“Returnships:” Internships for Grown-ups!

150923_MOV_TheIntern.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2Photo by: Slate.com

I loved Nancy Meyer’s film, The Intern. If you haven’t seen it, Robert De Niro plays Ben an affable 70 year old widower and former executive who has trouble finding work. He opts to take an internship at a company run by C.E.O Jules (aka Anne Hathaway.) While the
film’s comedic edge gets its roots from the challenges Ben faces as his Millennial colleagues help him navigate the nuances of a modern digital fashion start up, the subject matter is real; it’s tough for adults of a certain age to re-enter the workforce especially when there is a gap on the resume.

One trend that’s gaining some steam for helping mitigate this is the “returnship;” a mid-career internship. Companies such as Apple, Boston Scientific, Intuit, Uber and Paypal all offer returnships ranging from 9 to 18 weeks. Some have partnered with Path Forward a non-profit organization that partners with companies to offer 18-week paid internships aimed at helping workers get their foot in the door. Started several years ago in San Francisco, Path Forward has since set up programs in other cities including New York, Los Angeles and Denver and boasts an 80% hire rate at the end of the participant’s program.

Another organization popular for returnships is called The Mom Project. Companies send in their hiring needs and founder Allison Robinson and her team, match up these needs with the skillsets of moms in their database. According to Harvard Business Review only 40% of professional women who leave the workforce to take time off return. Robinson, who started the firm after her first child Asher was born, recognized the opportunity to create a talent marketplace to bridge the gap between employers looking for top talent and the millions of professionally accomplished mothers looking for meaningful work.

Recognizing the need for building experienced management depth, JP Morgan and Chase started it’s re-entry program 5 years ago for those who had been at the V.P. level or above and have had a career break for 2 years or more. This type of program is growing in popularity for workers because there is still a reluctance for recruiters to put forward candidates who may have gaps in their resumes.

In The Intern, Ben finds his way to a full time gig and a happy hollywood ending. What can you do to up your chances for finding a meaningful returnship and, more importantly, meaningful long term work?

  1. Google “returnships” or “reentry internships” and your location to find organizations that specialize in mid-career internships in your area. Most large cities now have organizations that offer help.
  2. If you are interested in a particular field, reach out to professional organizations and send them a letter with your request. For example, if you are an engineer and contact the Society of Women Engineers, you’ll find they share internship/returnship opportunities through their website.
  3. Think about who in your network is doing work you would like to be doing and let them know what you are looking for. Follow up with a good cover letter highlighting how you might solve a problem at their firm and explain what you’ve experienced or learned from the gap in your job history. It’s better to hit gaps straight on rather than hide them. If there’s an “eclipse” in your skill set, acknowledge that, but emphasize what skills you do have and of course, like Ben, what you’d like to learn!