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!).
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
A five-step framework for addressing systematic racism at work
The world has changed in the past few weeks.
We're watching corporations and organizations across the world come out in support of Black lives in droves. Many of those organizations are doing so for the first time in their history.
I sat in front of my CEO to discuss several complaints of racism. I was new to my role as a Culture Director. I was nervous about his reaction to the complaints. But I also knew he strongly supported developing this new department; I knew that he would take the right steps. So I was shocked when I heard him say sheepishly, "I don't know, Noelle...all of this stuff about racism. I just don't see it. I don't even see color. I'm pretty much color blind."
Living in the midst of a pandemic has brought about a whole host of changes and challenges for workplaces and employees. One of the most notable? Virtual interviewing. With most on-site interviews on hold for the foreseeable future, it's important that you be prepared to make a great first impression—virtually.