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The Best Returning To Work Programs For Women Over 40

7 min read

If you would like to completely change the course of your professional path at 50-something, we’ve got good news. Giving up your career in midlife is history, as a new cultural shift promotes greater acceptance of non-traditional career paths. Determination, tenacity, know-how and extended years of experience are but a few of the benefits that make companies around the world go above and beyond in making their workplace truly inclusive and welcoming for all ages.

In the US, there are more than three million women with college and higher degrees re-entering the workforce after a career break. These women are an invaluable source of talent for the corporate world as they are equipped with a strong skillset, a proven work record, reliability, life experience, and confidence. Several companies have realised what an asset these women are and are investing in returnship programs that make their re-entry easy and smooth for all parties as work teams that comprise multiple generations perform better than those that do not.

The fast pace at which the world is developing is also contributing to the favourable work scene.

The skills employers need in their employees are changing so quickly that people who take a career break for education or retraining are becoming increasingly attractive – says Sue Bhatia, founder, and chairwoman of Rose International, a US staffing firm-. Taking time off to retrain oneself is seen as a sign of adaptability.

Is a returnship program for you?

A returnship is usually a contract of three to six months that blends the role with a range of return-to-work support provided in the form of mentoring, coaching and training where required. Programs are targeted at women (and men) who had senior-level roles before their extended career break and they are usually run annually (but there may be a few entry points throughout the year). A program may be planned for one person, but it may often have up to 10 participants. If the placement is successful, there is typically a high likelihood of a permanent role (according to Nat-West an estimated 80% end up in employment after a returnship).

Companies with a mission to make re-entries smooth

Googling recruiting platforms for women brings up mind-boggling results. The market is booming and dozens of companies are now specialised in helping women rejoin the working world after a break in their career. They provide returning professionals skills training, coaching, peer support and opportunities in paid project assignments at leading companies. The company areas that have been more receptive to the return to work model include; Financial services, construction, engineering, and tech, with media, local government and law that are also increasingly getting involved.

Established in 2007, iRelaunch is one of the pioneering companies in the career re-entry space. iRelaunch runs career re-entry conferences and events for employers and individuals returning to work after a career break and works directly with over 70 companies to introduce, implement and expand career re-entry programs to engage with and hire from the return-to-work talent pool. iRelaunch originated and co-leads the STEM Re-entry Task Force with the Society of Women Engineers, in which 26 global engineering-based companies, including some of the world’s largest, are piloting re-entry internship programs.

Apres is another all-women initiative sprung to help women make a come-back to the workplace. But you can also consult several other online platforms such as ReacHire, The Mom Project, The Second Shift, Power to Fly and Fairy God Boss for vacancies, training programs, career advice, and coaching and peer support. Although based in the US, some of them work globally and post offerings worldwide.

Women Returners is a UK-based platform that works on the UK market only. A professional network of more than 5,000 women returners. Like many of its competitors, it was founded by women determined to help other women succeed in their careers.

I co-founded Women Returners in 2012 both to develop a large-scale support community for returners and to create a structural change in corporate career paths through building supported routes back to corporate careers- explains Julianne Miles, CEO of the company-. The main advantage of a returnship is that it’s a trial period for both sides. For returners, it’s a soft landing with a chance to refresh their professional confidence and skills, and without the pressure to hit the ground running.

The Return Hub and Working Mums both have a range of openings available. Returners can find also specialist support on the Women at Work (free to join).

Corporations at the forefront of diversity and inclusion

Big corporate businesses have also awakened to realise what an asset a midlifer can be. In fact, providing ways for females to ease back into work after a career break is a vital way to make sure they do not lose out on their talent and experience.

Tufts Health Plan is a US-based company that truly embraces diversity and inclusion and appreciates the assets that middle-aged workers bring to the company. Lydia Greene, chief human resources officer, states that individuals aged 50 and over make up 34 percent of their company’s workforce. They’re hired at all levels, from physicians to clinical-care managers and administrative assistants.

They bring so much experience to the table- Greene says-. They’re very stable and reliable, and help us develop and mentor our younger workers.

Goldman Sachs has trademarked its returnship program, an internship for experienced workers looking to re-enter the workforce. Whether a worker has taken a step away from professional life to care for a parent or raise a child, a returnship is a unique opportunity to learn new skills, sharpen others and transform the career that was put on hold.

Our Returnship program grants access to a new type of talent pool: mature workers-, explains Leslie Shribman, Vice President at Goldman Sachs-. The program provides participants with 10 weeks of training and mentoring and is meant for those who have taken a career break of more than two years, equipping employees with skills to re-enter the workplace. Of the 350 people who have completed the program, roughly half have returned to work at Goldman.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise believes that its employees are at the heart of what they do. That is why they offer benefits that help their employees be their best and love what they do. It is also why they offer Career Reboot—an industry-leading benefit that allows for a smoother, more confident transition back to work. If you have five or more years of experience and left the workforce for a minimum of 12 months, you could qualify for the Career Reboot experience at HPE.

Our ‘Work That Fits Your Life’ program centers on life outside of work, so our people can focus on what matters most to them at different times in their lives—whether they’re growing their family, re-entering the workforce, or nearing retirement – Alan May, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, states.- With this program, HPE is leading the way in workplace flexibility, family leave, and returnships.

IBM is one of 19 companies in the STEM industry as part of the STEM Reentry Task Force that has now launched re-entry programs designed to reintegrate candidates into the workforce, catch them up to speed and ideally get them into long-term positions. So far, 400 “relaunchers” have gone through these programs and 85% have been hired.

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Mastercard will soon have its next round of intakes to their Mastercard Relaunch Your Career program. The project, which the company launched abroad in 2017, has grown to have over 40 participants across 14 different countries. The 16-week-long program is aimed at helping mid-career professionals who have taken career breaks to acquire the skills and confidence to successfully re-enter the workforce. It is open to both men and women, however, so far it has been mainly women who have come through and have applied.

Real ReturnsTM by Credit Suisse is a diversity initiative designed to recruit talented professionals and facilitate their return to the workforce. It is a paid employment program that runs for approximately 12 weeks. Participants will collaborate on projects suited to their expertise, interests, and skills.

JPMorgan offers a ReEntry Program for recognising that rewarding careers don’t always follow a conventional path. The program value the diversity, fresh perspective and wealth of experience that returning professionals can bring and offers experienced professionals, who are currently on a voluntary career break for at least two years, the support and resources needed to relaunch their careers.

There are dozens of companies that offer fantastic, family-friendly policies for women re-entering the work-life after maternity leave, career break or wanting to change career path at midlife. Here you can also find a list of the best 50 employers for women.

Starting your own business at midlife

According to Financial Times, the over-50s are also the generation of business start-uppers. So, if you’ve had a business plan in your desk drawer for some time and feel like now is the time to pull it out, you should go for it. What better time in life to become your own boss and start your business than midlife.

At 50 you have certainly reached higher maturity and you are more self-confident – states Paola Devescovi, Prosperity Coach and Digital Entrepreneur-.  Mature women know themselves better and often have a deeper awareness of who they are and a deeper sense of freedom. In your 50s you don’t have to demonstrate anything to anyone. If you have done enough personal and spiritual development, you deal with your fears more easily, you don’t take yourself too seriously and the challenges you have overcome so far have contributed to building your resilience. As entrepreneurship is 80% about the mind-set and 20% about plans and strategies, at 50 you most probably have the right mindset to start your own, successful business.

Age is not a limit. Like everything in life, the way you experience midlife is a question of choice.

8 tips for relaunching your career after a break

By Lotta Lehtipuu, Account Director, Accountor Finland

  • Revitalise and expand your business network – attend conferences, networking dinners/aperitifs and professional events near and far
  • Educate and inform yourself on how trends in your field have evolved during your career break for critical, new knowledge that will help position yourself for the current work environment
  • Seek further education and refresh your technical knowledge so it is up-to-state
  • Assess your interests and skills to determine where you can add the most value for a potential employer – communicate that clearly in interviews and cover letters
  • Work with a career coach and make good use of the advice and support she/he gives
  • Volunteer and get involved in initiatives that can strategically enrich your CV
  • Be active on social media and online forums, especially professional networks such as LinkedIn
  • Practise your elevator speech so that you can in a few minutes summarize what your skills and talents are
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