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Returnships 101

Returnships represent about 80% of employer career reentry programs, with the other 20% using a "direct hire" model (relaunchers are hired as employees from day one and there is no internship component). The returnship programming model has a long track record of success.

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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. 

Returnships can run from eight weeks to two years, but most are in the 12-24 month range. Participants can start the program at the same time as a cohort or join on a "rolling admissions" basis. Participants 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 that the relauncher will be hired 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. On average, 80% of returnship participants are hired when their program completes.

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. 

Ted Talk

How to get back to work after a career break

Carol Fishman Cohen CEO & Co-Founder of iRelaunch
Watch the Video

Interested in making the case for returnships at your employer?

Our "business case for a career reentry program" features key talking points and a checklist of major steps involved in launching a career reentry program. It is specifically designed for leaders of 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 one to 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.