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By, Valerie Buchman,
Returnship & Marketing Manager

Did you know that 65.7% of organizations state that their top recruiting priorities are “building talent pools of the future?” Moreover, 68.1% of these same companies are seeking to “source candidates directly.” This article aims to analyze and provide information on how businesses can successfully partner with individuals re-establishing their careers. For this article, these individuals will be referred to as ‘Returners’ (i.e., people restarting a career after a prolonged gap).

The MARS Returnship Program has created its own talent pipeline by sourcing people seeking to reenter the workforce after a gap in their work history. The upskilling & reskilling training provides them with highly sought-after technology skills, which helps them find work upon completing the program. By hiring from an untapped talent pool of Returners, businesses gain experienced individuals who are ready and willing to re-enter the workforce with minimal training. Working with returning professionals offers access to a niche talent market, a core principle of career re-entry and returnship programs.

Melissa Pinto at says,

“Despite years of evidence from highly successful Returnships at Fortune 500 companies, the myth persists that career gaps indicate a weakened drive and skills. Applicants with career breaks are often overlooked in the traditional recruitment process, further blunting returners’ confidence after years out of the workforce.”

Hiring from a talent pool that already has been exposed to the workforce allows companies to build their employer brand by demonstrating they are open to working with a diverse pipeline.

McKinsey concurs, “In reality, returners offer both their industry knowledge and a range of insights and skills gained from their career break. Organization, adaptability, prioritization, maturity, and self-awareness are some areas that may be strengthened during career gaps. A renewed commitment to paid employment also spurs many returners to pursue formal and self-driven learning opportunities during their hiatus from work. Employers find that returners are highly motivated to refresh their skills and can quickly identify areas where they can add value to the organization.”

On September 1, 2020, MARS Solutions Group launched its Returnship Program, which is a prime example of a successful career re-entry and returnship program, aiding many returners in their reskilling, upskilling, and development of soft skills. They then work with the returners to find jobs, mainly with their client partners. Many corporations may find it difficult to initially work with returners and ask such questions as:

  • How do I successfully onboard a returner?
  • What makes a returner different from other hires?

MARS has developed a system within their company that allows both the returners and the company to move through this transition together, a hallmark of successful career re-entry and returnship programs.

The MARS Returnship Program conducts its onboarding process like one of a full-time employee. Therefore, when transitioning from program participant to full-time employee there was time and money saved. The company also benefits from this internal hire because the company is already aware of the returner’s capabilities and work ethic, while conversely, the returner is already acquainted with the company’s culture and work expectations. “Culture fit is the biggest, most important thing; someone who can work independently since we’re all remote a lot and we have to be independent thinkers, which is a part of our culture,” MARS employee.

MARS realizes the value and knowledge people returning to the workforce bring, which is why its Returnship Program encourages returners to work through challenges independently. By allowing the program participants to have independence during their training it reinforces to the returners that they are capable and ready to return to the working world.

Matt Erhard, managing partner at Summit Search Group, stated, “Someone who has a gap in their resume brings a unique perspective to the workplace. The things they did during that time away give them different skills and experiences than someone who’s been continuously working… they may be able to spot improvements or new approaches other employees don’t see from within the industry because they’re seeing things with fresh eyes.”

MARS Returnship Program’s internal operations team provides continual support to their cohort participants from the day they are brought into the program through their hiring and even beyond. This support can be navigated through scheduling periodic 1:1 meetings with the returners. By establishing these regular check-ins, the returners can ask questions and get any reassurance they may be seeking. Meanwhile, the staff is given time to connect with the returners and gauge their progress in the program. By offering the participants these personal connections, the returners can grow their confidence.

Another way MARS has excelled in working with returners is through their hands-on project work. For example, once a program participant completes their formal, hands-on training, they are brought onto a team of fellow participants from previous cohorts who work together to create a functioning application. These hands-on, real-world projects also provide additional opportunities for the returners to grow their skills and confidence. When completed, this application will be utilized internally by MARS.

“The age of automation, and on the near horizon, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer new job opportunities and avenues for economic advancement, but women face new challenges overlaid on long-established ones. Between 40 million and 160 million women globally may need to transition between occupations by 2030, often into higher-skilled roles. To weather this disruption, women (and men) need to be skilled, mobile, and tech-savvy, but women face pervasive barriers on each, and will need targeted support to move forward in the world of work,” states The McKinsey Institute.

For companies looking to hire people returning to the workforce after a gap in their career, make sure the company is fully prepared. When working with those who have had gaps in their careers, it can feel extremely overwhelming to the returner. Provide a welcome, supportive, and secure environment to ensure the returner is successful.

Additionally, “…returnships signal to current employees that nonlinear career paths are recognized and valued by the organization. As companies strive to promote employee well-being and mitigate mid-career burnout, returnships tell employees that their personal commitments are valued and that a hiatus from work need not be an off-ramp. Returnships can also offer a homecoming for previous employees, whose institutional and cultural knowledge propel them to serve as program ambassadors.”

The MARS Returnship Program shares this opinion; in the three and a half years since its inception, they have internally hired several people from their own cohorts. “The Returners offers a compelling story that we can market to potential employers. They offer an untapped piece of the talent market that not a lot of our competitors have at their disposal, and it is a very interesting and sought-after offering,” MARS employee.

So, the question begs to be asked, what are we do to with this talent shortage? The answer is clear: hire returners. A 2019 report by says that “59%, or three out of five people have been unemployed or had some kind of gap in their career.” Many returners are mid-level talent and bring with them a broad skill set. Hiring and working with someone who has had a gap in their career need not be something companies fear. Companies should seek out this market of untapped talent and value those who have been limited in the past by their resume gaps.

Sources: Jenny Chang updated 11/2022 Melissa Pinto 3/24/22 Aaron De Smet, Bonnie Dowling, Marino Mugayar-Baldocchi, and Bill Schaninger 3/9/2022

Summit Search Group Matt Erhard Heidi Lynne Kurter

The McKinsey Institute Anu Madgavkar, James Manyika, Mekala Krishnan, Kweilin Ellingrud, Lareina Yee, Jonathan Woetzel, Michael Chui, Dame Vivian Hunt, and Sruti Balakrishnan 6/2019 Katie Kuehner-Hebert 3/12/2019

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