I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

Steal This Idea, Please

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I had a Eureka! moment yesterday. It took the combination of  three observations:

  1. The Economist once wrote that an enormous–and largely under-reported–driver of the Irish Celtic Tiger economic boom was the sizeable mass of college-educated women entering, and also returning to, the Irish workforce.
  2. In my world I am surrounded by women who have taken a career break and are looking to re-enter the paid workforce.
  3. Even in this economy, my college-age son has had good access to summer internships.  But college-age kids have nothing, contribution-wise, on an adult with five, ten, or more, years of professional experience.   So…..

Here is my big brainstorm.  Companies looking to do more with less (which is virtually every company) should have a formal “Executive in Residence” program for retooling career break professionals.  These would be structured four to six month internships specifically designed for highly skilled and experienced women (could be men too, why not?) who re-enter the work force.  I discussed this topic yesterday with someone who said,

That idea really resonates with me.  College interns are hit or miss.  But experienced women–you absolutely know they would deliver!  I’m friends with so many women in this boat.  One of them was a former VP of Marketing at Sapient and she is having trouble landing a middle management marcom job!  She missed so much change over the last few years, especially in social media.  She just needs someone to give her a break–so she can catch up and, again, work at her appropriate level.

I think, as long as the training burden was not too onerous, the arrangement could be eminently fair for both sides.  The re-entry professional could get up to speed on new tools and processes, and the sponsoring company could get some experienced workforce boost to their enterprise.

OK President Obama.  Now I am envisioning some kind of tax credit, or subsidy, for companies that rally behind this idea…  This could be the best economic stimulus plan no one is discussing.  Yet.   And if it worked for Ireland…

P.S.  A great resource for more ideas and advice regarding relaunching a career can be found at www.irelaunch.com


8 Responses to “Steal This Idea, Please”

  1. DJP

    Jules, The Economist article you mention is available at http://bit.ly/5i5Gr The article looks at the many reasons for Ireland’s incredible economic turnaround after nearly a century.

    As you indicate, women in the workforce was the key factor, as indicated from this take-away line: “The biggest contribution to the Irish miracle…came from more people working. Until the 1980s, women’s participation in the workforce was low by international standards; today it is above average….On some estimates, this accounts for half of Ireland’s growth in the 1990s.”

    Reply
  2. julespieri

    @Nataly. I am thrilled to see that this idea is already happening at a digital media company. I like their name better: Executive Internships. I am going to change my post to call it “Executive in Residence”. That classic VC term is even better for this purpose. As one person in the Today show video said, you probably don’t want “Internship” on your resume at age 50.

    Reply
  3. Luiza

    I love, love this idea. After a 15 year successful career in high tech marketing I took a break from full time work for family/life balance when my twins were born. In the meantime I continued doing part time consulting. Now I find the on-ramp to renter the full-time job market so steep and competitive that I just can’t figure out how to plug back in. During my job search I have seen many internships posted for college students. I also thought what a perfect way for women to update skills or change industries, while offering companies a flexible, “non-binding” way to access an experienced workforce as needed. How do we move this idea forward to engage employers?

    Reply
  4. julespieri

    @Luiza, I am so thrilled this idea caught your imagination. I think your story is compelling, and pretty widely shared among women who take a career break. (Men too.) Great minds think alike….I wonder if you might test the waters by proposing this arrangement with a few companies who are at the top of your employer prospect list. What do you have to lose? Send them to my blog post…with a note saying….how about trying this with me?

    Reply
  5. Karen Pery

    Jules – I found your post from your comment on the the WSJ Juggle and I love this idea! The transition from home to work after being at home for a length of time can be daunting to say the very least. I’d add one thing to the proposal – Executives in Residence should be paid an honorarium, too.

    Best,
    Karen

    Reply

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