You can’t have been active in the workplace (or had an account on a social media platform) over the last couple of years and not come across the term the “Great Resignation,” also known as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle. It started as a US-based economic trend
whereby employees voluntarily left their jobs en masse, and then spread to Europe.
Whatever way it happened, the net result was the same: a lot of people left their jobs, took time off, moved abroad to check out life as a digital nomad, or changed sectors. Others reskilled during the pandemic, using furloughs or other supports as a way to fund learning and development.
And now, as we settle back into a new way of working, a new trend is on the rise.
Returnships are emerging as a viable way to get back into the 9-5, without having to start from the bottom. Companies such as Amazon, Accenture, and Goldman Sachs are all offering return-to-work programs as a way to capture talent, and smooth a path for professionals to return to the workforce after a career break.
While the concept of a return to work after an extended break isn’t new — just ask any parent who has taken a few years off to care for children — the fact that so many companies have recognized this talent pool and are developing programs to support it, is a new approach.
What’s the advantage?
As anyone who’s been out of the workforce for a while will know, imposter syndrome and confidence gaps can be huge. This is where returnships can offer real value. Goldman Sachs, a pioneer of the trend, has been running a returnship program since 2008 offering paid, structured support to those who return.
Amazon’s 16-week returnship program is virtual, offering an easier dip back into the waters of the world of work. Returnships are paid and benefit-eligible, providing a structured environment. Returners receive work assignments to help them reintegrate into the workforce and get used to Amazon’s way of working.
Professional services firm Accenture has a number of returnship programs on offer, including a Technology Returnship Program, a Women Return to Work program and a ReSUME strand for those who’ve taken a career break of more than two years.
At Oracle, a cohort community is one of the selling points of its Career Relaunch program. You’ll have the benefit of joining at the same time as other relaunchers and get — and give — camaraderie and support.
There are other advantages, too. A relaunch program can offer returners the chance to accelerate their careers by developing new skills or areas of specialization. Some people coming back from a career break may even choose to embark on a returnship as a way of “sense checking” to see if they would enjoy a new industry.
Program length is a factor as well. Typically, people aren’t expected to participate in a returners program for the same time it takes to complete a traditional internship. After all, these are experienced professionals, they just need some reintroduction into the workforce.
While returnship opportunities are generally paid, you may not be guaranteed a job at the end of a program. Oracle’s Career Relaunch program allows you to start at the company full-time, where your first 12 weeks will consist of specialized onboarding enhanced by structured job training and mentorship.
However, at Amazon, the program is more akin to how a regular internship works. The company says, “Subject to performance and feedback throughout the returnship program, qualified candidates may be offered full-time employment.”
Regardless of the outcome, it is hard to look at a returnship as anything other than broadly positive. At the very least, participants will have gained valuable new work experience, sharpening existing skills and honing new ones while filling a gap in their CVs. They should also have taken advantage of networking and mentoring opportunities to boost their hireability across the wider job market.
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