Saturday, October 8, 2011

the internship: not just for college kids

One of the proposed answers to wide-spread unemployment in the United States is an expanded Georgia Works program. Georgia Works allows businesses to put the long-term unemployed to work for free. The business goal is obvious but there is also an added bonus for the unemployed. The time "back at work" gives people an opportunity to continue collecting benefits while they develop new skills and broaden their network. It's an internship program for adults.

College students often ask, "Which office do I visit if I want an internship?" And though most colleges and universities have a career placement or development office, the truth is that anyone (even the non-college student) can get an internship. It just takes initiative, commitment and compromise.

So what exactly is an internship? I think an internship is any experience that is designed to expose or train an otherwise unskilled worker for a particular job or industry. For example, in 2006 I was considering transitioning from college advising  to a career in arts administration. I had strong ties to the New York theatre community, had a genuine interest in marketing and strategic communications, and was ready for something new. At the same time, my place of employment was offering a 4-day summer work schedule, meaning I would have either Mondays or Fridays off for a ten-week period. My husband, a writer and actor, had close ties with one of the leading professional theatre companies so I asked if he would connect me with the associate producer. Within a few days I was working as a marketing intern.

Now keep in mind I had a full-time career and had been out of school for years, but because I expressed  genuine interest, commitment, and willingness to work for free, the company brought me in without hesitation.

Now I ended up not making a career transition. But, I did significantly broaden my network. And when I had an opportunity to move into a performing-arts centric position in my given field, I brought a unique skill-set to the table.

Sure it helps, but you don't have to be connected with a college to get an internship. Check out company websites, professional associations, and job boards. Talk to your network of friends, family, and colleagues. Send emails, make phone calls, and find the experience you need to take your career to the next level.