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?