March 10, 2010— -- In a competitive job market, you need every edge when applying for jobs, and nothing trumps actual experience. One way to get it is through interning, even as an adult.
When giving your time and talent for free, you want to make sure you're getting something in return. That means interning only in a capacity that's directly related to your desired paid position. It's what differentiates this from volunteering and doing good for your heart. As an adult intern, you're working with an eye on the prize: a paid job.
The biggest hurdle: most employers will demand that interns receive college credit in lieu of salary or pay. To get around that, make your case to small and medium sized businesses, professional associations, and even non-profits. Your pitch must be personal: "I'm out of work and I'm convinced that if I had this specific experience, I'd be able to get hired. So allow me to give you my time and talent in exchange for gaining this particular skill to put on my resume." If it's clear that you're benefitting more than the employer—and that they're helping you by allowing you to intern—compensation is no longer an issue.
Click HERE for an example of an internship pitch letter.
There are three main reasons for a jobseeker to pursue an internship:
1: Test drive a job before committing time and money to formal education or training.
Margie Lyons, 56, is a mom of three grown daughters who has always worked in the insurance industry, which has served her very well. But with the kids out of the house, she's considering adding an act two to her plate, ideally tied to her passion. Since she's always been interested in the culinary arts, Lyons researched the French Culinary Institute but recognized it was a substantial commitment of time and money for a potential career path she wasn't sold on.
Before diving in to formal training and education, she wanted to "test drive" the profession. She approached the owner of Plates, a restaurant in New York, to ask if she could intern in the kitchen one night a week.