Finding an Internship After 40
How it works: An internship offers an opportunity to gain experience in a new field of employment for a specified amount of time. While interns often work for minimal or no pay, the experience gained during an internship frequently leads to contacts and jobs in the new field. While internships traditionally have been for college students, more companies are considering older workers and career-changers for these opportunities. Another good option: An increasing number of corporate or educational fellowships also are available for middle-age career-changers.
Who's eligible: Every company has its own requirements for hiring interns, but in most cases, employers prefer workers who have academic experience in the field or other work experience that translates well to their line of business.
Why? Through an internship, you can build confidence and experience in your chosen new field while making contacts that could lead to employment.
Why not?Many internships offer meager or no paychecks, so this option may not work for older workers who need cash flow to live. Also, if you're over 40, you likely have more responsibilities to juggle than the twentysomethings competing with you for internships, so you have to be committed to making an internship a priority.
What's going on: Congress passed the 2009 Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which is designed to create encore fellowships for people 55 and older that provide access to one-year management or leadership positions that prepare them for jobs in the public and nonprofit sectors. The Encore.org website is a good resource for current information on fellowship opportunities for people trying out encore careers.
The fine print: Completing an internship or fellowship offers no guarantee of future employment, but it can be a powerful addition to your resume. And if you use the experience as an opportunity to learn as much as you can and build your network, it's sure to open more doors.
Getting started: Search job boards and newspaper employment ads, but also contact companies directly. Some older workers have successfully created their own internship opportunities by contacting potential employers and sharing their skills, experiences and goals.
Resources: Internship marketplace