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In the 2015 comedy film The Intern, Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old intern writer at an online fashion magazine. The movie highlights the comical side of the scenario. Yet it’s not as unlikely a scenario as it once was. A growing number of employers are hiring relaunchers, experienced professionals returning to the workforce after a career break, as a way to reach an often-overlooked talent pool that can help to close an organization’s skills gaps.  

What are the hidden advantages of relaunchers? What should you look for when hiring them? How do you make a relauncher’s reentry internship a success? 

Benefits of Hiring Relaunchers

Relaunchers have been away from the workforce for multiple years and for multiple reasons such as caring for children, serving in the military, supporting parents, or tending to other personal priorities. During her TEDx talk on the topic, Carol Fishman Cohen, Chair and Co-Founder of iLaunch, highlighted four advantages that relaunchers bring to the corporate table:

  1. Relaunchers are in a stable stage of life. Professionals who have raised their children and explored their interests are less concerned with questions like, “what do I want to do with my life?” They have a solid understanding of who they are, what they enjoy, and what they expect from a job. They are more apt to have a longer-term view of a role and a company.
  2. Relaunchers have more experience. This (almost) goes without saying, but relaunchers who step into a new job bring with them a greater understanding of corporate culture, market changes, and communications at work than someone starting in a career. They are well-equipped to anticipate change as an inevitable part of business. 
  3. Relaunchers have a mature perspective. In addition to knowledge of the working world, relaunchers have more life experience, giving them a perspective that helps to anticipate problems, find creative solutions, and weigh options for what to do in a specific situation.
  4. Relaunchers often help gender balance in the workplace. Since it’s predominantly women who leave the workforce to care for loved ones, more men are represented in leadership positions at work. Returning female professionals present an opportunity to better balance the ratio of men to women in management. 
What to Look for in Relaunchers

Many employers view hiring relaunchers as a high-risk proposition. Inevitably, the work environment has changed while the professional was away. Technology advancements may have changed how work gets done. And, a person who is able to run a household to meet the needs of loved ones may not be ready (or willing) to reorganize her personal schedule to fall in line with full-time work. 

Restarting a career after a break requires effort from the employee and employer alike. As you’re considering relauncher applicants, look for people who:

  • Keep up with the industry. Reading business news and industry publications is a great way to track what’s going on. Look for someone who has been tracking developments for at least the past six months. 
  • Bring a sense of curiosity. You’ll want employees who are eager to learn, to join, to help make a difference. Look for relaunchers who are curious about projects that are happening around them. 
  • Are humble. Someone who is going back to work after ten years off needs to accept that they are not going to pick up exactly where they left off. They will need a “reentry” period to get up to speed on how things work now. And, there is no guarantee that the employee remains a good fit for the role they held ten years before. That said, a humble attitude, willingness to learn, and a strong work ethic frequently lead to success on the job.  
  • Have clarity about what they want to do. A relauncher may not want to return to the same level of work or kind of work they did before their break. Look for people who have a good sense of what they want to do next. 
How Reentry Internships Can Boost Success

In 2008, Goldman Sachs coined (and trademarked) the term returnship™ to describe its 10-week program for men and women with career gaps who were looking to get back to full-time work. Since then, companies such as IBM, United Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, and Mastercard have joined in with their own reentry internships. They’ve found that internships help to attract excellent candidates who turn into great hires. 

Here are a few elements of successful reentry internships: 

  • Skills and Competency Assessments: relaunchers are likely to have asynchronous skill sets, where they have well-developed communications skills, for example, but lack awareness of some of the communications tools you use. They may know a lot about your industry, but less about current regulations. An early competency assessment will help you – and they – identify the skills and knowledge gaps they’ll need to address.
  • Software Training: for essential communications and job tools. While it’s reasonable to expect a relauncher to have a working knowledge of basic office management software, you may need to introduce these employees to communication and collaboration tools such as Slack, Zoom, Air Table, Basecamp or other tools you use every day to manage work with colleagues and customers.
  • Personal Learning Plan: to map the path to success in closing skills gaps and getting up to speed in a new job. Depending on your plans for your new employee, you may include learning and experiences to build on management skills they bring to the table.
  • Mentorship and Informal Guidance: Some things are best learned from a trusted colleague. Relaunchers will benefit from guidance to help navigate the nuances of your culture. What are the unwritten rules? What’s the best way to get involved without alienating people along the way? A reminder to “drink more water” – to connect with others socially on breaks – can be an essential tip for building long-term relationships at work. 

Internships for relaunchers is a win-win. Companies have the opportunity to test out employees for skills and fit. Interns have a chance to get partially trained in a new role, reacclimate to work life, and gain confidence that they are ready to step back into full-time work. A successful reentry internship delivers employees who are trained and ready to start the job.

Is your company ready to hire professionals who are ready to get back to work? Contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management system can help you identify and support your relaunchers. Or schedule a demo to see how it works. 


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Download our Competency Management Toolkit.