Why Internships Aren't Just For College Students

Last Updated Apr 5, 2011 7:16 AM EDT

Internships are a classic collegiate rite of passage, along with spring break and final exams. You work for little or nothing, but get experience and a recommendation. But even if you graduated years ago, internships should still be on your radar, say some experts. "Internships are valuable because they are a powerful means of expanding your social network. Personal connections and relationships are the easiest means to get you on the inside track for employment. With 7 out of 10 internships resulting in employment offers, we can clearly see a strong correlation between personal connections and success in employment," says Robin Richards, CEO of Internships.com.

Even more interesting is the demographic applying to these internships: "We have noticed that 20 percent of the people searching our site for internships are either recent graduates or older. So it's clear that internship seekers are no longer undergrads alone," says Richards. Wherever you are in your career, here are three things to know about internships:

Internships Can Help You Change Careers If your industry is failing or you're just not that into your job anymore, an internship can grease the wheels of change. "It's a great way to learn -- first-hand -- about a career path and gain experience in that field," says Heather R. Huhman, founder of Come Recommended, and author of #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle. This can also be true for stay-at-home moms ready to return to the workforce after a break. A quick intern stint can bring you up to speed on new developments in your field, fast.

They Can Help You Shake Long-Term Unemployment If you're not getting paid to work, taking an unpaid gig might be a valuable move. "When you're laid off or terminated from a position, your self-esteem can suffer. If you couple that with social isolation, you launch a downward spiral that can hamper your success in job interviews," says Meg Montford and president of Abilities Enhanced. "Even if your internship is unpaid, you are still reaping valuable rewards to keep your work and social skills sharp and fresh."
Internships Don't Need To Mean Going Broke
Of course, you can look for the rarer, paid positions -- according to Richards, 34 percent of the jobs on Internships.com are paid, but the competition for those is stiff. Or, you can get creative. "Many unpaid internships are part-time and leave room for another part-time, paid job, should you need it," says Huhman. "Some companies that require interns to work full-time do offer to pay for parking, transportation, or other costs, and you could inquire about possible compensation during the hiring process." Plus, internship experience may raise starting salary, so your internship could pay for itself pretty soon.

Would you consider an internship? Why or why not? Please sign in below and share. And for more career advice, follow @MWOnTheJob on Twitter.
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  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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