no spring chicken.
March 19, 2011 7:03 PM   Subscribe

have you done an internship despite not being fresh out of college? in fact, very far out of college?

my boyfriend has been unemployed for about six months. prior to that, he was working in the collections department in a law firm doing accounts payable stuff—a job he really hated, but it was his first job post-divorce. when he was first married, he was an IT manager at sony in the bay area but his wife, who was an attorney, kept getting bigger and better offers all over southern california so she moved and when they had their first child, he would commute from SF to eventually, he felt that he wasn't seeing his kid enough and left his job. they had another child and he became a stay-at-home dad for a long time. he's essentially in the same situation that most women are who return the work force after being stay-at-home moms.

he went to a community college after the divorce to acquire accounting knowledge but his job at the law firm was incredibly unfulfilling for him. the type of experiences he's always enjoyed the most was those in which he could help people in need. he's an incredibly compassionate and caring person, but has never really found his niche career-wise. it really was no wonder that he was such a great stay-at-home dad. i've always felt that he should be working in the non-profit/humanitarian sector and he agrees. however, he has no experience in that field, and very little experience otherwise outside of his IT skills, which are out-of-date, and his accounts job. my suggestion to him has been to do some volunteer work for a non-profit to gain experience, and then today i was reading about an internship in the humanitarian department at a huge global retail brand and encouraged him to apply, not only because i think it's a great introduction to this kind of work, but often this company will hire their interns if they do well and they like the intern. his response was that he felt he was too old (40 this year), and would be competing against college aged/grad kids. i told him to sell it as him refocusing on what he's always really wanted to do with his career, which was to help people in a very tangible way; that having been laid off, he's been trying to find opportunities in which he could make it a career and that an internship would be a great way to get exposure and gain that type of experience. any job he would get otherwise, would not be paying a whole lot anyway based on his work experience (or lack thereof), and i would be making enough to support us both so an unpaid volunteer or internship job is not something that would be financially unfeasible.

would this a good idea for him? have you had experience doing an internship as someone older, or known anyone who has? do you have any other suggestions for how he can maximize gaining experience?
posted by violetk to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In California, it's very, very hard for someone who's not a student to get an actual internship.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:15 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm finishing up a grad degree and doing an internship this summer precisely because it's a career jump and without it, well, I've got a degree with zero experience in the field. I'm only a few years younger than your husband. My classmates range from people a few years out of undergrad to quite a few around my age and a few older. I

He is not too old. What does he lose by applying? Nothing. What does he lose by not applying? The chance to shift gears. The key is for him to think about his transferable skills from both his IT/accounting days and those as a SAHD - those are real and tangible.

The one key issue is that he may not be eligible for an internship unless he's a student - but the core idea of starting with volunteering in the field he wants to get into, doing informational interviews and finding a way to get a foot in the door? All good stuff.

He's not too old unless he thinks he's too old - and if he does... ask him why? What's he afraid of. Then help him take that on.
posted by canine epigram at 7:18 PM on March 19, 2011

Sure - I did an internship last summer that had to do with my 2nd bachelor's degree, Middle East Studies, and I'm in my mid-30s. I did that internship for about 15 hours a week, and worked another job part-time.

Of course, he should tailor his resume to suit the position...
posted by HopperFan at 7:42 PM on March 19, 2011

Various places I've worked have brought on interns of different ages and experience levels -- retired, returning to the workforce, career changing, and so forth. I gave a closer look (in a good way) to the resumes from would-be interns who were not just fresh out of college, as they were often more self-directed and better time-managers. Your explanation is great, particularly by referring to him as a stay-at-home-dad and a career changer. Those explain the gap in employment, make someone sympathetically inclined, and show that he shares that nonprofit's values.

Three other suggestions:
- do informational interviews, especially if he can ask past professional contacts to get them for him ("bob, i noticed that Organization X is among your pro bono clients. I'm seeking to do informational interviews and would love to sit down with their director. Would you mind introducing us?") That will help him get responses, and it will also mean that the interviewee will come in viewing him as an interesting peer. Interviews will allow him to explore the work he could do for a nonprofit with his current skills, and help him find the right job match. (Many jobs even with "helping people" nonprofits do not involve directly providing service to those in need, so finding a job that fits him will take some thinking.)
- think about how to use his past skills. might legal aid work be the most valuable kind of help for him to provide to people in need?
- finally, he could consider serving on the board of a smaller nonprofit that does the kind of service provision that interests him. his legal background would potentially be a valuable asset to the board. Board members are expected to financially contribute to an organization's success, so he might mix this option with continuing to do legal work.

Bottom line: yes, he probably could find work as an intern, but there might be ways for him to leverage his relationships and past experience to do some of this exploration you suggest without doing cold calls or applying for entry-level internships.
posted by salvia at 8:45 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

It totally depends on the field. "Non-profit/humanitarian" is a huge category, but I have worked at several having to do with international development, and I was an intern up until I finished my Masters in the field. With this economy, many, internships at non-profits require you to mostly do work of what would have been called a project or program assistant in the past. If your boyfriend is serious about getting into some kind of non-profit work, I would definitely encourage he bite the bullet and take an internship position. I know it might be awkward and frustrating for him to work as an intern for people who are younger than he is, but the heart of most non-profits are young people, so he'd probably have to face that regardless of the position.
I would err on the side of caution with informational interviews. Most non-profits are really stressed about funding in general, but with the state of our economic affairs, staff sizes are stretched, and people are less and less encouraging of informational interviews. I know my friends who get requests for informational interviews are often turned off by those candidates, because most are really just after a job. On the upside, your boyfriend might be able to use his age at an advantage to talk to people. If it's someone straight out college, you can bet they want a job. If it's someone in their 40s, it's a lot harder to tell.
posted by msk1985 at 9:56 PM on March 19, 2011

I don't see that it would hurt for him to apply for that internship. If he doesn't get it, I think you should still encourage him to volunteer in that line of work as well.

He might have in mind that non-profits need IT people too, and web and social media skilled people, and he may want to brush up or work to expand those skills before, during and after any internship or volunteer experience, as that might be a road in to something potentially pretty fulfilling in the non-profit world.
posted by gudrun at 6:50 AM on March 20, 2011

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