1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward: Internships at Any Age

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April 19, 2013 ‐ By Ashley Iman

As a college student or recent college graduate, the best you can expect from an internship is a decent boss and no more than two coffee runs per day; basic tasks that seem to revolve around the copy machine come with the territory. You spend most of your time just hoping to get one good assignment that will lead to a solid recommendation and a trip out of the internship world. But the world of internships is quickly changing. More and more, older (read 30 and over) men and women are applying for and receiving internships. Although some are saying this as the ultimate downgrade, those folks are wrong.

Interning in your thirties and forties is an incredibly smart career move. As a more seasoned employee you’ll be an asset to the company. Here are five pros of being an older intern, as well as a few tips to make your internship work for you, not the other way around.

1. You’re More Experienced
This isn’t your first time around. You know what to expect in an office setting and can avoid making some of the classic intern mistakes. (Can anyone say flip flops at work?) Your general know-how and inside knowledge of workplace culture will easily make you a go-to in the office.

2. You’re More Confident
This pro builds off of the previous one. Younger interns are generally afraid of making mistakes or being too assertive. Wisdom comes with years, and so does confidence. You don’t have time for games you know exactly what you want. Your confidence allows others to have confidence in you. Have an honest conversation with your supervisor and tell them want you’re looking to get out of this internship. They’ll respect your confidence and will keep you in mind for key projects that could help you get to that next step.

3. Internships Are Flexible
Internships tend to be more flexible. You can set your own hours and generally work at your own pace. Unfortunately, internships also tend to be unpaid so if that’s the case make sure you have your priorities straight. When you’re in the office give 100% but you can’t be in the office 100% of the time for little to no pay. If you are making the choice to do an unpaid internship pursue grants and other forms of funding. There are a lot of organizations out there that will pay for your living expenses while you work an unpaid internship provided that you write a good proposal.

4. Great For A New Career & Re-entering The Workforce After A Hiatus
If you’re starting a new career, an internship is a great way to get a feel for the work culture and type of work you’ll be doing. Internships, or this case, “returnships,” are also great for those returning to the workforce. If you choose to leave the workforce to raise your children, I would absolutely recommend pursuing a part-time internship just to stay in the loop.

5. Your Life/Career Experience Makes You More Valuable.
The final reason why older interns tend to be better interns is because they just know more. Previous work and life experience make older interns more versatile and useful. For those switching careers, your past skills are your biggest strength. No matter what the switch is. I recently met a woman that was switching from elementary education to accounting. Her experiences as an elementary school teacher, though not immediately obvious, were vital for her new career. She was incredibly vigilant, organized, and creative (you have to be when you’re responsible for 30 some-odd kids.) All of these skills made her wonderful accountant and miles ahead of the younger interns.

Don’t be ashamed to take what you may at first view as a step back to an internship. Yes, the money is not as good but the experience is invaluable. As long as you know you’re strengths, verbalize them, and don’t get stuck behind the copy machine, your internship experience will catapult you to your next big career at any age.

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