Q&A: Am I Too Old For an Internship?

After spending nearly a decade in the working world, it wasn’t exactly my plan to take on an internship—and an unpaid one, no less. But at age 30, when I found myself jobless and thoroughly confused about my future, it became my reality.

I know what you’re thinking: A 30-year-old intern? And sure, while many internships are reserved for college students and new grads, they can actually help you get your foot in the door of a new industry, spark a decision about the career path you should pursue, or, if nothing else, provide a valuable learning experience—at any age.

If you’re considering an internship a little later in life, welcome to my world! To give you a taste of my experience, here’s my story of the year my career swerved off track—and the surprising way it helped me get where I am now.

In the United States, there’s no set maximum age for getting an internship. In fact, according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and regulations set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers aren’t allowed to base internship hiring decisions on maximum age.

How Old Is Too Old For An Internship

What are the benefits of an internship at any age?

Completing an internship can also benefit you by:

What is an internship?

Whether youre switching industries, updating your qualifications or returning to the workforce after taking some time off, you may consider applying for an internship. No matter your age, an internship can allow you to develop new skills, which can help you advance your career. Here are a few additional reasons why you may decide to pursue an internship later in life:

How can you get an internship?

As an older candidate, consider following these tips to find the right internship for you:

Adapt your internship search

Older internship candidates are often working professionals in other fields. Sometimes, they already have a degree and may also have financial responsibilities, such as bill payments or child care to consider. Consider looking for paid internships that are open to people outside of an educational program.

Revamp your application materials

Reach out

Join a professional organization

What are some alternatives to internships?

While you can usually apply for an internship at any age, some employers only accept interns who are part of an educational program. If youre not enrolled in a college course, itd be useful to know about other options that can help you transition to a new career.

Here are five different types of jobs to help get training in a new field:

Temps, or temporary employees, typically work for a staffing agency that matches them with an organization for a limited period. Temps may handle the responsibilities of absent permanent employees, assist with a specific project during a busy season or cover a short-term role. Temping can offer candidates varied experience and sometimes can lead to a permanent position.

Volunteering can help you build a network in a new industry, enhance your transferrable skills and introduce you to mentors who may offer you a long-term position in your target field. Most volunteer roles dont require a full-time commitment, which means you can maintain your current income while gaining the experience you need to advance your career.

If youre searching for a position that requires advanced technical skills such as a tailor, electrician or medical coder, you may consider becoming an apprentice. An apprenticeship can provide you with on-the-job training, additional education in your target field and consistent income while youre gaining new skills.

While internships are usually short-term positions, cooperative education roles (also called co-ops) are long-term positions that combine work and study. Co-ops are typically paid and available to people enrolled in an educational program who are also interested in full-time work.

A fellowship is a training program in which individuals perform research and develop skills to apply in a professional environment. Fellowships focus on professional development and could be a good option for those who want to advance within their own industry.

What are some examples of getting an internship?

Consider these three hypothetical examples of older people getting internships for various reasons.

1. Shifting industries

Dominic is a grocery store manager who wants to change careers and become a mechanical engineer who designs cars. He researches the education he needs and enrolls in a bachelors degree program. Then he applies for an internship with his target employer, American Muscle Motors, and receives on-the-job training in automotive design.

2. Returning to the workforce

Zara is a stay-at-home mom and former human resources representative. Shes taken a few years off to focus on raising her child, and now shes ready to return to work. While shes applying for long-term positions, she gets a one-month internship to update her skills and form new industry contacts.

3. Changing career goals

David is a professional graphic designer for a corporation. In his current job, he focuses on logos and advertising, but hes interested in shifting his career focus to book cover design. He applies for an internship with his target employer to expand his book design portfolio and clearly expresses that hes interested in a permanent role.

FAQ

Can a 30 year old be an intern?

In fact, people of all ages take internships and entry-level positions. Many of them do so while they’re changing careers or simply to dabble in something new—to do something they’ve always been interested in. If you can financially afford to, taking an internship as an experienced worker can be a great idea.

Is 26 too old to be an intern?

You’re Never Too Old to Learn Something New

It isn’t the only incentive, and it still is beneficial to take the internship. Potential employers appreciate it when interviewees, especially older ones, take the initiative to get the experience they need to get the job they want.

Is 40 too old to be an intern?

In fact, many successful retraining programs include a requirement that the worker spend time in an internship. But even if 40-year-old interns are more accepted, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to work side-by-side with 23-year-olds. Especially if your boss is a decade younger than you.

Is 25 too old to intern?

Besides, 25 isn’t old, especially when you consider your career will likely span four decades or more. As far as getting an internship, did you happen to see the movie, “The Intern”? Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old widower who becomes an intern for Anne Hathaway, a successful but overworked business owner.

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