If you have been out of the workforce for a while, a returnship may be what you need to build a bridge to your next job. It is basically an internship designed for older and more experienced employees.
The concept was pioneered by Goldman Sachs in 2008, and has spread to more than 100 other companies. While professional women who took time off to have children are the most obvious candidates, it may be worthwhile for anyone who is following a nontraditional career path.
Show employers that you can still make a contribution. Take a look at how to use a returnship to relaunch your professional life.
Finding a Returnship
1. Browse online. Some organizations like iRelaunch and Path Forward specialize in providing resources for returning professionals. LinkedIn and other career sites can be searched for useful information.
2. Attend conferences. Industry events such as conferences and happy hours are an effective way to meet company representatives face to face. Be prepared to follow up if they express interest.
3. Use word of mouth. You can use your network for returnship leads the same way you rely on it for job searching. Ask for introductions and referrals.
4. Contact previous employers. Maybe your previous employer conducts a reentry program or would like to begin one. Invite former coworkers out to test the waters.
5. Go back to school. Smart companies are recruiting seasoned professionals from university continuing education programs. If you are already taking courses, speak with your professors or check the campus career center.
Completing a Returnship
1. Clarify your expectations. Most programs offer no guarantee of employment, however, some hire a high percentage of their graduates. Compensation also varies widely from no pay to a competitive rate. Ensure you comprehend and agree with the terms.
2. Find a mentor. Ideally, you will be assigned an advisor who can guide you through your transition. If not, find a coworker you admire, and make your own arrangement.
3. Support your classmates. Being in a reentry program with other partakers has its advantages. You can share experiences, encouragement, and feedback.
4. Expand your network. Utilize your short-term position to make lasting connections. Introduce yourself to at least 3 new colleagues each week. Attend social gatherings and communicate in person when presented as opposed to relying on email.
5. Gather references. Are you running low on recent references? Once you make a positive impression, you can start asking others to vouch for you. That may include the program coordinator, your fellow returnees, and other company executives.
6. Brush up your skills. Maybe coding and Groupon were not available the last time you sat in a cubicle. Seek out tasks that will update your technology skills and help bring you up to speed on industry trends.
7. Polish your resume. Now that the background work is done, you can put together a resume that search engines and hiring supervisors will love. Pay attention to effective keywords. Highlight your accomplishments and customize your pitch for each position.
8. Explore other options. While returnships offer many advantages, your career strategy needs to fit your individual strengths and vision. You may prefer to look for a permanent position immediately. You may decide that branding yourself as a contract worker or independent consultant better suits your professional image.
Preparing for the second act in your career is probably going to require more than sending out resumes. A returnship is one way to adjust back to office culture and a 9-to-5 routine while you develop new contacts and update your skills.
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