Internships: Not Just for the Young

There are many misconceptions regarding internships. One of the most common misconceptions is that internships are only intended for a younger audience, primarily high school or college students.

With critics arguing internships are only helpful for young students or workers with minimal experience, the true value of interning is often miscalculated. The reason internships are helpful for students is for the practical training, which adult workers can greatly benefit from as well.

Internships are not only about getting experience, either. If you have been out of the workforce for many years, working in an internship is a good way to build your resume back up without having to compete against other job seekers. While internships are not designed to provide the benefits of a full career, there are companies that allow interns to earn a small paycheck. Overall, internships are helpful regardless of age, but it is important to understand all the available benefits to make the most out of the experience.

Switching Gears

It is not uncommon for employees to spend years working at a career path, only to find they want an entirely different career. In some cases, this is because they were in denial about how unhappy they were in their positions. Other times, it is because a career is no longer as viable due to industry changes. Professionals may also discover a career path they did not yet know existed.

No matter what the reason, transitioning into a new job is difficult. You may have several years of work and school on your resume, but this means little to hiring managers if your experience and schooling are for an unrelated field. In fact, having different experience may even hurt your odds of getting the job. Hiring managers may be wary you are not as dedicated to the job and are just sampling something new before returning to what you were trained for.

Related article: Practical Tips for a Successful Career Change

Taking an internship instead of applying for a full, or even part time position is a good way to let companies know you want to make a career shift, while acknowledging that you need more experience. This approach cab be significantly faster than going back to school to get a new degree or certification. It is also not as serious of a commitment if you do find that you miss your old job and simply needed a break instead of a complete change from your previous career path.

Building Experience

Another common misconception about internships is the type of work available. When adults think of an internship, they often imagine a basic personal assistant role. In this imagined role, they may picture an intern who has minimal assignments, such as:

  • Copying files.
  • Transcribing documents.
  • Arranging appointments.
  • Answering phones.

These are duties commonly associated with an office intern, but there are many other types of internships as well. For example, doctors, engineers and scientists all have their own internships of varying levels. In these positions, the intern has significantly more responsibilities. Medical interns treat actual patients, lab technicians perform experiments and engineers work on official company projects. These interns are managed by a supervisor, but it does not change the importance of their work.

It is beneficial for adults to accept these internships because it is a great way to build practical workplace experience. In many situations, you can use an internship in place of a degree or certification. A degree or certification is just another way of saying you have the necessary skills to perform a job, so if you already performed the job by working an internship, employers know what you are capable of.

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Depending on your career path, internships also offer unique experience you cannot normally find without making a major career change. Many medical students accept internships overseas, where they work in under-developed areas. Having a few months working one of these internships can be a huge resume booster, without committing to an entire career as a doctor in one of these areas, which takes years of additional training.

Another benefit of working as an intern is you get the chance to work directly alongside experts in the field. As an intern, you are almost always supervised by someone in an upper-management position. In comparison, you are normally assigned someone in a middle-management position when you apply for a traditional entry level job.

Creating a Network

The reason working directly with upper-management is better than middle-management is the networking opportunities. If you do a good job as an intern and impress your manager, he or she is more likely to recommend you for a job. In some situations, you may even be offered a position at that same company. Even if nothing is currently available, you may receive favor when a position does open up. Your manager also has other industry contracts he or she can share with you.

Even if your manager is unable to find you a job, you may still gain an excellent source of information. Do not be afraid to ask questions about the career and get a feel for the skills other employers value on the job, to gain an edge over competing job seekers. You can also find out which positions have the most room for advancement, or where to go to find job opportunities related to your career before they are publicly posted.

Turning an Internship into a Career

Many businesses offer internships with the chance to lead the intern into a career. For these businesses, the internship effectively acts as on-the-job training. If you do a good job as an intern, the business knows you have the skills to perform the job full-time. This is not always a guarantee, but if your internship is nearing its conclusion, do not be afraid to ask your supervisor what happens next. Even if no jobs are currently available, you may end up being placed on a short list of recruits when a job does open up.

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