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Returnships 101

Learn about the most popular and effective way for employers to engage with professionals returning to work after a career break.

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What are returnships anyway?

Think of returnships as a cross between a college internship program tweaked for the mid-career returning professional and a leadership development program. Typically, participants start the program at the same time as a cohort, which is meaningful as they are experiencing a time of significant personal and professional transition together. They benefit from special programming, mentors and buddies, and other transitional support while in the returnship. Most returnships have an “intent to hire” philosophy, meaning it is the expectation, rather than a possibility the relauncher will be hired in their role at the end of the returnship. However, the role is not guaranteed which gives the employer the option not to hire the relauncher at the end.

Originally, returnships were created because hiring people who were returning to work after multi-year career breaks was considered risky. The returnship provides the opportunity to evaluate the relauncher on the basis of an actual work sample instead of a series of interviews and the permanent hiring decision does not have to be made until the internship period is over. However, the model has proven successful, as over 80% of returning professionals who complete returnship programs get hired.

Ted Talk

How to get back to work after a career break

Carol Fishman Cohen CEO & Co-Founder of iRelaunch
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Interested in developing or pitching the concept of a returnship to the leadership at your employer?

We've compiled the business case for a return to work program, which includes a check list of the major steps involved in launching a return to work program free for those leading reentry efforts at their organizations.

Access the business case here!

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Gems of the Workforce

What or who are “relaunchers?”

Relaunchers are mid-to senior level professionals who have taken a career break of two years or more and want to return to work. Their career breaks can be for childcare or eldercare reasons, pursuing a personal interest, a personal health issue, expat or military spouse experience, taking time off after military service, or “un-retiring.” The pool is predominantly female, as the largest subset of the relauncher population is women who take career breaks for childcare reasons.

Relaunchers are highly educated, have significant work and life experience, and are exceptionally motivated to resume their careers. They have a mature perspective and are in a stable life stage. During their career breaks, relaunchers have had the opportunity to step back and reflect on where they can add the most value at an employer; they are not in “exploratory career mode” as they might have been earlier in their careers. They have worked on teams, with different personalities and work styles, and faced work deadlines. They do not need to re-learn these skills.

When relaunchers apply for roles after career breaks, they are not doing it on a whim. Expect significant thoughtfulness and deliberation on the part of the relauncher about where they can add the most value at an employer before they submit their application.

They are motivated to upskill and reskill and have high quality resources to do so, often free or low cost.

Finally - energy and enthusiasm about returning to work because they have been away from it for a while is a hallmark of relaunchers. Managers consistently report that relaunchers bring an excitement to their work teams because they are so thrilled to be working again.