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Internships for a career change

Internships for a career change

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DEAR READERS: I've seen many listings for internships that specify only current students or recent graduates should apply. I always wonder about older job seekers. Are there internships for experience folks who want to change careers and are looking for an opportunity to learn a new skill or profession?

The answer is yes — and they're becoming more popular and more prevalent today, according to Anjela Mangrum, a certified personnel consultant and founder and president of Mangrum Career Solutions.

"Internships for older job seekers not only exist but are trending in recent times, where saturated job markets have forced many people to look for new prospects and expand their skill sets. Other times, an adult internship can help you re-enter your field of work after a long break," Mangrum says. "Many companies are realizing the importance of adult internships instead of the conventional ones meant exclusively for college students or fresh graduates."

These opportunities -- called "returnships" and "minternships" — are available for a wide variety of job seekers, career experts say.

Minternships are typically designed for mid-career employees questioning how they got where they are in their careers and considering a career pivot, says Caroline Vernon, career transition practice leader at outplacement firm Intoo USA.

"Thirty-somethings questioning their purpose in high-stress positions with equally high-paying salaries are changing careers to learn again in an effort to search for fulfillment at work," Vernon explains. It is a chance for these "minterns," who are typically in the 30s, "to reinvent themselves, a time for a step back to examine their priorities and what matters to them most in their everyday work life."

"Returnships are geared toward people who want to sharpen their skills in a job market that may have changed since the last time they were in the workforce," Vernon says. "They also give employees the ability to explore a new career path and learn new skills."

The benefits of these programs are many.

"Such programs can keep you occupied while deepening your knowledge about your field of choice. In case the internship is not in your primary field of work, it can serve as a good way to test-drive a new career," Mangrum notes. "If you aren't familiar with resourceful people in the industry, these programs can help you expand your network and build contacts."

At its best, a returnship "could end up turning into a permanent paid position at a company if you're lucky and have made a good impression," Mangrum adds. "If you have a specific company in mind, send them a cover letter explaining why you would like to join them and what you have to offer."

Another option is reaching out to people you know, says Monster career expert Vicki Salemi.

"Ask about internships within their group for experienced workers and if the department has any available," Salemi suggests. "Usually they're an anomaly, ... but (also) ask about job shadowing. Think outside the box. Get creative. Perhaps for one week you can work virtually with a potential peer by shadowing him or her, attend meetings and roll up your sleeves to learn and help out their group during busy season. Try to create niche opportunities based on conversations that may not look like a traditional, structured internship with a set amount of time."

There are several places to explore if you're interested in internship opportunities not specifically calling for students or recent graduates: Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, ReachHIRE (designed to help women re-entering the workforce) and LinkedIn are a few resources to explore.

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Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.

Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.

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