Getting a job is hard, especially if you happen to have a ten-year gap in your resume and skills rustier than a bike left out all winter. Yet, this is the reality that many women in our country face when they are ready to rejoin the workforce after leaving their careers to raise a family or care for a sick parents. According to Sheryl Sandberg in her bestseller, Lean In, roughly 43% of women either leave their jobs to care for children or purposefully “off-ramp” their career. Kids aren’t the only reason women are dropping out of the workforce in droves. Many baby boomers are also feeling the stress of taking care of a sick parent. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, caregivers provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care to friends and relatives with Alzheimer’s, and two-thirds of those caregivers are women.
Trying to get back into the workforce can be extremely difficult for women who may be a decade or more behind on the latest trends, especially because they are competing with hungry millennials who are willing to work longer hours for less money and often come pre-built with highly advanced technical skills. What can we do? Well, it might be time to consider an adult internship.
It’s Not Just Getting Coffee Anymore
Internships are supposed to be a way for young high school or college grads to get a taste of the professional world, but often involve doing a lot of drudgery work like making coffee and filing. Where exactly does an experienced adult trying to find a real job fit into this equation?
Well, the world of work is changing, and the workplace is adapting to accommodate this new reality. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of the “returnship,” which basically translates into an internship for adults. These returnships are specifically targeted at adults who are looking to re-enter the workforce after a long absence or adults who want to switch careers entirely (a growing trend). Companies are starting to realize that returning adults, like you, represent a valuable resource. According to an article about returnships on CNBC.com, a few companies that have created returnship programs are: Goldman Sachs, General Motors, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Credit Suisse.
While returnships often don’t pay well, they can provide you with the bridge you need to walk across the employment gap on your resume. Here are some of the biggest benefits of returnships:
- Experience: If you’ve been out of the workforce for five to ten years, then you are probably behind on the latest and greatest trends in your field, not to mention everyday office technology. Here is your chance to get up to speed.
- Connections: The easiest way to find a job is through your network. If your tribe is made up 90% of PTA moms, then you might not have much professional reach. A returnship lets you build useful relationships in your field, relationships that may eventually lead to a job.
- Practice: Let’s face it, you probably need practice working at a job again. It may have been a while since you put together a budget, developed a customer presentation, and helmed a meeting. A returnship lets you shake off the rust so you can make sure you are up to entering the full time workforce.
- Experiment: A returnship is also your chance to test the waters of a new career. You don’t have to go back to doing what you did before you took your break. If you’ve developed new interests or passions in the interim, try to find a returnship in that industry.
- A Job: Not every returnship will result in a job, but if you work hard and make yourself indispensable to the company, you could very well find yourself with a job offer at the end of your experience. Even if the company can’t take you on at the end of the returnship, you will be able to update your resume with current experience and get some great references too.
Start Looking Now
Not sure where to find an adult internship? This helpful article from LearningAdvisor.com provides a list of companies that offer returnship programs as well as helpful returnship search websites, such as iRelaunch.com. Of course, if a company you want to work for doesn’t have a returnship program, why not suggest one? Come on, what company wouldn’t be thrilled to get a call from a highly qualified woman who wants to work on the cheap in order to gain useful experience? Just make sure when you suggest a returnship to a company that you clearly lay out the terms of the returnship, including an end date when you can then discuss potentially working for the company as a regular (and fairly paid) employee.
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