Internships Aren’t Just for the Young

Unemployed older workers can’t find jobs, so they’re applying for internships and competing with college students.

Internships aren’t just for college students anymore, as older workers who have been laid off – or are seeking a midlife career change – apply for what were once considered entry-level positions.

A new survey by the employment website CareerBuilder shows that 23 percent of employers are seeing more applications from “experienced workers” (those with 10-plus years experience) and “mature workers” (those over 50 years old).

It’s no surprise that, as the economy struggles, employers are planning to hire more interns than ever. The survey shows 27 percent of employers plan to hire more interns during the rest of 2010 – and of those, 14 percent are offering paid internships.

“The last 18 months have reshaped internships as more than an experience-builder for college students,” says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s vice president of human resources. “Now they’re also a way for experienced workers to explore new opportunities.”

And what tasks will those interns be expected to do? The survey of 2,500 employers reveals…

  • Hands-on experience related to their goals: 73 percent
  • Office support: 52 percent
  • Working with customers: 35 percent
  • Running errands: 23 percent
  • Office maintenance: 19 percent

Especially with all the doubt about an economic recovery, employers are nervous about adding to their payrolls even as business picks up. As Haefner puts it…

Internships can act as an extended, full-time job interview and potentially lead to more opportunities for college students and for more seasoned employees. In fact, 52 percent of companies we surveyed said they are likely to hire interns as full-time, permanent employees.

Whatever your age, Haefner offered this advice before applying for an internship…

  • Get connected. Ask family and friends if they know anyone who works in the field you’re interested in.
  • If you think you’ll have time to do an internship in the fall, start looking now. Visit sites like for internship listings.
  • Be open to a variety of different organizations, such as local charities or even small start-ups. Organizations with limited budgets are especially receptive to the extra help an intern provides.

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