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The Benefits of Returnship

Arjita Ghosh

Director of Engineering at Zillow

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Problem

An increasing number of people - due to various reasons -- are taking time away from their careers. Many of them come from non-traditional (educational or else) backgrounds, making their re-entering into the workforce even harder.

Actions taken

I encouraged my organization to direct our internship program toward people coming from non-traditional (educational or else) backgrounds and/or returning after an extended career break. We developed a time-bound internship that lasts from three to six months and allows us to walk them through and help them experience being in the workforce. Interns would be assigned experienced mentors that would prepare them for their unfolding careers.

Summer internships, in most cases, last for three months, during which we would clearly define expectations and goals interns should meet and track their progress. A dedicated mentor would be assigned to interns to monthly evaluate their performance, help them identify their gaps, and improve their skills. The whole process includes much hand-holding and detailed monthly checkpoints. Internships are typically followed by a six months probation period. We would assess how they would do during that period, and if there is mutual satisfaction, we will convert them into full-time employees. To make sure we receive applications from diverse candidates, we would have our internship calls circulated widely. Furthermore, we would intentionally target boot camps like Galvanize or Turing and a non-traditional program at the University of Colorado Denver often attended by potential career returnees.

Lessons learned

Returnship programs are a win-win situation for both individuals returning from a career break and the companies that are hiring them. If a company is prepared to create a solid career path for them, they are more likely to stick with the company for a longer time than people from traditional career backgrounds. That means less churn, strong commitment, and deep loyalty.


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Arjita Ghosh

Director of Engineering at Zillow


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