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

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 30, 2021 | Published March 12, 2020

Updated August 30, 2021

Published March 12, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

People leave the traditional workforce for a period of time due to many reasons. They may be a stay-at-home parent, in the military, recovering from illness or have taken time off to learn more about themselves. Eventually, they may decide they are ready to go back to their career but could use some guidance when starting their new job. This is why some employers offer back-to-work programs called returnships.

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

Related: How To Explain Employment Gaps in an Interview

What is a returnship?

A returnship is an internship for adults 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 the bottom of the career ladder.

Most returnships last a few weeks to a few months. During this time, an individual is 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 so they can efficiently do their job once again.

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The importance of returnships

As more employers have grown to realize that not everyone has a traditional career path, they are using back-to-work programs to give people more opportunities to succeed when returning to the workforce. Returnships are important for employers to provide because they give people a chance to get back into their careers. Returnships are useful for companies too because they can hire from a larger pool of candidates with diverse experiences.

By bringing in people with different backgrounds and experiences, everyone can gain new perspectives. This can help existing staff learn more about the world outside of work and help those in the program get acclimated back into the work environment.

Related: How To Go Back to School as an Adult

Benefits of returnships

Companies created returnship programs to benefit people who want to get back into the workforce. If you are 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.

Here are the benefits of returnships:

  • Get caught up on changes

  • Learn new skills

  • Create a support system

  • Discover what you like

  • Transition into a full-time role

Get caught up on changes

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

Learn new skills

As roles evolve and technology advances, you may need to learn new skills to be a qualified candidate for the role you want. During your returnship, you can learn new programs and systems required for your career. You may also find that your skills have depleted since your time away. A returnship is a great opportunity to improve these skills so you are ready for your next full-time job.

Create 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 would like to improve. Also, get to know the other employees at the company to widen your support group. By creating a bigger network of people in your field, you have more people to go to for advice. Some of your connections could even help you find a full-time position when your returnship is over.

Related: How To Navigate an Unconventional Career Path

Discover what you like

After being away from work for a while, you may wonder what kind of career will be best for you in this next stage of your life. Maybe you want to return to your previous career or explore something entirely different. In some cases, the job you once had may not exist anymore or looks quite different.

A returnship is a noncommittal way to try different things without having to accept a full-time job. You may discover that you have talent in an area that you never considered before.

Some returnships allow people to work in different areas of a company or rotate between various clients. This kind of program allows you to see what is right for you before applying to full-time jobs. You may even find out that you would prefer to find another returnship program in an entirely different field or industry.

Read more: How To Change Careers

Transition 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 they think would be a good fit for the company. In this case, use the returnship to both learn and prove that you are ready to get back into the workforce.

As you get more comfortable with your work, start asking for additional responsibilities. Also, ask for feedback from your program supervisor to learn what you are doing well and what you could improve upon.

Even if the returnship doesn't lead to employment with the company, you can still use it as an opportunity to improve your resume and gain references. At the end of your program, ask your manager if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation that you can use when applying for full-time positions.

Companies that offer returnship opportunities

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

  • Dell Technologies

  • Spectrum

  • Boeing

  • Credit Suisse

  • LinkedIn

  • Hewlett-Packard

The programs will vary in what they offer, but each company provides the environment to brush off your skills, update your resume, connect with professionals in your network and re-enter the workforce.

To find a job at a company that offers a return-to-work program, search for job postings on Indeed with the keyword "returnship" or set up a job alert.

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

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