Do you remember the Friends episode where Chandler takes an internship at an ad agency? Older than the other interns, they initially mistake him for senior management by quickly offering him coffee and calling him “sir.” Although his supervisor is two years younger, he uses the experience to jump-start a new career — and of course plenty of comical moments ensue.
If you watched this episode on its first run, your age makes his experience even more relatable. Most people think of high school seniors and college graduates when it comes to internships. The idea of an older intern is generally enduring and funny, as shown in recent Hollywood movies like Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro’s The Intern.
But for many people, taking an internship at an advanced age is no joke. Some professionals give up their careers to move in order to prioritize a spouse’s professional endeavors. Others exit the job market to have or care for children. When it comes time to hop back on the career bandwagon, it can be a struggle to get noticed. It’s not much easier for career-changers.
Fortunately, more companies are realizing the value of having adult internships that focus on these demographics. This includes SMBs like Wunderlich Kaplan Communications, which started an Enternship program to assist women over 40 who want to re-enter the workplace. It also includes Fortune 500 companies like Goldman Sachs and their Returnship Program, which helps professionals restart their careers.
If you’re looking for valuable experience to change careers or re-enter an industry, an internship might be a good option. However, not any internship will do. It’s important to be selective, and ideally you’ll get paid. When applying, be honest about your history, employment gaps and reasons for pursuing the job. Look for options that are flexible so you can maintain other commitments, such as another job or family obligations. Make sure the internship has the responsibilities you desire so it’s a good use of both your time and the company’s.
Hopefully an internship will lead to full-time employment, but that is never a guarantee. Adopt the mindset that you’ll be getting good experience that you can add to your resume to make you more marketable. Plus, never forget the value of networking while interning. The contacts you make and references you earn while working are invaluable.
Still unsure about an adult internship? There are other alternatives that can help older professionals. If you have an impressive record of professional experience, you may qualify for a temp job in your focus market. Be prepared to explain how your skills can transfer into the new position and convey your enthusiasm as much as possible. Additionally, volunteering at a nonprofit in an area of interest may not be paid, but can provide fantastic experience and networking opportunities.
What other options are there for people looking to change careers or re-enter the market after an absence? Please add your ideas in the comments.