Skip to main content

EP 232: The Goldman Sachs Returnship® & COVID-19 Career Relaunch Initiative with Mariany Polanco-Cruz

Mariany Polanco Cruz headshot

Episode Description

At the time of this podcast recording, Mariany Polanco-Cruz was a Vice President on the Global Diversity Recruiting Team at Goldman Sachs. She discusses the recent innovations to the Goldman Sachs Returnship program which was completely overhauled, as well as last Fall’s newly-introduced COVID-19 Career Relaunch Initiative. Mariany describes who is eligible, including important guidance for interested applicants who are unsure whether they meet eligibility requirements, and what the application process looks like. She also discusses the key role that Goldman’s community of relaunchers have played since the first returnship cohort began in 2008.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today, we welcome Mariany Polanco Cruz. Mariany is the America's Head of Diversity Recruiting for Goldman Sachs. Mariany leads the Goldman Sachs returnship offerings and Goldman Sachs returnship was the first employer returnship having launched in 2008.

Mariany was the driving force behind the complete overhaul of Goldman's return to work program, and also oversaw the development of the newly introduced COVID-19 career relaunch initiative. In this episode, Mariani will tell us about both programs as well as who is eligible and what the application process looks like.

Mariany welcome to 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Thank you for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Let's start by learning a little bit about your professional background and how you got involved in managing the Goldman Sachs returnship program.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Of course, happy to share. I've been at the firm for approximately nine years now. I've had a plethora of roles within our human capital management division, as well as our global investment research division, whether it was learning and development.

I was an HR generalist for awhile. I joined a strategy and management team in our global investment research division, and I joined our diversity recruiting team two years ago. This has been my favorite team thus far. I like to say just because it highlights all the culmination of my past, experiences and skill sets, but also speaks a lot about my background and who I am. So I'm a, first-generation Dominican born and raised in Washington Heights. I like to say the owner of many first, first, so graduate college, first working in a large corporation and working on this team whose mission and vision is to democratize access to the firm.

It was a natural thing for me to lean towards. And so in the team, I oversee our women focus efforts, as well as our Hispanic, Latin X efforts. And thus leading our returnship program. Of course it's always a group effort. Our chief diversity officers involved the global head of my team Erica Coleman is super involved as well as a plethora of folks across the firm, such as The Women's Network.

But we're very happy with where we turned our returnship program.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm so excited to talk about this. Before we talk about the re-imagined program, can you talk to us about the original program and a little bit about the history before the overhaul?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah. I love that question just because it's always nice to understand where we start.

So in 2005, Goldman Sachs sponsored research entitled Off-ramps and On-ramps which focus on challenges and concerns faced by individuals looking to reenter the workforce. So we've observed that a large number of individuals seeking to restart their careers after extended voluntary absences of the workplace needed sort of a support group.

And so in response, Goldman Sachs created the first return ship program on the back of a one day conference called New Directions over a decade ago. And so this launch of our re-imagined returnship demonstrates Goldman Sachs continued commitment and support of individuals looking to re-entry the workforce after a career break.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And I remember New Directions because Vivian, Raven and I when we co-founded iRelaunch early on, we presented at New Directions. So really interesting to hear about the evolution of the program now that we're in 2021. Can you tell us a little bit now about the re-imagined returnship, how it's different from the original version and any details about the types of programming or other supports that are involved.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Of course. And so our returnship program has been, like, you mentioned a completely re-imagined. So in previous years where it was an eight to 10 week internship, next year, it'll be a six month fellowship. It won't just be an internship experience. It'll be a leadership development program. So you'll be getting the hands on experience and joining a team full time, but you'll also be getting the addition of a learning curriculum that allows you to continue to see develop a leadership skill set throughout your six months at the firm and you have sponsors, you have mentors, you have buddies, you have a community of past returnees, and we're hoping that this program is in person. So we're recommending that folks will apply are in walking within the beats of the offices, in which they are applying to, but the program is available across many offices in our Americas region.

And so we're looking forward to seeing how the program plays out next year.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. And I love that you're talking about the program as a leadership development program, because Relaunchers come in at the mid career ready to advance going forward. So the idea that this is built into the programming from the get-go is really exciting.

Can you talk a little bit about eligibility, like what's the minimum number of years of career break? And how do you even define a career break and who is eligible and maybe also a little more information about the types of positions that are going to be part of the program?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah, for sure. So we accept applications for all of our divisions in a variety of locations.

And so if you're interested in engineering, That's available. If you're interested in investment banking, that is also available. If you're interested in asset management and thus, we allow candidates to apply to a general pool, and then we review their resumes and align them to divisions based on their skill set. Your eligible for our returnship program if you've been out of the paid workforce for two years. And we also launched our COVID-19 career relaunch initiative and you're eligible for that initiative if you lost your job voluntarily or involuntarily during the pandemic. Applications are open for several weeks, between October and November and the program takes place once a year.

So the program in 2022 will start in March and go through the end of the summer or early fall.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So that's the returnship program. I want to talk about the COVID 19 career relaunch initiative in just a minute. But one thing that you mentioned, I want to make sure that we clarify for our audience.

So when people are applying to the program, they are applying generally to the program, not to specific roles or are they applying to specific roles?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: So we ask you your division of preference, as well as your location of preference. So you give us some guidance into what your interests are and we review your application according.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. And I just want to also get a little clarification about the eligibility guidelines because people get really confused and sometimes self-select themselves out of consideration because maybe they were substitute teaching for a little bit of time, or they taught you know one course as an adjunct lecture at a college or university, or maybe had a occasional consulting. How do you look at those kinds of experiences and how rigid are the eligibility guidelines?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: I would recommend that if you have some remote interest in the program to apply, I would allow us to say you're an eligible then for you to self-select out. Folks that have non-profit experience post their corporate jobs or participate in PTA of their students schools, or are doing a little bit of consulting on the side.

All of those applicants are eligible for a returnship program because you left the corporate workplace a number of years ago. And so of course you're doing gigs that are continuously developing your skillset, that will only make you more marketable for the roles in which you are applying to at the firm, because you're continuously developing your skills.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I just want to underscore what Mariany is saying here. Don't self-select out of the program, assume that you are eligible and let Goldman decide whether or not that eligibility works for within the guidelines of returnship. So thank you for making that point, because I think it's so important for our audience to hear.

Now, let's talk about the COVID-19 career relaunch initiative. Can you tell us more about the program, how it's different from returnship. And is there a different programming? I know you already said something about the eligibility, but maybe also repeat that part too.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Of course. So our COVID-19 career relaunch initiative, this will be the first inaugural class.

This came into fruition because the state of the world that we're in. We realized that over 2 million women have left the paid workforce that we needed to give them an opportunity to re enter the paid workforce if they wanted to. And thus, we created this initiative that is very different from our returnship program only because we will be hiring these individuals full-time.

If you left voluntarily or involuntarily the paid workforce throughout the pandemic, you can apply to this program. You can tell us whether you're interested in a specific role or just the divisions or in broadly at the firm. We'd review your application, align your appropriate skill sets, up specific businesses and integrate you into the firm full-time. This is different than our returnship program just because you don't go through the six month experience, you are entering the firm as a lateral hire, as an experienced hire, and as an experienced professional. And what we do is number one, give our managers training to ensure that they're supportive of this community and know how to effectively manage and interview this population.

And also we give the candidates at points in our application process some training on, hey, this is some best practices as you navigate integrating as a woman's ax or interviewing at Goldman Sachs. So the program is very different from our returnship offering, but still the same idea in mind of integrating folks that are looking to relaunch their careers back into the work force.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So I just want to clarify a few of the things that you just said. So does that mean if I took a career break voluntary or involuntary during COVID during COVID-19 and I'm applying for this program. Am I applying through a central portal to the program? Or am I applying to specific roles that are listed on the careers page?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Great question. You're applying to this specific program in the application of this program, you can highlight to us if there are specific roles you are interested in, but you are applying to the program itself.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. And then did you say something about people who are moving through the interview process, get some additional coaching or advice on the side as they're moving through it?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah, exactly. So our team is going to be hosting sessions to give folks interviewing best practices. How to think about the culture of Goldman Sachs.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. And what happens? So let's say. I get hired through the COVID-19 career relaunch initiative. How is my experience onboarding back into Goldman different from if I just came on as a regular employee? Not part of the program.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah. We have a very robust learning curriculum once you enter the firm as a lateral hire, we have an orientation for you. You have a specific cohort of folks that you go through the orientation with. And so we'll try to match up candidates and professionals. If there's a cohort in which we could do it, but this is happening.

We're hiring folks on a rolling basis. So what's a little bit different than our returnship offerings. Although the application is a specific timeframe, the hiring of lateral hires happen as needs arise. And so it won't necessarily be a cohort, but we're going to try to pull the folks together once they joined the firm.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. So just to clarify, the returnship program runs once a year for a six month period, starting in March. And people apply for that cohort, the COVID-19 career relaunch initiative, are you saying that applications are only open for the initiative for a certain period of time, but you still bring on people on a rolling basis. Can you talk about that piece just a little bit more, please?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah, for sure. So this is our not real class, right? This is trial and error. So the way that we're doing it is that we have the application open from October to November. We have a plethora of candidates that applied we're reviewing their resumes. And if we have open roles for specific skill sets, we'll grab it from this candidate pool. And if let's say in three months, something arises and we say, hey, we reviewed this resume way back when, and we think this person could be a good fit, we'll re-engage in conversations with you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. But you need to apply during the open application period. Okay. Got it. All I love this because this is how innovation happens. You have to try things and see what's working and see what's not and tweak the program along the way. So you're in brand new territory and this is the first program that we are aware of that is specifically targeted at people who left during COVID to bring them back in.

We've had a lot of conversations with companies about the concept, but this is the first actual program that we're seeing to address that particular situation. So super exciting. And I love to see, I love to watch innovation happening in real time. And that's what I feel is happening here.

So can you walk us through the application process a little bit for actually for maybe both programs starting with returnship, like what happens, how long does it take? Is there a screen, what are the different stages of it?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: So our applications are open for five to six weeks in the fall. Once people apply for our returnship program, they go through a hirevuen which is an virtual interview.

So you have the opportunity to practice ahead of time. We give you the questions ahead of time as well that you're going to be asked. After you do your hirevuen we review those hirevuen interviews and then you're selected for a super day. So you have virtual interviews with the business and what you will be working with and the team members of that group.

And then you proceeded to an offer. For our returnship program, applications closed in mid November with offers likely going out in January.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: And so you go through your hirevuen we review that you go through your super day, we review that feedback, and then we offer you a role in January to join the firm for the offering in March. For our COVID-19 career relaunch, it's a little bit different.

You go through our regular lateral recruiting process. You'll get to speak to the teams that are interested in hiring you. There's no necessarily a hirevuen involved. And then you joined the firm full time when the team decides is the right time for them.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. I just want to clarify for our audience, that hirevuen is spelled H I R E V U E N.

That's a specific screening platform that uses video and we actually have a podcast with a real hunter who works at a hirevuen who talks all about hirevuen itself. So you understand it better and you have the opportunity to go online on the hirevuen website itself to do some practicing.

So wanted to make sure that was clear. And thank you for walking us through that exact progression. That's really helpful. And let me just ask, is all of this taking place virtually or do people like on the super day, do people come in person or how does that work?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: So for now all of our interviews are virtual.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay. And do you have any advice for Relaunchers who are interested in applying for either program? Are there applications do's and don'ts, how you talk about your career break or any kind of interview tips that you.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah, for sure. I think number one is leading with what we talked about previously on don't self select out. I think that you should put yourself out there and apply. I also think that confidence goes a long way. So just because you've left the workforce a number of years ago, doesn't mean that you forgot the skillset, doesn't mean that you are not capable or eligible to succeed here. And this is what we really want to emphasize.

Your skill sets are transferable. What you've done with your break, whether that's take care of an elderly person, take care of children, or do some work at a nonprofit, participate on boards. All of those skillsets are things that allow you to grow in specific skillsets that have a right place here at the firm.

And so I, that's what I really want to emphasize the confidence level and being able to talk about how your skill sets are transferable and also the continued network. I think that building a community and a space like with iRelaunch in your Facebook groups, on people that participated in the program is really a differentiating factor because you have this group of support that have been to what you're going through, or that are navigating and at the same time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And I love your career break needs to be emphasized because your career break is what makes you eligible to apply for and participate in the program. But again, listening carefully to what Mariany is saying is that the career break there's a broad definition of what's included in terms of activities that could be happening during the career break.

All right Mariany, can you please share some success stories that have come out of the past returned to your program?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah, so we have Laurie Taylor, who's an MD in our risks division that has actually spoken in one of these podcasts. We have Melissa Borg who is actually on my team who started in our returnship program and learning and development has had various different gigs at the firm and now is a lateral recruiter who is actually one of the recruiters helping us in our returnship initiative this year. So really full circle for her. And we have the wonderful thing is that because we were first to launch in this space, we have a community of returnees and Relaunchers that are supportive of our program that helped build the community for our future returnees.

And that really allow us to stay innovative in the space because they're involved in what we're doing now.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, this is so important. And Goldman is in a unique position because the returnship, the original returnship started in 2008. It's 13 years old now. And that means that there are a critical mass of Relaunchers inside the organization. And the idea that when you come into the program, you automatically join not only a cohort of people who are going through experience with you at the same time, but you join this larger committee that has a lot of history and has people who've been in the program number of years and have moved up in the organization.

And I think that's a unique part of Goldman's offering, especially given the history of the program.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Yeah, I totally agree. I think there's one of the things that make the program really feel like you're a part of a community and because of all of the senior level sponsorship, because our CDO Meghan Hogan is so involved and invested.

It becomes even more obvious. Once you joined the firm, all of the support that becoming your way. And one of the wonderful things that we found too, is that we have professionals that didn't go through our returnship program that are returnees, that identify as Relaunchers. And so every year, once we announced the program, we get a number of inbounds from professionals saying, hey, I didn't go through this program, but I wish I did.

And I want to be a participant and mentor and sponsor and be a buddy. So the individuals that are going through the program this year because of their lived experience.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I love that because inside organizations, there are Relaunchers here. There are sometimes people don't even know that they took the career break in the first place.

So the idea that they step forward and I want to be involved in the program also means that they get recognized in terms of what they've been doing inside the organization. And that can really sway opinions of managers who might be less familiar with the relauncher and not understand the concept as well.

And then all of a sudden they realize that someone they've been working with for a number of years, took a career break in the past that can really shift perceptions.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: I totally agree. I find one of the good things of relaunch this program in 08 so we have this vast community of folks that always raise their hands to get involved.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's really great. So Mariany, where can interested Relaunchers find out more information about both the re-imagined returnship program and the COVID 19 career relaunch initiative?

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: Goldman Sachs has an external page that has a summary of our returnship offerings, inclusive of our returnship program and our COVID-19 career relaunch.

And I would encourage you to google Goldman Sachs returnship program. Our external page will come up. They'll also be a email that you can contact if you have any questions. I look at that email. We are actively looking at that email. So you will get a response in a few days. If you have any additional inquiries.

And like I mentioned, our applications typically run from October to November, but if you have, if you want to know about the application, when it launches next year, you can shoot us a note. We'll make a note of it and send you an email once our application is launched next year.

Carol Fishman Cohen: All right. Excellent. So you're saying if you do a search for Goldman returnship, the page for returnship that comes up has information about both the returnship program and the COVID-19 initiative.

Okay, perfect. Mariani, I want to ask you the final question. The one we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is what is your best piece of advice for our relaunch audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today.

Mariany Polanco-Cruz: And we've mentioned most of these, but I think the consistent advice that I would give is number one, find a community. Immerse yourself in spaces like iRelaunch, because you want to have a group of professionals that are going through similar experiences and that can provide you with some advice, and also to be confident in your skill set. I think what differentiates someone who gets hired from someone who doesn't is their ability to talk to how their skill sets are transferable and what they bring to the table. And I think that you're in a unique position to demonstrate all of those skill sets. And obviously this process is unique and different, but you're highly skilled and capable of integrating into the firm and really demonstrating all that you've learned, whether it was in your corporate work experience in the past, or what you've done voluntarily or for compensation throughout your time off from the paid workforce.

Excellent advice. And I just want to add that at iRelaunch, we have a huge community of about a hundred thousand Relaunchers. We have a very active, vibrant section of our community in a private Facebook group called the iRelaunch return to work forum. And there are probably over 8,000 Relaunchers in this forum and it is so active and vibrant with Relaunchers talking about everything that they're going through as they're relaunching their career in the early stages to when they're in interviews. And we also have Relaunchers who they stay in the group after they relaunched. And they talk about first that they're relaunched success and everyone celebrates and cheers them on.

And then they remain in the group to give people advice. So when Mariany is talking about community, this Facebook iRelaunch return to work forum, it embodies that concept. And it's a great place to connect with people who then you can connect with in smaller groups offline too. So find other Relaunchers in that group.

So I would highly recommend that or highly recommend seeking out other people just in general, who are going through this process at the same time as you awesome advice. And then the other thing that Mariany mentioned was your ability to talk about your skillset and to talk about your experiences during your career break and how those lend themselves to your candidacy now.

And remember, you are having conversations with people who know that you've taken a career break, you have to have the career break in order to be eligible to apply for and participate in the program. So the career break is valued, and it's a judgment free zone to talk about it.

Mariany, thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch conferences and events to sign up for our job board and access our return to work tools and resources go to

And if you like this podcast be sure to rate it on apple podcasts and your favorite podcast platform, and be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. Thanks for joining us.

Do you enjoy our podcast and want to make sure other relaunchers can find our return to work advice?

Be sure to rate, follow and leave a review of our podcast using our handy guide so we can reach even more relaunchers!

How to Rate and Review the 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch Podcast

New to our podcast?

Find out more about our most popular episodes and content of the 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch podcast!

Don't relaunch alone!

Join our growing relauncher communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more great guidance on your relaunch and updates on when return to work programs are accepting applications, events for relaunchers and more, be sure to sign up for our Return to Work Report and follow us on social media to stay informed!

Icon community