA Careers (finance & accounting)
Verisk (risk analysis & strategic forecasting)
Credit Suisse (private banking & asset management)
While returnships remain a phenomenon that’s not terribly popular yet, you can see that they are offered by companies functioning in a broad range of domains. The concept is becoming more and more known and as awareness spreads, more businesses will be opening up returnship positions.
Even now, professionals from a multitude of fields can research the returnship opportunities offered by the enterprises listed above. We also encourage you to do your own research - the list shows the variety of positions to choose from, but it is by no means exhaustive!
Returnships may be an initiative that you may not have heard of very much, but that may one day change your life for the better. The concept is still on its way to becoming globally popular, but like all great things, we believe it will become the new normal with time.
For now, what matters is not to get discouraged. Pearls are never easy to find - that's why they're so valuable! If you dedicate the time and effort to looking for attractive returnship programmes, it will definitely pay off. Now that you are aware that such a possibility exists, you're already ahead of many other candidates - use that fact to your advantage!