Nonprofits are also offering internships to mid-career professionals, among them: Sightline Institute, a think tank in Seattle; Earthwatch Institute, an international nonprofit group with US offices in Maynard, Mass.; and the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C., which will host a mid-career professional in its internship program this summer.
Training programs are also gaining momentum. Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based think tank focused on baby boomers, spearheaded an Encore Fellows pilot program in 2008 for experienced technology sector employees ages 50 and up. The goal is to train them for management positions in the nonprofit world.
Hiring interns is “a great way to test-drive somebody without investing huge salary benefits in them,” says Nancy Valene, content manager for Babyboomers.TV. The decision to pick mid-career professionals makes sense because of the nature of the website’s content, she adds.
The same can be said at wowOwow.com, where “executive interns,” all over the age of 40, work remotely from home and attend meetings in the New York office to learn about social networking, search engine optimization, and how to write and edit for the Web.
These women “are our demographic. They’ve been able to help us connect with our audience,” says Randi Bernfeld, senior editor at wowOwow.com.
Not all companies welcome adult interns with open arms. “A lot of companies ... don’t even want to consider the adults,” Berger says. Because most company policies require interns to receive college credit, adults are often disregarded. Another potential concern, she says, “is that [adults] are going to have a larger sense of entitlement and that they won’t want to do normal intern things or filing or doing very basic administrative tasks.”
Smaller, start-up companies seem more willing to take on experienced interns who can offer insight from their previous career path, Berger says.
When he applied for an internship at Babyboomers.TV, Aaron Grossman told his tale in his cover letter. Laid off from his market-research job in May 2008 and after “a dark period of job searching,” Mr. Grossman, 58, was ready to try something new.
His story made a lasting impression. Out of 100 applicants, he was selected to be one of four interns in April. Every day, Grossman works from his home office in New York, writing articles for the website. Interning, he says, has allowed him to pursue his passion – writing – full time.
But following his passion hasn’t been easy. Grossman, once the breadwinner of the family, faces an uncertain future while his wife works full time.
“It’s uncertain as to whether this is going to evolve into a full-time job,” he says. But he is trying to remain optimistic. At the completion of his internship, full-time positions will be offered to three of the four interns. He hopes to be one of them.
Interning has also been difficult for Fernandez. Though her husband works full time, and she is able to obtain free-lance work on the side, she says the unpaid work has been “a challenge” because New York City is so expensive. Still, she sees the internship as a way to boost her résumé.
“I just love the idea of being able to get an opportunity only students get,” she says. It’s an “opportunity to learn how to translate my print media skills into digital media skills. I really just see the upside.”