What Is a Returnship? Benefits of Return-to-Work Programs

Updated February 16, 2023

People may leave the traditional workforce for a variety of reasons. When they decide to return to their career, they may seek some guidance to help them with the transition. Returnship programs can offer such guidance, and understanding them can help you decide whether enrolling in one is the right choice for you.

In this article, we discuss what a returnship is and share the benefits it provides for both employers and employees.

What is a returnship?

A returnship is an internship for individuals who have been away from the traditional workforce for a while. It's essentially a back-to-work program where people can return to their careers without having to start from entry-level positions in their careers. Most returnships last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. During this time, an individual gets reintroduced into their role.

The employer provides them with extra training and mentorship to get them caught up to the changes in the workforce that have happened while they were away. It gives the person a chance to improve their skills and readjust to their routine.

Related: How To Explain Employment Gaps in an Interview

The importance of returnships

Many employers understand that not everyone has a traditional career path. Some use back-to-work programs to give people more opportunities to succeed when returning to the workforce. Providing returnships has proven important for employers because they give people a chance to get back into their careers. Returnships also allow companies to can hire from a larger pool of candidates to create a diverse team. By bringing in people with different backgrounds and experiences, everyone can gain new perspectives.

Related: How To Go Back to School as an Adult (And Why You Should)

Benefits of returnships

Companies created returnship programs to benefit people looking to reenter the workforce. If you're looking for a way to get reacquainted with your career without having to restart at an entry-level position, it's a good idea to find a company that offers a return-to-work program. By completing the program, you can feel ready and confident when it's time to get a full-time job. The benefits of returnships include:

Getting caught up on changes

Depending on how long you've been away, a lot may have changed in the workplace. Some common changes include technology, practices and procedures, common company policies, workplace culture and company communication. Instead of trying to figure everything out yourself, find a program where a mentor can guide you through many of these changes.

Related: 10 Reasons Why You Need a Mentor

Learning new skills

As roles develop and technology advances, your desired role may require you to learn and practice new skills. During your returnship, you can learn new programs and systems used in your career. You may also find that your skills have depleted since your time away and a returnship can provide a great way to improve these skills again so you can get ready for your next full-time position.

Related: How To Acquire New Skills in 10 Steps

Creating a support system

Many companies that create back-to-work programs have some kind of mentorship component. Your mentor can help you with anything you may have questions about or that you hope to improve. Also, get to know the other employees at the company to widen your support group and professional network. By creating a bigger network of people in your field, you have more people to go to for advice and opportunities. Some of your connections could even help you find a full-time position at the end of your returnship program.

Related: How To Navigate an Unconventional Career Path

Discovering what you like

After being away from work for a while, your career goals, interests and lifestyle may change. Maybe you want to return to your previous career or explore something entirely different. Sometimes, the job you once had may not exist anymore or it may have experienced updates. A returnship can offer a noncommittal way to try different roles without having to accept a full-time job.

Some returnships allow people to work in different areas of a company or rotate between various clients and tasks. This kind of program allows you to see what roles are right for you before applying for full-time jobs. You may even consider finding another returnship program in an entirely different field or industry to explore your interests.

Related: How To Change Careers

Transitioning into a full-time role

Similar to some internships, companies may use returnships as a trial period before hiring an individual for a full-time role. They may have a few people complete the program and then hire those who present a good fit for the company. In this case, you can use the returnship to both learn and prove your ability to return to the workforce.

As you get more comfortable with your work, start asking for additional responsibilities or advancement opportunities. Also, ask for feedback from your program supervisor to learn what you do well and what you can improve upon. You can use your returnship as an opportunity to improve your resume and gain references. At the end of your program, ask your manager if they can write you a letter of recommendation that you can use when applying for other full-time positions.

Related: 9 Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents Reentering the Workforce

Companies that offer returnship opportunities

If you're planning on returning to work after a hiatus, there are opportunities to apply for a returnship. Many employers in the private sector offer paid return-to-work positions, including:

  • Dell Technologies

  • Spectrum

  • Boeing

  • Credit Suisse

The programs may vary in what they offer, but each company provides the environment to update your skills, improve your resume, connect with professionals in your network and reenter the workforce.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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