I was at Starbuck's a few weeks ago and ran into a fellow journalist who I hadn't seen in many years. She was with her teenage daughter and struck up a conversation with me about how she wants to return to work after taking a decade off to be home with her children.
My first thought was...that's not going to be easy. In almost every profession, including journalism, technology has changed how we do our jobs. If my friend wants to apply for a job, she will be competing for jobs against people who have embraced that change, particularly young reporters. So what's the answer? Will my friend be able to return to work?
A few days later, I heard Gloria Samayoa speak at an event and mention that her digital marketing agency, SapientNitro, is piloting a return to work program in its Miami office. The program aimed at transitioning experienced professionals back into the workforce was successful in other offices and the agency thought Miami would be a good place to try it, too. The two conversations led to a Miami Herald column on "Returnships" which are similar to internships but for experienced workers who go back to work on a trial basis and receive one-on-one mentoring during that time period. The goal is to turn the experience into a permanent, fulltime position.
After interviewing two mothers who participated in these "returnship"programs, I'm convinced this is a great option for anyone looking to transition back into the workforce with a gap in his or her résumé.
Below are some great tips from women who have returned to work.
Ellen Kalis and her son Jax. Ellen, took four years off and now works at SapientNitro
TIPS FROM FOUR FEMALE ‘CAREER-RETURNERS’
1. Carol Fishman Cohen of Boston returned to work at Bain Capital after 11 years out of the full-time workforce. She eventually founded iRelaunch.com, a firm that connects employers with returning professionals. Her advice: “Get clarity around what want to do now at this point in your life. Once you know where you want to work, get to know the company you are applying to really well.” She also advises taking courses or refreshing skills before applying for full-time jobs or return-to-work positions. “Get into the mindset that you are open to training and the feeling you can do it.”
2. Amy Brenner Schaecter of Weston returned to work after more than a decade at home. First she went to a PR firm, then in-house at a multinational company. Her advice: “When you get back to work, make friends with a smart millennial. The synergy is awesome.”
3. Ellen Kalis participated in SapientNitro’s Returns Program after a four-year hiatus. Her advice: “You have to have confidence in your skills. If you go in and show your value right away, companies will see that. Even though I needed more ramp-up time than a millennial or someone who came from that position, hopefully I am adding value somewhere else.” Kalis is now a full-time public relations lead for SapientNitro, Canada and the Midwest. Ellen published an awesome blog post about her experience.
4. When Carol Hansen returned to return to work in New York after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, the industry she had left —marketing/advertising — was transformed. Hansen’s transition through SapientNitro’s return-to-work program had its challenges: It was her first time working with millennials, balancing work and family, and digital storytelling. Her advice: “Jump in and raise your hand to help with any project. In doing so, talk to people in all areas of the company,” she said. “Even if I didn’t make it past the returnship period, I knew I needed to learn more and make myself relevant. I saw areas where I was strong and got a reading on areas where I wasn’t.” Hansen is now a full-time senior user experience designer at SapientNitro in New York.