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Struggling to Get Back to Work After a Career Break?

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!).

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