RETURNSHIP – THE CAREER BREAK SOLUTION?​

Returnship - the career break solution?

Many women are looking for the second act in their life after caring for the children for decades. Other women are already struggling with returning to work after only a couple of years of the career paths. No matter the lengths away from the workplace, many women have two things in common: they are highly educated but lacking the network and the confidence to get back on track after a career hiatus.

Returnship: A definition

A returnship can be defined as a mid-career on-ramp tool. The term was trademarked by Goldman Sachs in 2008 and aims to mitigate the obstacles faced by many moms and expats in general: Returning to work after a long break. 

 

Typical student internships have been the role model here. Organizations are hiring women for a few months to a year and while these returnships are obviously paid (again high qualified employees!) they are also paired with mentoring and training. 

 

The goal is to boost the skillset to the current requirements, regain confidence by practice, offer connections and networking opportunities. That sounds fantastic for the candidate but it is also (let’s be fair here) a practical tool for employers to hire high-educated candidates risk-free. Candidates do not have to be judged on their resume but on their actual work outcome over a couple of weeks or months. Actual work samples instead of a series of interviews allow the employer to make the right hiring decision. So there is less risk for the employer but also the chance to improve the bad image of taking a career break in the first place!

 

Important: Don’t mix it up with return-to-work programs (RTW). RTWs are aiming to return injured employees to the workplace. It has been shown that initiating welcome back programs allow a shorter time away from the workplace. When you are googling for returnships keep in mind the difference here!

 

In the beginning, the top 5 financial service companies within the US started this kind of program and more recently seven of the biggest engineering companies have started returnship programs to attract female engineers. 

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Are you a relauncher?

A great resource to watch when thinking about returning to work is the TED talk by Carol Fishman Cohen.

 

She is addressing those returning employees as relaunches. In her view, there are several reasons for taking a career break and it reminded me again that it is not only about being an expat abroad or becoming a mother: 

  • elder care
  • childcare
  • pursuing a personal interest
  • health issues

 

On the other hand, there are also many other career transitioners of all kinds: 

  • veterans
  • military spouses
  • retirees coming back from retirement
  • repatriating expats (hello :-))
 

Returning to work after a career break is hard because of a disconnect between the employers and the relaunches. Employers can view hiring people with a gap on their resume as a high-risk proposition, and individuals on a career break can have doubts about their abilities to relaunch their careers, especially if they've been out for a long time.

Carol Fishman Cohen

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“Returning to work after a career break is hard because of a disconnect between the employers and the relaunches. Employers can view hiring people with a gap on their resume as a high-risk proposition, and individuals on a career break can have doubts about their abilities to relaunch their careers, especially if they’ve been out for a long time.”

 

In her view, relaunches are a “gem for the workplace” and here is her reasoning for that: 

 

  • For those that took career breaks for childcare, there won’t be any or fewer maternity leaves
  • There will be less spousal or partner job relocations
  • You will most likely be in a more settled time in your life
  • You bring along great work experience
  • You have a more mature perspective on the world
  • You are not trying to find yourself at an employer’s expense
  • You have energy and enthusiasm “precisely because you have been away for a while”

Are you ready to go back to work?

Do you recognize yourself in that description? Do you feel more stable, more mature after your career break? If not, do not worry. Often in life, we encounter several smaller career breaks triggered by a second move abroad or a second child. Life is dynamic and that is challenging but also beautiful.

In her talk, Carol Fishman is referring to a long career break. She is referring to women who have raised their children and feeling the urge to change from family into business life for good. When you are at that point you will realize that you will feel more mature and more settled in life.

What is important however no matter the scenario you are in is the enthusiasm to get back to work. If you do not feel the urge, it might be a good time to look into it. How are you feeling about returning? Excited? Anxious? Are you rejecting the idea of it? What is your motivation behind? Are you eager to take on the challenge? Are you doing it because you have to do it? Is it only a financial necessity? If so, what could you do to make it more compelling?

It is worth investing the time looking into it because you will need that enthusiasm to convince the potential employer.

The two stereotypes you will be confronted with

Sadly, no matter how modern our society is getting, some stereotypes seem to remain set in stone. 

  1. Employers fear that you are not passionate about your career. You did not make it a priority back then, why should you do it now? Employers will note right away when you are not sure about why you want to return and what precisely you want to do. It is not the employer’s job to answer these questions for you! It is your task! To do this kind of preparation work I started the mastermind group for mums. Go here if you want to know more or join our tribe!
  2. Employers fear that your skills are outdated. Technology is developing fast and your confidence might shrink right away when you are not at all familiar with the tools that are used at the workplace right now. Brushing up your skills and making yourself competitive is your job! Download this comprehensive workbook if you need more resources and guidelines on how to do so.  

Ready to take action?

So there is some homework to do here before hopping on the application process. It’s always nice to have someone supporting you. Whether it is your best friend, your partner, or a group of like-minded women. Create your very own support network to make sure to stay on track. 

When you are ready to apply again, you can specifically look for returnship programs at bigger companies. Here is a list by glassdoor tailored to the US market as an example.

But please do not stop searching just because you could not find a program called “returnship”. This concept is still new and slowly developing. It is definitely more common within bigger corporations. However smaller companies are open to this concept but might not have the resources to establish it. This might be a good time to show your enthusiasm again and be proactive here. Adress the fears of the employer right away and prepare a proposal on how to tackle each fear. 

If you have experience with returnships let uns know in the comments below! In the meantime let’s spread the message and make that concept known in your social environment to boost it!

Thanks for sharing the love and stopping by

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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