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I’m a 30-year-old intern!

Photo credit: bdop, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: bdop, Creative Commons/Flickr – not the author

Internships. Everyone’s had one. Or ten. As a dutiful college student, I worked several unpaid internships. In fact, my journalism school required students to intern with a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast news station. But when I turned 22 and moved to New York City, I thought I left those days behind me. There was no way I could afford to pay for rent, food, and all of my other expenses if I took an internship, even if it was paid.

Fast-forward eight years and I am back to wearing the intern hat as the (paid) social media and editorial intern at Idealist.

Deciding to pursue an internship

While my writing and editing background served me well as I worked for a variety of business publications, the changing media landscape led me to look into a career with communications and social media. But as I ventured out on the job hunt in October 2012, I realized that my years of experience writing about communications and social media weren’t quite enough. Even my continuing studies classes in digital media weren’t getting the job done. I needed hands-on experience using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more — and not just for my personal accounts.

Still, when my friend Jessica sent me the job listing for a social media and editorial intern at Idealist, I was a little apprehensive. Are 30-year-olds even allowed to be interns? Fortunately, I was reminded of my all-time favorite sitcom and thought, if Chandler Bing can survive an internship in his “old age,” then I can too.

Obviously, I did apply, and as I went through the interview and hiring process, I took several things into consideration:

  • Will this be valuable to me? Taking a step back to work as an intern is a bit of a risk. But internships should be valuable experiences, especially in an industry or field where you don’t have much experience. I knew that this position would provide me with the social media skills that I needed and the introduction into the nonprofit world that I wanted.
  • What can I offer in this position? As someone a little more seasoned in your career, you often have skills, experiences, and more that can benefit the organization. For example, I knew that my journalism background would be helpful in this position, even as I demonstrated my eagerness to learn something new.
  • What do my friends and family think? My friends are a rockstar group with amazing jobs and I trust them when it comes to career advice. Despite the job title, many told me that the position was “very you” and were ready to back me up as I made the leap.
  • How practical is this? Can you afford to take a lower-paid or unpaid internship? I am able to supplement my work at Idealist by freelance writing. Don’t let money dictate every decision you make in life, but be realistic and practical, and make sure this is a smart decision for you.
  • Can I commit? Organizations and companies usually expect interns to stick around for a few months. Are you willing to take a break from the full-time job hunt and honor your commitment? Even though it is an internship, you need to give it your all.
  • Do I care about the title? This was a trickier one for me; when I started the job, I didn’t tell every acquaintance I spoke to that I was an intern. But look at the job description, the organization, and the people you’ll be working with. Like them all? Then who cares if you’re “just an intern”?

Have you taken an internship in the middle of your career? What was the experience like and how did you make the decision?

41 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    Thank you so much for this article; it’s heartening to read about similar experiences, especially when everyone around you seems to have found their calling at 22 while you’re still figuring yourself out at 30. When I moved back to the States last year (I lived abroad for a number of years), I had few stateside contacts who could vouch for recent work experience. I wasn’t sure if I could get an internship after being out of school, and honestly my self-confidence was very shaken. I eventually found volunteering for causes I cared about (art, childhood education, literacy, etc.) as a viable alternative, and they’re a wonderful way for me to get involved in my community and share my passions with others. I’m looking for a part-time internship now to segue back into my field, but fortunately my current job (while unrelated degree-wise) affords me the flexibility to volunteer as much as I can.

  2. Eboni

    I just googled “interning in your 30s” as I sent a resume for a 2nd internship. I just turned 33 last month and just completed an internship in event planning, a field I have been wanting to work in for many years. It was a casual internship with a sole proprieter but I gained a lot of knowledge from her. I left the field I had been working in because I hated it. I had worked in hotels part time of and on for many years and decided I would use that experience to get my foot in the door. I obtained a degree in Hospitality and had been working in a full service hotel but still found it very difficult to obtain a position in event planning due to the competitive nature. I, like so many others, think of my favorite character Chandler from my favorite show “Friends” as a way to keep pushing. Thank you all for your inspiring stories and thank goodness for Google!

    • Dug

      Dear Ebony!
      Reading your post, made me not only to respond but has given me hope that I’m not alone. I’m 34, and switched over to Hospitality from Health Care. I was making very good $, great benefits, and had the chance to travel with business perks. It appeared to look like a dream job for many, however, if your passion is not there for the product and service, your happiness is crushed and your career growth is stagnated. I was doing events on the side, which led to realizing my happiness —to serve people and give them memorable experiences. I made the switch 100% by pursuing a fast track MBA in Hospitality. From there, as a career switcher, I became a 30+ intern. Did it for 6 months with a smaller company, wearing multiple hats. I’m now being pursued by 3 of the biggest luxury hotel brands in the world. Regardless of your age, it what you do with your experience. You’ll be surprised what value we bring to the company and with a little patience and hope, great things come your way. Best of luck to everyone on this blog! Each of you are my heroes!

  3. Liz

    I studied theater arts in college then went on to film school with the hopes of starting at the bottom of the totem pole in the film business. I started interning then had to go home to help take care of my ailing dad. Within those 5 years of caregiving I worked for a huge coffee company (I’m sure you can guess which one) then a mortgage company for three years. Working in the film business seemed like a fading dream. I eventually worked up the nerve to apply to entertainment jobs and was offered an internship for a production company. I left a paying job and entered my 30th year taking a huge chance with this internship. I’m hoping for the best! I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one willing to risk a little for a dream.

    • LC

      Thank you for posting this article. I am 36 years old and trying to break into marketing. I just finished a course with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I have no experience and was thinking that maybe I was too old to enter the world of Media Agencies. This articles and all of the replies have made me feel more confident in applying for internships and entry level roles.

      • cs

        Thank you so much for posting- all of you!! I am 30 years old and I am just now getting (enrolled) in a University for a degree in Marketing. And have started thinking about being an intern, but was scared to even try, thinking that I would just be laughed at because of my age. I am so glad that I searched the phrase of “too old for an internship” and came across these replies.
        Best of luck to all of you!

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