Taking a break from work for maternity leave or caregiving can bring mixed emotions. You may feel grateful for the opportunity to be there for your loved one, overwhelmed by responsibilities, and apprehensive about what it could mean for your career. When it's time to head back to the workforce, you will likely experience a lot of uncertainty: Can you handle the workload? Have your skills atrophied? How will you sell yourself?
The Mom Project understands these fears, and we're here to put them at ease. We offer many avenues of support for those with career gaps. One of the most dedicated ways we help is with returnship programs. We partner with companies like Intuit to support moms and caregivers with programs designed for returning to the paid workforce following a career break.
Recently, The Mom Project and Werklabs sat down with Intuit to explore how a successful returnship program benefits everyone — both companies and the talent they hire — and how recent TMP research via Werklabs supports this assertion.
The panel included Adrian Young, Director of Customer Impact at Werklabs, Iram Jamil, Senior Program Manager at Intuit and the lead of the global Intuit Again program, Srividya Krishnan, a full-stack developer at Intuit and participant in the Intuit Again program, and Claire Wallace, Senior Customer Success Manager at The Mom Project.
Read on to discover how Intuit Again helps caregivers find pathways back to paid work, and how TMP and Werklabs help power successful returnships. You can also catch the full replay of Intuit Again + TMP.
Getting Intuit Again: What are returnships?
Returnships are a valuable way to bring caregivers back into the workforce. Becoming popular in 2008, they are sometimes called Return to Work programs. Today, there are more than 200 returnship programs around the country. Something once considered a trend - now entrenched into the culture at many prominent organizations with a continued growing prevalence. Those seeking an on-ramp back to paid work love returnships ability to connect with top companies after time away, and companies appreciate the ability to access and attract a new pool of high-caliber under-represented talent into their organizations.
Returnships are at the core of TMP's mission. And Intuit has seen great success with its Intuit Again program. As the global leader of the program, Iram understands firsthand the challenges caregivers face when returning to work, as she took her career break a decade ago. Not only does she have the empathy to understand what returners are going through, but she can also speak to the value dedicated returners provide.
Srividya understands — she participated in the Intuit Again program after a five-year break from the workforce. Doing so allowed her to re-enter the tech space, confident that she could handle it.
For a returnship program to be truly successful, support for the program must be integrated into the company culture — which requires executive buy-in.
The current reality
Gender parity has become increasingly important for many Fortune 500 companies.
But Covid did a number on that aspiration for many companies. The pandemic resulted in 5 million jobs lost by women, heavily influenced by a lack of child care and the rising costs of child care, as detailed in an extensive study conducted by Werklabs.
The Covid-exacerbated circumstances created a further challenge for tech workers who left an industry with constantly changing systems and programs. For Srividya, she knew that in her five-year break, a lot had changed. During her time off, she had done work to keep up with the evolving landscape and sharpen her skills, but she knew that her efforts could not match being in the field in a work environment.
The importance of support and belonging
A great returnship program provides specific elements that going back to work on your own can not replicate. One of the most important is the network of dedicated returner support a cohort of candidates receives, which ultimately leads to a greater sense of belonging.
Srividya was nervous about her return. Yet, thanks to Intuit Again, they entrusted her with developing a program they knew she could handle based on her skill set. And they were right to trust her. The validation she got from the customers and team helped bolster her confidence.
Her experience reflects Werklab's data, according to Adrian. After interviewing more than 900 candidates pursuing returnship programs, the research uncovered that one key motivation to return to work is to validate themselves as earners and contributors. Returnship candidates want to use their existing skills and be recognized for their contributions — this drives them to pursue a return to paid work and extends with a commitment to the organization offering that on-ramp back.
There is often an educational element for TMP and those who facilitate returnships. Some companies liken a returnship to an internship, but it is vital to recognize the distinct differences. TMP partners with organizations to paint a clear picture that returners are highly educated, experienced professionals who took a caregiving break and are re-entering the workforce to earn fair compensation, contribute their skills, and are worthy of recognition.
Claire at TMP works closely with the Intuit Again program, so she receives many questions about returnship. Some of the most common ones include:
- Is there an opportunity to become a full-time employee after a Returnship program?
- Are there others in a cohort with me?
- What type of prep and support will I receive from the team?
These concerns echo what Werklabs saw in their study: camaraderie and support are essential for successful returnships. Many returners shared they are nervous and want to know they're not alone. Being welcomed and included as part of the org from the onset makes an enormous impact.
"There are a lot of ways a program can be designed to accommodate what best suits the organization, but having a tether or touchstone of a mentor or a program guide, fellow cohort, comrades, or someone that's in the trenches together with you is a huge element." - Adrian Young
What does a supportive program look like?
Iram describes Intuit Again as a "supportive on-ramp to career re-entry." It is open to anyone who has at least five years of prior work experience and has been out of the workforce for at least 18 months due to caregiving.
The biggest thing Iram sees with returners is a need for more confidence. Their program addresses this with many actions to help returners regain their confidence:
👭 One-on-one technical mentoring
✏️ Development workshops
💻 Customized onboarding curriculum
📕 Leadership engagements
❤️ Meaningful, impactful work
👋 A supported network community
"Above all else, we have empathetic managers who recognize the human aspect in this journey that can support returners during their career transition." - Iram Jamil.
Srividya confirms this with her experience. She was supported by a buddy and felt support from her entire team — though they never made her feel like she didn't belong. They treated her like one of the team while also respecting her responsibilities outside of work as a caregiver.
Benefits for companies
Returnships don't only benefit those returning to work. They offer multiple advantages to companies as well. Take Intuit as a case study — in 2022, they were rated as one of Fortune 500's best workplaces for women and one of the best workplaces for parents.
They also achieved 33% representation for women in tech in 2022, up from 28% in 2020 — far outpacing the industry standard and competitors in terms of gender parity goals.
Serving as the bridge between talent and companies, TMP works hand-in-hand with returners to support them in their return while meeting customer needs for their companies. We educate companies about what elements make a successful and supportive program for returning employees and teach workers how to highlight their skills with interview prep and resume review. As TMP has earned the trust of both communities, we can reach many who may need to be made aware of the value returnships can offer.
Are you interested in joining the new Intuit Again cohort? Read more about the program now!
Iram sums up the session with this advice for navigating interviews after a career pause: "With confidence, I would say, tell them that you are a mid-career professional and that you offer three qualifications that many others who are younger or just stepping into the workforce cannot offer, and that is, you bring prior work experience, you demonstrate professional maturity, and you can offer stability and longevity in your role."
To gain support in your job search, join The Mom Project today!