What Should Active Adults Know About Returnships?


Active adults who have been out of the workforce for a few years may miss their careers or yearn to contribute their skills and knowledge. Returnships are a way for experienced professionals to transition back to the workforce for a short time. Although most are designed to last a few weeks or months like a traditional internship, returnships allow those 55 and better to ease back into the working world and make a significant contribution.

Why Returnships Are Booming Now

In a labor market where employers are struggling to find high-quality talent, those aged 55 and better have many exciting opportunities to head back to work—if even for a short while. Returnships allow active adults to dip a toe back into employment without re-launching a full-scale career.

Just two decades ago less than a third of people age 55 and better were employed or seeking work. Today the share is 40 percent, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

The unemployment rate for those 55 and older is less than four percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s lower than the unemployment rate for the entire United States population and more than 14 percent unemployment rate for teens.

Returnships are becoming so popular because many active adults still desire to work. Many are putting off retirement and working into their later years. They’re either not quite ready for full-time retirement, or they’re eager to earn additional funds for a more robust retirement. Others work to stay active and engaged in their communities.

By 2019, more than 40 percent of Americans age 55 and older will be employed, making up a quarter of the entire U.S. labor force, according to the National Council on Aging. Active adults who want to share their talents and showcase their expertise will find employers eager to work with them.

Where to Find Returnships

Many companies have existing returnship programs that allow returning workers to thrive. Goldman Sachs launched an eight-week returnship program a decade ago that allows experienced individuals to sharpen their skills in a work environment that may have changed significantly since they were last employed. Several offices around the country participate in the program, including offices in New York City, Jersey City, Salt Lake City, and Dallas.

Active adults can also browse job boards such as Glassdoor to discover returnship opportunities or search for return-to-work programs through Path Forward, a nonprofit that helps people find opportunities to contribute their skills. The organization has worked with notable companies such as Oracle, Apple, and PayPal. For yet more opportunities, individuals can explore iRelaunch, a company that works with about 30 large companies in what it calls career reentry programming.

In a tight labor market, employers need talent. Experienced individuals with diverse professional backgrounds often have just the expertise employers seek. And from a personal standpoint, returnships offer many benefits to active adults: an opportunity to showcase their talents, a chance to learn new skills, and an increased sense of fulfillment.

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