What Is a Returnship?

Returnships Explained in Less Than 4 Minutes

An employee works in an office.
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A returnship is a paid internship for workers who have stepped away from their careers for a few years or who are transitioning to new occupations. In addition to giving workers a chance to break into high-paying, high-growth fields, returnships benefit companies that are struggling to find qualified candidates for skilled positions.

Is a returnship right for you? Here’s what you need to know about available programs, requirements, expectations, and potential benefits.

Definition and Examples of Returnships

Returnships are return-to-work programs for professionals who have left the workforce, typically to care for young children or family members. These opportunities are paid internships targeted at workers with significant working-time gaps in their resumes. Returners may be working parents, caregivers, or other professionals who have had to press pause on their careers for a period of time.

Research shows that job applicants with resume gaps are 45% less likely to get interviews than those with continuous work experience.

These programs may also provide an opportunity to change careers. Workers who previously held positions in fields that are in decline may use returnships to transition to fields with more solid occupational outlooks. Some programs include “underemployed” as part of the eligibility criteria. These programs can also provide an on ramp to private-sector employment for veterans who are transitioning out of their military careers.

Returnships often offer mentorship and other support, as well as training and skills development. Returners can be of any age or gender and come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some programs may require a basic skill set, but many are open to workers who can demonstrate a passion for the core duties of the job. Returnships can last a few months to several years, and may result in a full-time job offer after completion.

Employers in skilled industries such as technology are most likely to offer returnships. Examples of employers with returnship programs include Amazon, Comcast, Expedia Group, Northwell Health, SAP, and T. Rowe Price.

  • Alternate names: return-to-work program, re-entry program

How Returnships Work

If you’re a candidate for a returnship, you can find open programs in a number of ways. Many employers with return-to-work programs list opportunities on their careers pages. So if you have a target employer in mind, start your search on the company’s website.

Don’t see a program at your dream employer? Contact human resources to see if they offer returnships, or plan to do so in the near future.

You can also find returnships through specialty job boards or online resources dedicated to helping returning workers. iRelaunch offers a running list of return-to-work programs at employers in a variety of industries, including finance, technology, energy, and consumer products. The nonprofit organization Path Forward has returnship partners across the U.S., including some remote opportunities.

To apply, follow the instructions on the job site or employer portal and include a cover letter, if allowed. In the cover letter, highlight your passion for the role, as well as any applicable skills and experience. Remember that employers are looking for talent and trainability, not necessarily the “perfect” background for the role.

If accepted, you will likely spend several weeks or months learning new skills and receiving training and mentorship from professionals in the field.

Benefits of Returnships

The most obvious benefit of returnships is that they may lead directly to a new job. After you complete the program, you may be offered a job at the employer. But even if you don’t find a role at the organization that hosted your returnship, you will likely leave in a much better position than you started. You’ll depart with new skills and valuable work experience to offer future employers. Plus, you’ll close that gap in your resume.

Returnships also offer an opportunity to build a robust professional network in a new field. Your teammates, managers, and mentors can be invaluable sources of support and advice, as well as resources for future job referrals, references, and recommendations.

Key Takeaways

  • Returnships help professionals get back to work. Caregivers, working parents, veterans, and other workers can use these programs to re-enter the workforce or change careers.
  • Employers benefit from returning workers. Companies with a high demand for skilled workers can attract highly engaged, enthusiastic candidates through these programs.
  • Candidates can find return-to-work programs through a variety of sources. Go directly to employers’ websites or search job boards and online resources such as iRelaunch and Path Forward.
  • The benefits of returnships go beyond job placement. Develop your network, find mentors, and get support from peers in your new field.