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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

‘Returnships’ Offer Path To Jobs For Stay-at-home Moms

Xander Lee, 2, waits with his mother Amanda Lee as she searches for employment opportunities during a jobs fair in Rockford, Ill. (AP)

Xander Lee, 2, waits with his mother Amanda Lee as she searches for employment opportunities during a jobs fair in Rockford, Ill. (AP)

Around 5.6 million mothers stay at home with their children according to the U.S. Census, and for many, getting back into the workforce is a struggle.

Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of the career re-entry program iRelaunch told Here & Now‘s Monica Brady-Myerov that stay-at-home moms often don’t make it far in the hiring process.

“Typically they have a big gap on their resume, a number of years out of the workforce,” she said, “and hiring managers view that gap in different ways.”

Fishman-Cohen said that some hiring managers are skeptical and don’t want to make the commitment to someone who has been out of the labor market for a long period.

But some companies are beginning to offer what are known as “returnships,” full-time internships, paid and unpaid, that give moms, dads and others who have left the job market a chance to get back in.

MIT and Sarah Lee have used returnships, and Goldman Sachs recently tripled their returnship program that was started in 2008, due to its success.

Fishman-Cohen says that Goldman Sachs’ expansion is typical.

“Once companies see success stories then their whole perspective shifts about the population in general,” she said.

Pointers for moms trying to get back into workforce

  • Suggest returnships/consulting roles: Carol Fishman-Cohen recommends that if a company is skeptical of a gap in your resume, suggest that they temporarily hire you for a returnship/internship or in a consulting role.
  • Strategic volunteering: Take volunteer roles that are in line with your career goals.  For instance, if you want to manage construction, volunteer on a weekend build at Habitat for Humanity. This will add depth to a resume and can expand contacts.

Advice for new stay-at-home moms

  • Stay in touch: Fishman-Cohen says stay in contact with former supervisors, peers and those who were junior to you. “Remember, while you’ve been out of the work force these junior people are going to be moving up.”
  • Find fill-in work at former employer: Cover maternity leaves or do short term projects or consulting work
  • Keep up knowledge of your field: Read articles about what’s happening in your field and email interesting writing or research to your former employer to maintain the connection.
  • Do career assessment before going back to work: If you decide to go back to work, do a career assessment to see whether your skills and interests have changed. Fishman-Cohen says she realized she wanted to leave her earlier field of finance after she had kids.

Article by Here & Now’s Jill Ryan


  • Carol Fishman-Cohen, co-founder of the career re-entry program iRelaunch and co-author of “Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-home moms who want to return to work”

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  • Jim Davis

    I really think we ought to be beyond talking “stay-at-home moms” as a sexual stereotype. Shouldn’t it be stay-at-home parents, at least? My son is a dad who will be re-entering the workforce some day, and there are plenty of others like him. Why assume it is the woman who provides the childcare?
    Jim Davis
    Winston-Salem, NC

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your comment, very interesting to hear about your son. 

      These returnships are for anyone returning to the workplace after an absence, but stay at home moms comprise the largest portion of that demographic, as our guest mentioned.


      Jill Ryan, Here & Now

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4CWQM3DQZOEIPSYQOP2UV2VJPI Understandit.ml1.net

    Agreed, Jim. It is more common these days among men. Particularly those impacted by a slow economy. I have a neighbor who worked for a home builder and wasn’t getting nearly enough work, so at this point he’s taking care of the youngster while Mom works at the local hospital.

  • Wendy

    Thanks for this story. Loved listening and knowing there’s a place for all of the talented people who are taking a leave to spend time with family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lkrrr Lily Roblin

    Listening to this today, I was waiting to hear the other side of the story, but it never came. What about the fact that this is unpaid labor? Women more commonly perform unpaid work, and one of the many consequences is that when they are hired as paid employees, their work is seen as less valuable and they receive a lower salary. Programs like this undoubtedly increase gender wage gap even further.

  • http://www.irelaunch.com Carol Fishman Cohen

    Some internships are paid and some are not.  Ideally a short term work arrangement is a paid one, and if both parties, the employer and the returning professional, are happy with the situation, then a paid permanent position should result.

    The gender wage gap is in part the result of women not negotiating their first offer and not negotiating every raise they get as they move up in an organization.   Internships, paid or not, are vehicles that allow the employer to take the perceived risk out of hiring someone who is returning after a number of years out of the workforce.  Although I have seen studies showing that people taking career breaks of three years or more will suffer a 37% or higher compensation hit when they return, I have not seen a study saying that an unpaid internship leads to a lower starting salary.

  • Carol Stryon

    One more way to exploit women’s gifts to family and workforce.  My jaw was on the floor listening to this backhanded “opportunity.”

  • Jasminer Pagan

    I have an aos in medical assisting however i’ve been at home for four years. what do u suggest i do

  • Margaret

    I there any program similar to return ship programs for individuals who are forced to stay at home than becoming a parent.

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