Everything You Need to Know About Returnships

If you were asked to imagine what the typical intern looks like, chances are the images of Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) from the movie “The Internship” probably don't come to mind. However, that may change in the near future thanks to one growing trend: returnships.

The concept of a "returnship" is similar to an internship: it is a temporary work arrangement agreed upon between companies and "returnees" (those completing a returnship). Returnships are designed for more established professionals instead of students or inexperienced workers.

Who Wants a Returnship?

Likely candidates for returnships can range from:

  • New parents seeking to return to the workforce after childbirth and childrearing.
  • Older workers, who are more likely than younger workers to face long gaps between employment opportunities (Posthuma & Campion, 2009).
  • The long-term unemployed seeking to spruce up a stale resume.
  • Professionals who took a break from the workforce to earn an advanced degree.
  • Professionals seeking to transition into a new industry.

Why We Need Returnships

Returnships are part of a new age of work opportunities, and have been designed to be mutually beneficial to companies and returnees. According to the Harvard Business Review, returnships allow companies to utilize the high expertise and skill of professionals with less risk of wasting time or too many resources.

Returnees benefit from returnships as well because hiring managers will be able to base hiring decisions on meaningful work samples rather than on perceptions of a candidate's potential. As such, returnships may be a solution for workers wanting to prevent hiring managers from being scared away due to a lack of recent work experience.

Are There Potential Setbacks?

Like internships, many returnships are not paid positions. Thus, failing to compensate returnees may cause companies to miss out on opportunities to recruit highly-talented candidates who would need financial support to participate.

Returnships may also distract returnees from searching for full-time and/or permanent job opportunities. Furthermore, some experts have argued that listing a returnship on one's resume may undermine professionals' attempts to find a job rather than helping them. This is because the term "returnship" may conjure up images of an inexperienced worker learning to be a professional (as in a traditional internship) despite the fact that returnees already are professionals.

Returnships are not guaranteed to lead to full-time and/or permanent positions. However, despite the fact that returnships are new, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of employment following the completion of a returnship.

How to Ace That Returnship

First, you should examine the success of former returnees of any returnship program that interests you; make sure to aim for the promising ones! For example, as of February 2014, roughly 50 percent of the 123 returnees who completed Goldman Sachs' 10-week returnship program have been hired into permanent positions.

Second, you could increase your chances of gaining the specific skills you think may be marketable for you by developing a returnship proposal for a company. This process involves identifying a company's needs, developing a plan to address these needs (utilizing the skills that interest you), and making the case for your value to the company.

Finally, it is imperative that you convince companies that you are coachable. Returnees may erroneously be perceived as set in their ways or more difficult to manage than traditional interns given their experiences, skills, and more well-developed perspectives. Thus, it's important to show that you are genuinely interested in learning, can handle criticism with grace, and are thankful for the opportunity.

Sources:

Bowie, L. (2010, July). The benefits of a returnship: A.k.a. internship for the mid-career employee. Examiner.com. Retrived June 24, 2014, from The Examiner

Cohen, C. F. (2012, November). The 40-year-old intern. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Harvard Business Review

Cohen, C. F. (2013, June). What "The Internship" gets right (and wrong) about mid-career internships. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Harvard Business Review

Cohen, C. F. (2014, February). The "40-year-old intern" goes to Wall Street. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Harvard Business Review

Koba, M. (2013, October). Returnships for older workers: Proceed with caution. CNBC. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from CNBC

Posthuma, R. A., & Campion, M. A. (2009). Age stereotypes in the workplace: Common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions. Journal of Management, 35, 158-188.