Dear Matt: I've recently heard of job seekers embarking on returnships. Are you familiar with these, and could an experienced worker like me benefit from this?

Matt says: Returnships are internships for older professionals, returning parents, transitioning military and the long-term unemployed, says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and business coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

"Employers are consistently wary of employment gaps brought on by a layoff, parenthood or some other life event that prohibits working," says Challenger. "A returnship for former or transitioning professionals with otherwise sterling employment records, but prolonged unemployment, solves this issue."

The following groups of job seekers would benefit from returnships, says Challenger:

• Returning parents: Mothers and fathers who left the job market to raise families often return to biased employers who are wary of their absences.

• Transitioning military: Former military members have extensive on-the-job training in new technology, leadership development and discipline, but may lack experience in the corporate world.

• Older workers: Older professionals deal with age discrimination, as well as potential gaps in employment.

• Expatriates: Workers seeking jobs in foreign countries would gain necessary experience in another culture via the returnship.

• Long-term unemployed: Whatever the reason for the employment gap, returnships can revitalize résumés.

• Employers: Recruiting interns who already have extensive on-the-job experience is valuable for any employer, as these professionals are immediately ready for meatier tasks.

The only downside: A number of local employers and hiring managers contacted were not familiar with this type of program.

"Companies would be wise to invest in returnship programs in order to find and develop the right talent for their organizations, which does not always mean the youngest or most malleable," said Challenger.

Professionals interested in pursuing returnships should not wait for companies to develop their own programs. Request meetings with high-level executives at companies that interest you and suggest the returnship model.

"Just like with entry-level interns, getting your foot in the door is not the end of the line," says Challenger. "Meeting the right people during your time at the company is critical. The higher up the executive you impress, the greater the odds that a permanent position will be found for you. Even if they cannot find a spot for you in their company, they may know executives in another company that may have openings." ASK MATT: