Finding an Internship as an Adult
Internships have become a standard part of the learning process for many careers — they can be one of the best ways to get on-the-job experience when you don't have a resume that will get you hired for a position. But the stereotypical intern is in college, or perhaps a recent graduate. It can seem like a less useful experience for an adult who may already have a career or two under her belt.
But the reality is that an internship can be a good experience for anyone moving into a new career, no matter your age. (See also: Great Summer Jobs for Kids and Adults)
Avoiding the College Credit Issue
Many companies justify offering unpaid internships by rewarding interns with college credit rather than a paycheck. They can be reluctant to accept interns who aren't eligible for those credits (i.e. enrolled in college). But it is possible to land an internship just the same, provided you have the flexibility to work without pay.
Consider approaching the owner or manager you want to work with directly. It may be easier to make that connection with a smaller company. Let them know why you are looking for an internship and what you're expecting from an internship beyond college credit.
Finding the Best Internships for Adults
The steps necessary to finding an internship aren't that much different for an adult than for someone younger. You'll need to invest some time in your resume, find some great references who will speak well of you to prospective employers, and be prepared to write some persuasive cover letters. The cover letters can be particularly important, as you may need to explain why you're pursuing an internship rather than sticking to your current career.
From there, it's a question of looking. If you can identify a few key companies that you want to work for — the leaders in the industry you want to move into and who happen to be in your area — start there. Even if they don't have official internship programs, it's worth contacting them and checking if they might consider offering an internship to you.
There are also plenty of online job boards devoted to sharing open internships, like Internships.com, InternMatch, and InternshipPrograms.com. However, you may be facing more competition for the internships listed on such sites. It's up to you to be proactive about finding the right opportunity.
One Problem With Internships for Adults
Many internships are structured so that the only payment is college credit. For an adult who has more financial responsibilities than the average college student and who may not be enrolled in classes, it can be difficult to work for free.
There are options, however.
You can specifically target paying internships during your search for opportunities. You may also be able to find a part-time internship or find one with flexible hours that will allow you to work elsewhere for pay at the same time. It's tough to juggle both paying work and an internship, along with your life away from work, but for the right internship, it may be worth it.
Have interned as a prelude to a mid-career career switch? What other strategies have you tried?