Those of us who remember what it was like to enter the workforce may remember one of the most significant difficulties we had to overcome. Most job listings require a specific number of year’s experience — but how do you get experience without first getting a job?

For a long time, the solution to that problem was internships. When you were young, maybe you worked for low (or no) pay to cultivate connections in your field, learn workplace norms and gain much-needed experience to market yourself to a potential employer.

Now that you’re returning to the workforce years later, you may encounter the same problem but with less opportunity or time to get an internship first. Maybe you took time off to care for your children or other family members, served in the military or recovered from an illness. All these things happen. Life happens. And getting back into the job market should be seamless.

This is where returnships come in. Like internships, they’re short-term (two to six months) experiences at a company and are geared to those with five or more years of work experience.

Even though you may have an impressive work history and a wall covered with “Employee of the Month” award plaques, you may still need to reacquaint yourself with the changes in your field and new technology (hello, AI). But unlike an internship, it’s assumed that you’ll have a solid working knowledge of your field, and, best of all, you’ll usually get paid for your valuable time. Here are other advantages of a returnship:

1. Goal setting

If you think you’ll just be fetching coffee, think again. Returnship participants are working professionals, and you’ll be treated as such — with employers helping you set goals and agendas that continue to challenge you more and more as the program continues. Returnships are a win-win for you and your employer, so you can bet they will be just as invested in your growth and success as you are.

2. New skills

Think of a returnship like a boot camp that immerses you in new technologies — think social media, chatbots, and collaborative software. You’ll also get an up-close look at the current state of workplace culture and how people interact with each other. The program will expose you to the current work culture and processes used in the field, as well as opportunities to network with employers and colleagues.

3. Exploring options

You may not know precisely what you want out of your return to the workforce. Maybe your old role doesn’t exist anymore, or you’d prefer to explore something else entirely. For instance, if you were in sales before, perhaps this time you’d like to see if you are a good match for a marketing career. With a returnship, you’ll rotate around to different clients and projects and get a chance to see if the field and the company are right for you at this stage of your career.

4. Mentoring

If you’ve lost touch over the years with others working in your field, you’ll be pleased to find that many returnships will provide you with a coach or mentor. You’ll also get to network with colleagues at your company and form connections that you’ll be able to keep for decades to come.

5. Employment opportunities

Returnships can give you a leg up on the job hunt. Some employers hire participants after the program wraps up. This benefits you and will make you stand out to your employer because you’re already familiar with how the organization works and how you fit best within.

If reentering the workforce has been a scary thought, we encourage you to look for returnships as they are a great way to ease back into your field — or something new entirely! You still have so much to offer and what better time to add value to an organization than the present.


About the Guest Post Author:

Mike Szczesny is the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, branded merchandise, and athletic awards. Szczesny takes pride in EDCO’s ability to help companies go the extra mile in expressing gratitude and appreciation to their employees. He resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.