Taking a career break used to be something that carried a stigma with hiring managers and recruiters. But that way of thinking is quickly becoming outdated as more workers take extended time off for everything from caregiving to pursuing a passion. In a 2022 LinkedIn survey of almost 23,000 workers and more than 7,000 hiring managers, 62% of respondents said they had taken a break in their careers, and 35% said they expected to take a break in the future. (In a clear signal of changing attitudes, LinkedIn last year rolled out a feature that allows workers to explain the reason for their career break on the site.)

For many people, taking a break implies they expect to return to work. And despite the recent waves of layoffs in the technology industry, employers are still looking for top talent. That’s where so-called “returnship” programs that help ease the transition back to full time work can be helpful. “People who are high performers don't lose their ability to be high performers simply because they take a career break,” says Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, who estimates that 40% of Fortune 500 companies have some sort of career-reentry program.

Here’s what to consider if you are looking to create a returnship program.

  1. Examine your biases against people who have taken a career break.

One barrier to entry for people who want to return to work is often a recruiter who won't consider a resume with a gap. “A resume pops up on their search and they do a quick glance and they'll say, ‘Oh, this person hasn't worked in five years. Next.’ They don't go any further,” says Arleen Gallagher, director of client relationships at Women Back to Work, an organization that helps companies create returnship programs. Gallgher says recruiters have to get past the perception that “returners” didn't do anything significant during their time away from traditional work. “We weren't just hanging out and watching soap operas all day,” Gallagher says about returners, including herself.

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