Adult Internships

A Way to Experience a New Career

Smiling women at computer in adult education classroom
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Most people think of internships as something college kids do to get job experience before they graduate. It is true that they are a great way to expose oneself to a career, but internships aren't just for students. Career changers and returnees to the workforce can benefit from them as well. Adult internships can help even someone with many years of work experience learn about an occupation that is new to him or her. Individuals who are going back to work, for example, those who have taken time off to raise a family, can reacquaint themselves with their careers.

Ways an Adult Internship Benefit You

The hardest part of changing careers is going from a known entity to an unknown one. Even though you are no longer satisfied with your current career—hence the change to a new one—it is familiar. Whether or not you enjoyed your job duties, you at least knew what they were. While you can, and most definitely should, learn all about any career you are considering, there is nothing that compares to experiencing it firsthand. What you see on paper (or online) may differ quite a bit from the reality.

Even conducting informational interviews to get the facts from people who work in the field in which you are interested, won't be as revealing as immersing yourself in it. An adult internship can fill in the missing pieces that will help you decide whether the career is right for you.

Individuals who have spent a substantial amount of time away from work, even if they are staying in the same career, can also benefit from doing an internship. Many fields change over time. Interning will provide you with an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with your occupation before making a full commitment to jump back in. It will allow you to show prospective employers that you are up-to-date on any changes that occurred while you were taking a break.

The one thing an internship won't be is a way to make a decent salary. Employers often pay interns very little, if they compensate them at all. It is important to note that United States labor laws provide very strict guidelines regarding paying interns. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. While everyone deserves to be fairly compensated, employers may be reluctant to offer internships if it means they have to pay inexperienced workers.

How to Find Adult Internships

When organizations post openings for interns, they typically expect most of their applicants to be students. Getting an employer to take a look at you can be challenging if you are a midlife career changer or a returnee to the workforce. Here are some ways to find internships for which an employer may consider a non-student:

  • Contact your alma mater. The college from which you graduated should have a career services office that helps current students, as well as alumni, with career-related issues. They can help you figure out how to move forward.
  • Join the alumni association of the college you attended, if you haven't already. You will be able to network with other graduates who may be working in your prospective occupation.
  • Look at your network. Is there anyone in it who could provide you with a training opportunity? Don't forget LinkedIn.
  • Join the professional association for the field you want to enter. Doing this could provide access to internships and other jobs.

Convince an Employer to Hire an Adult Intern

Once you make connections with possible employers, it may take some effort to persuade them to hire you. It will seem unconventional to take on an adult intern, but once you convince them of the benefits, it may bring them onboard.

Unlike traditional interns, adults who have worked for years have lots of experience. Point out that your transferable skills, acquired through time spent working in your prior career, will allow you to take on job duties a less experienced intern would not be able to do without training.

With age comes maturity. This can put you ahead of your younger competitors. As an adult intern, you will be able to demonstrate a higher degree of professionalism, a trait most employers appreciate.

Don't forget to stress your eagerness to learn new things. Employers may worry that an experienced worker may be set in his or her ways. Address that concern up front. You have chosen to take on an internship because you realize there are things you don't know and need to master before you can embark on your new career.

Also, highlight your willingness to work during times traditional interns may choose not to. Most college students do internships during the summer or when they are on winter break. If you aren't currently in school, those limitations won't get in the way of working during the school year.