Adult internship opportunities, you ask? We know, it sounds nuts. Change is hard, no matter when it happens or how it occurs in your life. As HuffPost reports, according to Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, people typically resist change because they “genuinely believe (often on an unconscious level) that when you’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. And the longer you’ve been doing it that way, the better it is.” In other words, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
People like what is comfortable, familiar, and what they are good at. And when it comes to your career, it’s definitely easy to get stuck in a rut based on what you know, and what you’re trained to do. But is your job fulfilling your goals? If you’re shaking your head as you read this, then you need to make a change. You need to leap into the unknown and make a scary, terrifying, sometimes uncomfortable change in your career path so that you can work towards a professional future that makes you happy.
But how do you even begin? You’ve probably seen the movie “The Internship” starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who become interns at Google after their careers as salesmen become obsolete in the digital age. Or what about the upcoming flick “The Intern” with Robert Deniro who stars as a 70-year-old widower who opts to forgo retirement and instead become an intern at an online fashion website. Bottom line: you’re never too old to be an intern, and internship opportunities are everywhere…you just have to be bold enough to look.
So where to find internships? At its root, an intern is someone who works, sometimes without pay, at a trade or occupation in word to gain work experience. Those last words are key here, as the goal of any internship should be to learn and gain valuable, hands-on work experience so you are more prepared to excel in your role when your internship ends. And as with any new role or new challenge, the more you know, the better you will do, and the more you will feel satisfied with your performance.
If you’re worried that you might look a little, um, how do we put this, pathetic, as an adult in an unpaid internship role, don’t worry, you won’t look pathetic and you won’t be alone. Internships aren’t just for college graduates or students any more. Middle-aged professionals are also willing to work for free as they pursue other career paths and opportunities. Perhaps it’s because of the times and the struggle to find a paying position, or maybe adults are finally finding the confidence to go for the job they want (not simply what is available to them), but adult internships are on the rise. As Forbes reports, Bob Edelman is the founder and director of Interns Over 40, which launched in July 2009 and now reaches over 40,000 monthly visitors ages 45 to 55. He explains, “with unemployment at near 10%… the over-40 category [has seen] so many well-established industries demolished, resulting in long-term structural unemployment.” These workers are then forced to find new careers, which leads to the hunt for a great internship opportunity.
Beyond that, many middle-aged workers are starting to see internships as a way to keep their resumes interesting and valid while in between jobs and on the path to a new career. In an article for Time, Philadelphia workplace attorney Robin Bond says she has “heard from a growing number of unemployed professionals looking to volunteer for corporations because they don’t want gaps in their résumé.”
If it’s really too strange for you to think of yourself as an “intern” because you’re not a student, try this on for size: some people refer to these roles as “returnships” rather than internships. It all goes back to the idea that you are returning to the workplace, whether you left, took a hiatus, or you’ve shifted your goals and directions to a new profession. Perhaps you’re a mother who left her job to care for her family, but now you’re ready to return to the corporate world (which has changed drastically, by the way). The NY Daily News tells us about Mindy Berkower, a former lawyer from Staten Island who is now interning at iRelaunch, an organization helping adults return to work, argues “an internship—or ‘returnship’—is a really good investment in yourself and a way to get a foot back into the workplace. It’s resume-worthy experience, and at the very least you’re learning new skills, brushing up on old skills, and getting a good current reference.”
If you want your adult internship to be a success, there are a few key things to remember. 1) You need to check your ego at the door. You will probably be working with or even for people who are younger than you are. Don’t get hung up on age, and instead focus on what you can learn. 2) Keep an open mind. Your goal is to absorb as much information as possible. Focus on the promise of this position, and keep your eyes and ears open. 3) It’s OK to get frustrated; just remember why you are doing it. The work might be humbling, but it will help you grow personally and professionally.