Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Returnships: what are they & where can you find them?


We're glad to see that the debate on UK gender equality is filtering down from board-level to mid-career, recognising the broader issues facing women in the corporate world ... including the difficulties for women returners of getting back into a corporate role after many years out. Last week Newton Investment CEO Helena Morrissey called for employers to develop 'returnships' to give women routes back into work after a career break.

So what is a returnship?

A returnship is a professional internship designed specifically for people (usually women) returning after an extended career break. It's a short-term position drawing on existing skills and experience, and may be supplemented with relevant training courses. It gives a chance for the returner to build their confidence and gain recent CV experience, while practically testing out the role and whether they want to return to a demanding corporate job. From the employer's side, they have access to the skills of an experienced professional and a low-risk way of assessing the returner as a potential longer-term employee. 

Are they worth doing?

It seems like a great idea - does it work in practice? Many programmes have successful track records. Goldman Sachs in the US (which trademarked the term 'returnship') has been running a programme since 2008, initially in New York and also in India in 2014. It's for professionals looking to restart their careers after 2+ years out (average 6 years). The paid 10 week programme offers work experience in a variety of departments, with real business issues to work on, together with an induction and a range of courses such as self-promotion, influence and industry trends. Goldman state that around 50% of participants have gone on to full-time roles.

There is strong evidence of success in the UK, with the majority of participants taken on into ongoing mid to senior level roles at the end of the programmes run to date.

Where can I find one? Any in the UK?

We are proud to have led the growth and development of returnships and other returner programmes since 2014, across sectors and across the UK. We have partnered with many leading organisations such as EY, Tideway, Man Group, Skanska, Macquarie Bank and O2 to develop and run successful programmes. Programmes have grown in number rapidly: from 3 in 2014, to 9 in 2015 and 23 in 2016 (source: Women Returners research).  To see the latest returnships on offer please see our constantly updated list here.


Of course you could always apply for a regular internship, particularly if you're considering a new career (eg.Cancer Research UK state their unpaid 12 week internships are also aimed at mid-career changers). And we know a number of women who have set up their own informal returnships - we'll talk more about creating your own returnship in a future post.

Posted by Julianne

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