Start Your Next Chapter After a Career Break: How You Can Get Back to Work With a Returnship at Audible
If you've stepped back from your career to take care of a loved one, you're not alone. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, millions of individuals have left the workforce to become stay-at-home caregivers. Unfortunately, this decision doesn't only affect monthly income; it can also create a hole in your resume that makes re-entering the workforce a challenge.
However, some employers are starting to realize the importance of looking past resume gaps in order to assess the holistic experience of applicants. A CBS New York article reports that "there are a growing number of corporate programs aimed specifically for [returnees]."
These programs—returnships—are basically mid-career internships that offer training, experience, and networking opportunities to professionals who have been out of the workforce for an extended amount of time.
CNN puts it this way: "There are lots of exits off the highway of our lifetime work, but very few on-ramps. And returnships are one of those on-ramps."
In essence, the goal of these programs is to give qualified individuals a jump start to pick up their career where they left off. The returnship experience gives hiring managers a reason to look past resume gaps and hire qualified people that they would otherwise overlook. And they're working pretty well. The New York Post explains that, upon successful completion of these programs, roughly 80% of returnees get offered a permanent job.
Are you looking for a returnship?
Premium audio storytelling company Audible launched their Returnship Program, Next Chapter, in 2020 and recently announced new opportunities for applicants. The program offers experienced professionals who have taken a career break for caregiving a full-time, paid remote internship over the course of 18 weeks. It gives participants a chance to return to the workforce by revamping skills, updating their resume with new experiences, and making connections with other professionals.
"We're helping people bring the skills that they have developed in the past, and put them back to work," said Anne Erni, Chief People Officer at Audible. "This is an incredible opportunity to show women and men who choose to opt out that they can return, and they can return and have successful, highly paid careers."
Audible's returnship program is open to professionals who have:
- 2 to 5+ years of professional experience
- Been out of the paid workforce for at least one year to focus on childcare or other dependent care.
- Upon successful completion of the return ship there is a possibility of an offer for full-time employment.
If you're interested in returning to work with Audible, you can read more about the Next Chapter Returnship Program here.
We're excited to announce applications are now open for Facebook's Return to Work program. We have positions open for 10 roles:
- Data Engineer, Infrastructure
- Research Data Scientist, Infrastructure
- Capacity Engineering and Analysis Engineer, Infrastructure
- Mechanical Engineer, Infrastructure
- Mechanical Engineer, AR/VR
- Firmware Engineer, AR/VR
- Electrical Engineer, AR/VR
- Technical Program Manager, Infrastructure
- Technical Program Manager, AR/VR
- Fulfillment Operations Program Manager, AR/VR
Roles are based in the Bay Area and Seattle area offices, as well as our Boston office. Please check each job requisition for the corresponding locations.
What is the Return to Work Program?
- A 16-week immersive program designed for those who have left the workforce for 2 years or longer and are looking to re-enter the workforce full-time. At the end of the term, those who have demonstrated their abilities to succeed and have an impact at Facebook will be considered for a full-time position.
Hear stories from Return to Work Program graduates:
- The Fall Program starts at the end of August and runs through December.
- To view opportunities and apply, visit our website. Please apply early, as we're expecting a high volume of applicants and have limited positions.
Zynga's New Returnship Program Will Help You Make a Smooth Transition
It can feel almost impossible to get back to work after a career break, but some companies are making it easier with dedicated return to work programs.
Even though the corporate world may have been slow on the uptake, companies know there's a lot of untapped, experienced talent eager to get back to work — they just need some help with the transition.
Our partner company Zynga understands this all too well. That's why this fall, they're launching a Returnship Program for anyone who's been out of the workforce for at least 2 years to care for a family member.
A global leader in interactive entertainment with a mission to connect the world through games, Zynga knows that a diverse team is key to achieving that mission.
To learn more about the value Zynga sees in team members who've taken career breaks, I sat down with Tracey Thomas, Manager of Learning & Development, to talk about why Zynga is launching a Returnship Program, the results they hope to see, and how you can apply.
Why are you launching this program?
Tracey Thomas (TT): As an organization, we are committed to shaping the future of gaming to more closely resemble the makeup of our players. Because the people who take time off to care for a family member are women, we saw this as an opportunity to give them a chance to build a career in gaming, but also help us diversify our pipeline with highly qualified and skilled candidates.
Returnees are highly qualified, highly experienced individuals who have worked in their industries for at least five years, and are motivated and ready to get back to work.
The challenge that these individuals face when they're going back to work is that they're often overlooked because of that gap on their resumes.
It's not that they don't have extraordinary qualifications to do the job, or even that they haven't continued to build up their skills while they were away. It's that extended time away is often seen as an unknown by recruiting teams and hiring managers. Our hope is to help candidates overcome that hurdle and thrive at Zynga.
How does the Returnship Program work?
TT: The Returnship itself takes place over 16 weeks. It's a pretty unique program that operates a lot like an internship, except that the candidates are experienced.
Participants will receive training and support from us as program organizers, as well as from role-specific mentors, who will help them get up to speed and do meaningful work from day one.
We're running the program in conjunction with Path Forward, and they will also provide several workshops throughout the program that will enable candidates to successfully re-enter the workforce and build their community.
At the end of the 16 weeks, assuming it's a good fit, they'll have the option to join us full time. Even if it doesn't work out, they'll get support from us as they look for another role. We'll help them refine their resumes and prepare for interviews with other companies.
And you know, at the end of the day, they have 16 weeks of really, really good working experience with a successful, supportive company. But of course we're hoping that they stay with us!
What do you want to see as a result of this program?
TT: I am excited for the opportunity to give capable people a path back to work and I would love it if they found their careers with Zynga. I hope they feel that they got a lot of support during the program.
But beyond that, I would love to see a shift in the paradigm in how we recruit people. I hope it encourages our hiring managers to take a second look at candidates who have non-traditional career paths and realize that they would be fantastic value-adds to the team.
Why should women participate in this program?
TT: This is such an innovative and supportive way to re-embark on a career after taking time off, especially for moms.
As a woman and a mother, I identify with this experience. Once we take time off, there's this confidence issue, especially in technology where things move so fast and it's already a super competitive industry.
This is a program that is designed for you. We want to hear from you. We believe you can be uniquely successful at Zynga and add value. We've already done that part where in a traditional hiring process, you have to prove yourself. We believe in the program because we believe in you and the work you've put into your career. After you apply, we'll work together to get you trained up for you to do great work.
On top of that, this is an opportunity to build community with others going through exactly the same thing that you are. So you're not going to be the only person in your organization who has taken some time off and is just returning.
We've made the commitment as an employer to create this inclusive environment where belonging and development are priorities. We've created learning and development opportunities specifically to help you get ramped up over 16 weeks, where in a traditional re-entry situation you wouldn't have that adjustment time. We are coming to this program with the understanding that you'll need time to get up to speed, but once you are, you are going to be fantastic and you are going to make a fantastic contribution to our team.
What tips do you have for applicants?
1) I really want to encourage people to apply, even if they feel like they don't meet every single piece of criteria that's listed on the job description. Women have a tendency to shy away if they don't meet 100% of the criteria, and we want to discourage that type of thinking because we may see value in you that you may not even realize. It's worth it to just take the time to apply and let us reach out to you.
2) When you are refining your resume for a role like this, show off the skills that you developed when you were taking your time off. So if, for example, you organized an international trip, there's a lot of key skills involved in that, and that's a really good thing to put on your resume. If you had daily tasks that you did when you were caring for a family member, those are great ways to show your coordination skills. They show your management and people skills, so play up those experiences that may not be directly related to the role, but that have some similarities to the leveling of the role if you're going to be managing a project/program/people. That's the best way to stand out for hiring managers because those are the types of skills that are transferable no matter what industry you're in. Even if it was for caring for a family member.
"I'm interested! How do I apply?"
TT: Check out the active listings on our site. As long as there is a listing on our website, you should continue to apply. Once we've filled those roles, we'll pull them down so there won't be any expired listings. But if they're up there, take a chance, reach out to us, apply.
The only set criteria is that you have to have been out of the workforce for two years to care for a family member, and worked for five years in your industry prior to that.
As long as you meet those criteria, we want to hear from you. Don't be shy.
What resources does Zynga offer parents?
TT: Zynga is an amazing employer for parents. I'm a mother of two and I couldn't be more thrilled with the resources at my office in Austin. I get to work remotely, and Zynga also provides a caregiving benefit, meaning they subsidize 15 days of back-up care throughout the year.
Zynga offers one of the best PTO schedules I have seen in the industry. Most of our studios and roles are flexible about working from home. It depends on the role and the gaming cycles.
And if you have a situation that requires you to be away from the office, Zynga is fantastic about that. There are amazing maternity and paternity benefits as well.
So I would say that Zynga is just super family friendly. In the Austin studio we do a number of family-related events on the weekend, like going to the lake or a water park.
What's your favorite part about working at Zynga?
TT: Actually, one of my favorite things about working at Zynga is that it is so family friendly. It makes it really easy for me as a mother to lean into my career without having to sacrifice my role as a mother and a wife.
Aside from that, it's just a really fun place to work. All of our offices are casual and laid back. We're working on games all day long, which I think is just such a fun opportunity. We work with really great partnerships and IPs, so we're working with the top names in the entertainment industry. And we were also just named the number one mobile gaming company by Pocket Gamer!
Ready to apply?
Be sure to check out Zynga's page on PowerToFly to learn more about their open roles, benefits (like flexible hours and dog-friendly offices!), and approach to diversity and inclusion (50% of their board members are women!).
A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.
Scott Morris, Skillcrush
About a year ago I started to consider getting back into the workforce. I'd left unskilled retail work and a long, meandering college career 12 years earlier to be an at-home parent to my first daughter. A second daughter followed three years after that—so I'd had my hands full trying to keep up with them while my wife worked full-time—but at the ages of 12 and nine, my kids were getting to a point where they didn't need as much constant parental care. Meanwhile, my wife and I were looking for ways to add some savings for their college funds, and to have extra money set aside for emergencies.
The problem was, my parenting duties were still just enough to make the idea of working outside the home—even part time—fairly daunting. I remember thinking that if only there were a way to make money from home, that would be the perfect scenario—but the idea sounded like something out of a get rich quick scam. Fortunately, I told my woes to a friend of mine and she metaphorically slapped some sense into me about the very real, very achievable world of remote work. The company she worked for happened to be looking for part-time copywriting help, and within a couple of weeks of our first conversation, I found myself working for Skillcrush.
At the age of 40, I thought I'd run my course as far as what I was going to be doing with my life—I've never been a particularly ambitious or career-minded person, and I was perfectly happy with most aspects of being an at-home parent and husband. But, I did still feel like something was missing. It had been so many years since I'd really gone out on a limb and tried something new that there was a part of me that felt stagnant.
Paid work filled this void by adding a new dimension to my life, and—although I'm busier now than I've been in years—my life is fuller and more focused than it was before. I have to think about schedules and parcel out specific time for different activities in a more regimented way than I did before, and it makes me really think about how to spend my time and appreciate the downtime I have in between. It's also refreshing to learn and implement new skills—and actually earn a paycheck for doing so.
I'm Not a Barista Anymore: Fighting Impostor Syndrome
At first, I looked at my new job the same way as the bookstore and barista jobs I'd had decades prior: I figured I was supposed to be available, receive instruction on what to do, do what I was told, and rinse and repeat. I worried that asking for clarification or even requesting more work would be perceived as me not knowing what I was doing and expose the fact that I really didn't belong. But professional work isn't about clocking in and mindlessly following a set of instructions—you need to find or create opportunities to get actively involved in your workplace, particularly if you're freelancing or remote, where nobody actually sees you.
And, I needed to let go of my impostor syndrome. If I didn't belong, they wouldn't have asked me to be there—end of story. But I let that feeling take over, afraid of my own shadow, sitting quietly and not wanting to be noticed as opportunities passed me by.
With that approach, my hours dried up and I was exactly where I was before: stagnant. Luckily, a few other Skillcrushers were kind enough to clue me in on how things work. Asking questions? Not a bad thing. Requesting more hours and seeking out ways to evolve and define your role as a part-time freelancer? Also not a bad thing. Once I followed this advice, I started to hit my stride and establish a solid role in the company.
Here's what I wish I'd known when I started: Don't be afraid to express interest in projects you're not already attached to, or to let your managers or coworkers know about skills or interests you have that aren't typically part of your job title. Try saying something like "I hear that we're developing a podcast. I have some audio editing skills and I'd love to be a part of the project." Or, "I'd love to learn more about how we track our audience. May I sit in on the next numbers meeting and observe?" Nobody will think you're being pushy (my greatest fear). Remember that your colleagues and managers want you to succeed—and if they don't, you're working for the wrong company.
More Work is a Good Thing?
Beyond learning the culture of a workplace, I also had to adjust to an entirely new system of timing. During my first few weeks of working for Skillcrush, the extra hours of paid work didn't have much of an impact on my unpaid work of housework and childcare duties—until one particularly dark, rainy day when the dishes had piled up, a chimney leak was letting water into the living room, my kids had an early release day from school. . .and I had an article due that I hadn't even started yet.
At the time, I'd banged out my first few Skillcrush articles without really knowing what I was doing. I started at Skillcrush in the middle of the holiday season and bounced between different roles before settling into my current place on our editorial team, so I didn't have an official, black and white training period. This—combined with my overall lack of experience—turned each article I wrote into an anxiety-laden experience. Whenever I finished writing I felt like, "Oh thank god! I finished it, it's over! I don't have to do that again!" But—of course—this was a job, and after one article was finished, the next one needed to be done. And this particular rainy day was the first time my mounting anxiety partnered with my backed-up domestic duties to make the whole thing feel impossible.
I remember totally freaking out: "WTF have I gotten myself into? There's no way I can get everything done!" But after a few deep breaths I started the article, took a break to pick up my kids, finished the article, and excavated the dishes. The leak got fixed about 6 months later, but the point is: There was time to do it all—I just had to focus on one task at a time, and everything started to fall into place.
In the months since—whenever my schedule starts to seem overwhelming—I think back to the methodical approach that pulled that day together, and it makes me remember that the focus of having part-time remote work on top of my domestic duties actually makes me more efficient all around. There's a greater feeling of urgency to get everything done, which means there's less time spent procrastinating and avoiding—I literally can't get away with putting things off anymore—and that's been a positive change in my life.
What's the Plan?
That said, I have had to be proactive in my new, efficient life back in the workforce. Paid work is a whole new world—particularly if you've been out of the game for awhile. You have to learn the ins and outs of how your workplace functions, navigate a new set of social interactions, calibrate your ability to meet deadlines, and (if you're working remotely) remember to change out of your pajamas in the morning. It took me a few months to get used to all of this, much less to get to a place where meetings and reporting to managers didn't automatically fill me with dread—not based on anything anyone else was doing, but just due to my own feelings of inexperience and insecurity. The ability to figure all of this out and still get work done doesn't come together accidentally or automatically. It's all on you to establish systems and habits that will help you succeed. I learned this the hard way.
For my first couple of months I had a completely scattershot approach to working—no plan for when I was going to work, no breaks built-into my schedule (because I didn't have a schedule), entire days spent forgetting to drink water or eat anything—and I was starting to feel completely rudderless and out of control.
I'd start my day intending to do paid work, but then I'd notice some things that needed to be done around the house and I'd decide to take care of those first. Of course—en route to doing vacuuming or laundry folding—I'd put off making coffee or eating breakfast, but after a few hours of chores I'd realize the day was slipping away, so I'd absent-mindedly sit down at the computer, "just to get started." Four to six hours later, my paid work was done, but I was totally fried and wrecked going into the next day where I'd begin this haphazard run all over again.
This approach obviously wasn't working, so at a certain point I had to take a time out and reassess—I'd read all the articles and seen the advice about how you need to create structure when working from home (schedules, breaks, an environment conducive to getting work done, etc), but I'd kept telling myself I'd get to it eventually. The truth is it's all stuff you need to address on day one (or if you're past day one, then right now).
In the months since, I've adjusted my approach—the night before a work day I make sure the house (or at least the area I'm going to be working in) is clean enough so that I'm not distracted, I put off all non-essential housework during the day until I'm done with paid work that's due (or that I've scheduled to get done that day), I keep a written log of what I'm working on in Google Docs, I add due dates to my calendar, I mindfully schedule when I'm going to do what, and I try to stick to the same routine every day as best I can. The results of this approach have been night and day—I now feel like I have a handle on what I'm doing, and I'm able to maintain physical and mental health while also working and caring for my house and family.
In my year at Skillcrush, I've had my eyes opened to how many opportunities there are—not just for work in tech—but for quickly gaining the skills needed to start new careers. I always thought that starting a new career would require years of school and certifications, and that's just not the case. In interviews I've done with tech professionals and conversations I've had with Skillcrush alumni, I've been surprised at the number of people who were in similar situations to mine, and how many success stories there are when it comes to remote work, online coding classes, and other non-traditional venues as a path for returning to the workforce.
I worried about the adjustment, too, but that also fell into place (with some proactive but manageable work on my end), so if you're looking to add paid remote work to your domestic work as a parent or an at-home partner, don't let the extra hours and duties intimidate you. You'll likely find that the tension between paid work and other responsibilities will actually make your days more focused and efficient.
And maybe the biggest bonus is one that was totally unexpected: At a time in my life when I was set in my ways and thought I'd met just about everyone I was ever going to know, I've been introduced to a whole new cast of smart, funny, creative, inspiring people, all while learning new things every day and getting paid. I'm not sure how it gets better than that, and now that it's so integrated into my life, it's weird to think that this part of me didn't exist just a year ago.