I promised you we’d dig deep into Credit Suisse’s Real Returns program and I’m about to deliver on that promise big-time! Back to Business conducted interviews with 4 Real Returns participants and they have given us some great insight into what it’s like to participate in the program. I can’t wait to share it all with you: You’ll hear about every part of their return-to-work experience, including how they knew they were ready to return to work and what their first day was really like.
Real Returns…It’s For Real
Here’s the summary: This program is a fantastic path back to work if you’ve got a career break. Your opinion is valued, your experience is respected, and you are set up for success within a supportive community of relaunchers and mentors. Read on for the details from Sally, Sreedevi, Tatyana and Krithika.
The women interviewed for this article had career breaks ranging from 5 to 29 years. Sally, Tatyana, and Krithika had experience in financial services prior to taking their career break, while Sreedevi had experience in software development.
Real Returns values all kinds of work experience and Credit Suisse strives to put program participants into a role that will draw on the skills they already possess as well as challenge them to expand their skill set.
Even if you don’t have experience in financial services, consider applying. According to Credit Suisse’s Katherine Tallent: “an interest in the financial industry and a willingness to learn are the biggest qualities we look for.”
Tell Me More!
Let’s walk through the Real Returns experience with these ladies from start to finish.
These women made great use of their career breaks! Sally spent almost all of her time out of the paid workforce leading philanthropic organizations in her community. Sreedevi was the software developer in the group, and knew that it was important for her to keep her skill set fresh so she attended training and completed professional certifications during her free time in order to be ready to relaunch her career. “I am always in touch with the latest technology,” she said.
Each of these relaunchers knew the importance of refreshing their skills and highlighting their community-based activities to prepare them to return to work. Krithika reskilled with LinkedIn Learning and by completing a certification in Finance. She also did some skill-based volunteering to get experience working in an office environment. In addition, she attended a return-to-work conference where she learned ways to prepare herself and met a lot of people who were transitioning back into the workforce after a break.
“It was very inspiring to hear from people who have been down the road I just started to walk on! All of this plus my added enthusiasm to work helped me feel recharged and ready to go back to work.”
Lesson Learned: You’ll need current skills to return to work and there are lots of ways to get them!
How They Knew They Were Ready
After extended career breaks, there came a time when they each knew that returning to work should be their next step. In one case, a change in life circumstances was the catalyst, for another it was that her kids were grown. Two of our relaunchers wanted to return to work because it filled important needs for them:
“I missed being around business people and getting tasks and accomplishing them” said Tatyana.
“My time away from work made me realize how much I missed working in a corporate environment and the feeling of being an independent woman,” said Krithika.
Applying for Real Returns
Applying for Real Returns was a straightforward process for these women and they invested time and energy into their applications and interview preparation.
Sally says: “I worked very hard on the application; updated my resume using a professional service. The interviews were panel style and behavioral; I did extensive research about Credit Suisse and various roles within the firm. There was a lunch hosted by CS and I used that opportunity to network.”
Krithika had a similar experience with her application:
“The Credit Suisse Real Returns program application and interview process was seamless and I felt instantly connected with everyone I spoke to during the process right from my recruiting business partner to my hiring manager. Applicants are given the opportunity to choose their areas based on their interests to explore. I had a great discussion with my hiring manager during the interview process and gained more insight about the team and the project that I might work on.”
Apply for Raleigh Real Returns here and New York Real Returns here.
First Day Jitters?
Then the big day comes – The first day back at work after an extended career break! This is an important life moment and these women were certainly up to the challenge.
Shreedevi spent some time preparing her kids for the transition and was pleased that they seemed ready and supportive as she returned to work.
Krithika’s Raleigh Real Returns 2020 program was 100% virtual due to covid and while she was both excited and a little bit nervous on her first day back to work, she was pleased with how well the program was run: “The way the virtual program was organized and conducted is extremely commendable.”
Here’s Sally’s take on her first day, which really illustrates the importance of finding the right job and company: “I was excited and not nervous. Credit Suisse was very supportive; I remember at the end of my first day almost bursting into tears because I knew CS was the right “home” for me to re-launch and build my career.”
Lesson Learned: Don’t believe the hype that getting back to work has to be a crazy time for you or your family. With the proper preparation and the right mindset, this transition can be an exciting time of growth for everyone involved!
Mentorship Makes A Difference
One of the Real Returns perks that makes the experience special is being assigned a mentor to rely on for help. Each of these women had a productive relationship with their mentor and credited them with being an invaluable source of support and guidance. Here, in their own words, are some reflections on their mentor relationship:
Sally: “The best part about Credit Suisse Real Returns has been the connection with a “buddy” and a “mentor”. I still maintain both relationships and have benefitted greatly from the stewardship and guidance I have received. My Mentor supported a very wide spectrum: culture at CS, career advice; personality management; sounding board for presentations, supplier of additional resources for presentations, networking, advice on negotiating strategy and strategy regarding finding a conversion role. We met initially once a month and then on an as-needed basis.”
Krithikta: “My Credit Suisse mentor is very encouraging, helpful and available to talk whenever I asked for advice. We discussed effectively networking virtually and building relationships.”
Tatyana: “My mentor Christina is an amazing person. She was always available for me in case I needed her. We discussed my progress in adjusting to the working environment…I could reach out to her any time. She was always open to help and support me and I received lots of wise advice from her. She helped me a lot.”
Training is another important component of Real Returns and each of the women we interviewed mentioned that the training helped them assimilate into their new roles.
Training topics included software systems, hard skills, leadership, and career development training. Importantly, the training exposed participants to leaders from different departments at Credit Suisse, which helped participants understand where their team and role fit into the big picture and gave them exposure to people that helped them build their professional networks.
In addition to the formal training sessions, Krithika benefitted from informal learning opportunities on her team: “I received excellent on the job training that helped me be successful with my project work.”
The Insider Perspective – Beyond Real Returns
After the formal program ended, each of these women was able to transition successfully into a position at the bank. Sally is currently an Assistant Vice President (AVP) Securitized Products Operations Control Team Management. Tatyana is a Business Analyst, CS Regulatory Services. Krithika is an AVP Regulatory Reporting. Sreedevi’s title is AVP GCP DA Production Support.
Sally and Sreedevi leveraged the connections they made on other teams at the bank to secure their roles, while Tatyana assumed a position with the team she worked on during Real Returns. Krithika moved into a position on the IHC Regulatory reporting team where she works on the bank’s quarterly reports.
A Few Of My Favorite Things
I wanted to know what each person’s favorite part of Real Returns was and they did not hold back! Here’s what they told me:
Sally: “The access to absolutely anything I was interested in. We are encouraged constantly to reach out to anyone, regardless of position, to satisfy our curiosity. I also loved the autonomy I was given with the project I was assigned; I was allowed to stretch my knowledge and skillset in its completion and presentation.”
Sreedevi: “My favorite things in the Real Returns program are meeting with the cohort every week, networking sessions, and training sessions.”
Tatyana: “It helped me to get back to work smoothly and easily, without stress. With participation in the Real Returns Program, I got back confidence that I lost due to the break in my career. I received support and was provided with all the needed information and knowledge that helped me to demonstrate that I can become a valuable team member for my group. It was also a great opportunity to meet people who are professionals and to learn a lot from them. I am very thankful to Credit Suisse for the opportunity.”
Krithika: “I enjoyed everything about the program from the networking sessions, to being a part of a wonderful cohort and working on a project with an amazing and talented team where I got to learn a lot and experience the professional environment once again.”
This Could Be Your Next Chapter!
So there you have it: the complete stories of 4 Real Returns participants! I found their insights valuable and was cheering these women on as I wrote this up.
If your career break was at least 2 years, consider applying to Real Returns and joining Sally, Tatyana, Sreedevi and Krithika. Returning to work at a company that values all of your experience, including the time you spent out of the paid workforce, can be an exciting next chapter in a successful career.
Thanks to Sally, Tatyana, Sreedevi and Krithika for sharing their stories with the Back to Business community!
Learn more about Real Returns here.
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Returnships
Brought to you by Back to Business
Returnships are a great way for individuals who have been out of the workforce for a period of time to return to work. These are internship-like programs that typically hire a cohort of people to work for a defined period of time, provide mentoring and training and then, ideally, offer the Returners a full-time job upon completion of the program. There’s a lot to know about Returnships so I’m going to really dig into the details here.
Returnships were first developed in the early 2000’s as a few forward-thinking Human Resource professionals realized that having a gap in your work history made it difficult for people to get a job. They started in investment banks, and Goldman Sachs is credited with pioneering the first returnship program in 2008.
Register for the Returnship Career Fair Hosted By Back to Business
Back to Business is hosting a virtual Returnship Career Fair on Friday, April 30,2021. This event is free for job-seekers and is your chance to learn all about Returnships and meet recruiters who are filling Returnship positions and other openings. Advance registration is required. Register here before this event fills up!
Returnships Usually Require a 2-Year Career Gap
Returnships can be an efficient and effective path back into the workforce for professionals who have some professional work experience, even if your work experience isn’t recent. Recruiting for a position that actually requires a minimum of a 2-year career gap can be a very refreshing experience for people who are job-seeking after a career break and are worried about explaining that gap in their work history to employers. Requirements can vary by the company, but the minimum 2-year career break is quite common among returnships, though many specifically state that you can qualify if you have been unemployed or under-employed for at least the past 2 years. Under-employed might mean that you took a job during the last 2 years that is not in your career field or is part-time work instead of full-time, just because you needed to make ends meet or thought it might be a stepping-stone to get you back into an appropriately-leveled job in your intended career field.
Returnships Aren’t Just for Moms
Women who left their careers to raise children were the original target of Returnship programs, but they are also a good solution for anyone who has taken an extended leave to care for a sick relative or stepped out of the workforce due to their own health issue and veterans transitioning out of the military. Also, stay-at-home Dads are welcome to apply for Returnships!
Join the Group
Returnships are often planned to include a group, or cohort, of people hired at the same time. The group is onboarded together through a new-hire orientation and continues to meet periodically for training opportunities throughout the Returnship. The group aspect of these programs is thought to be a major contributor to the success of individuals participating in Returnships. Imagine making a big life transition such as returning to work after a career break and having a built-in support system of people making that same transition! You’d immediately be connected to others who understand exactly what you’re going through and who are likely experiencing the same pressures and stresses of balancing family and work and, well, life. Cohorts can range in size from just 2 all the way up to 16 at a larger firm with a well-established Returnship program.
Returnships will vary by company, but many have skills training opportunities built into the program. These can either be at the beginning of the program, occur periodically throughout the program, or (ideally) occur at both of those times. Companies running returnship programs are investing in you and are providing training opportunities so you can refresh your skills and succeed on the job. Soak it up – if you’re lucky enough to land a job at a company that spends time and money ensuring their employees skills are sharp, you are in a good place!
Many Returnships were created to fill technical positions, such as Software Engineer. We’re all familiar with the lopsided make-up of the technical workforce and how it skews heavily male. Returnships can be a great way to incent women with technical skills to return to the workforce. The upskilling these programs provide can solve the tricky problem that many women face who understand that taking a few years off of a technical career can leave them with outdated skills.
All Kinds of Jobs Can Be Returnships
Returnships aren’t just for technical positions. In fact, the Returnship model works well for jobs across a whole range of functions. Credit Suisse’s Real Returns Returnship Program sources candidates for roles across their business units in multiple different functions. In this case, they identify positions that need to be filled on different teams and earmark those roles for the Returnship. Then they get filled with candidates who meet the Returnship criteria and who will participate in the Returnship programming.
Sourcing General Returnship Candidates
In rare cases, I am aware of companies that want to run a Returnship program and put out a very general call for candidates that meet certain criteria. The corporate recruiter who evaluates those candidates is looking for (a) a good fit with the organization and (b) someone with the potential to thrive in a role that can be molded to suit their skill set. The only company that I know of that filled their Returnship opening this way was able to do so because they had just one opening. It would be very difficult to fill multiple roles this way! It’s also difficult to apply because you don’t know what they are looking for.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced many jobs to transition quickly to remote work or work from home (WFH). Even now there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the date by which many companies will have employees return to the office. As they hire new employees, companies are having them WFH either temporarily or on a permanent basis. Personally, I think we’ll see quite a bit of flexibility surrounding work arrangements in the future, with many employers offering their people a hybrid model that includes the option to WFH a few days a week and work in the office a few days.
Returnships that begin in 2021 are likely to start as remote positions. However, this can vary by the company and depends on their corporate WFH policy. Some companies are sourcing candidates for their Returnships that live in a specific area or are willing to relocate there at some point in the future when it becomes safe for employees to return to the office. If you are interested in a companies’ Returnship program, be sure to find out if the role is either temporarily or permanently remote.
What to Look For In a Returnship Program
If you’re interested in pursuing a Returnship as a path back into the workforce, here are a few things to look for as you evaluate the program and the position:
- Will you be part of a cohort of people hired at the same time?
- Is there a plan for professional skills training for Returnship hires?
- Will you be assigned a mentor or a buddy to help you navigate the company?
- Does the company hope to hire the Returnship participants on a full-time basis at the conclusion of the Returnship program? Be sure your expectations are in line with the companies’ on the subject of full-time employment.
- If the company has run a Returnship before, what percent of Returnship participants joined the company full-time at the conclusion of the program?
These are Paid Positions!
Returnships are paid work opportunities! You will be performing professional-level work and should expect to be paid for this work at a rate in line with the job market.
Can You Suggest A Returnship To A Company?
If you are pursuing a job at a company and are encountering resistance because you’ve been out of the workforce for a period of time, you can always educate the employer about Returnships by sharing an article like this one. In lieu of a structured Returnship program, you can suggest the idea of a shorter-term project or contract work that could convert to full-time work in the future. If you and an employer are making arrangements like this, be sure to get the agreement in writing so you are both clear on what you’re committing to. And remember that both parties need to perform up to expectations in order for that conversion to a full-time position to make sense.
Returnship participants are typically assigned a mentor to help ease their transition back to work and to help them succeed at the organization. Your mentor might be in a senior position and can help you navigate corporate culture, your relationships with your manager or your colleagues, and many other situations you might encounter as a new employee with the perspective of a seasoned veteran. If you are assigned a mentor, be sure to discuss how you plan to work together, how often you’ll meet and the types of things your mentor is willing and able to advise you on. Be sure to let your mentor know of any areas that you might need extra support in, so they can be prepared to assist with those.
You might also be assigned a buddy in the organization. Your buddy might be a colleague at your same level who can provide you a perspective of a teammate and who you should feel comfortable asking any question of. Similar to your mentor, you’ll want to talk about how you plan to work together, the best way for you to communicate and if you’ll meet on a schedule or if they’ll be available on a more as-needed basis to answer questions for you.
How To Find Out About Returnships
Register for the Back to Business virtual Returnship Career Fair to learn more and to meet employers hiring for their Returnships. Returnships are also posted on company websites, specifically on their Careers page. Not every company has a Returnship program and most of those that do run them on a seasonal basis. Also, some companies might have a Returnship program but won’t be recruiting candidates when you are looking for a job. So check back often to see if / when the window for recruiting for the companies’ Returnship opens.
Companies With Returnships in 2021
Here’s a partial list of companies that run Returnship programs (there are many more!):
- Credit Suisse
- Deutsche Bank
- Goldman Sachs
What Other Questions Do You Have?
Email me at katiedunn@BackToBusinessConference.com with your questions about Returnships. There’s a lot to know about these programs and I want to be sure you are armed with everything you need to be a strong Returnship candidate!
Join the Back to Business Community
Back to Business was started in 2015 to help women return to work after taking time off from their careers. We have built a community of women supporting each other during this important transition and we host the largest return-to-work conference in the Southeast, the Back to Business Women’s Conference. Join our email list to receive our best advice for your return to work and to stay updated on our events and virtual MeetUps.