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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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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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