Resume Writing, Career Advice and Job Search blog from ResumeWriting.com.
Ever since the recession hit, there’s been a lot of debate about who it’s hit the hardest. Is this a mancession, hitting men harder than women? Are older workers being discriminated against because of their experience? Or is it really the worst job market for young professionals and recent grads? And who is better off in this job market? White collar workers or blue collar workers?
It’s probably a little bit of each. This is a tough job market for everyone, and I can pull data that would argue any cohort you can name is suffering more than another.
If there’s one thing that no one can argue, it’s that in this economy, the category that is soaring is the unpaid internship. And it’s not just young professionals that are flocking to unpaid internships.
Unpaid internships have long been a mainstay for students who get academic credit in lieu of a paycheck. But in the Great Recession, with the unemployment rate hovering near 10%, job-search sites like CareerBuilder and Monster.com are reporting increases in the number of postings for internships. And more and more college graduates and even middle-aged professionals are willing to work for free in hopes that it will help them land a paying gig.Do you find yourself contemplating becoming one of these 40 or 50-year-old interns?
It’s sort of a two-sided phenomenon. Companies are still trying to keep labor costs down, so “free labor” can be quite appealing. And with job seekers as desperate as they are, any sort of “work” is better than having an extended gap on your resume.
Middle-aged internships are…
…indicative of a new, aging worker population in the United States—one that’s managing, ageist expectation aside, to take jobs away from the youth. In 2000, only 13 percent of American workers were 55 and older, but that the number is expected to rise to 25.2 percent by 2020, according to a 2012 analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the past five years, people aged 55 and over gained 3.6 million jobs, while their younger counterparts lost more than twice that—7.6 million. Similarly, in the preceding twelve months, those 55 and older snagged more than 67 percent of the 2.5 million new jobs created.
If you’re a baby-boomer considering an unpaid internship even after decades of experience, you’re not alone. Here are some factors to consider:
Some Tips For Middle Aged Interns
1) Keep Your Head Up– First and foremost, don’t think of being a middle-aged intern as a comedown. We’re all conditioned to think of a career path as linear… moving every upward in a progression of better job after better job. But that’s simply now how it works anymore. The average American will have 7-10 jobs in their lifetime. Not every job will be better than the next. The common American experience is now many different career paths, with twists, turns and pivots along the way. This internship is not a step down, it’s a step in a new direction.
2) Be Free With Your Experience– We’re used to thinking of interns as know-nothings (or at least, know-littles) that need to train and learn. You’re not in that position. You’re someone with plenty of experience and plenty of knowledge. You can be exceptionally valuable to your team if you’re not afraid to bring some of that knowledge and experience to your new role. Don’t think of your age as an embarrassment; think of your seasoning and advanced skills as an asset to be shared.
3) Treat Your New Co-Workers As Professionals– Having said that, as an intern, you might find yourself working with – or even working for – people who are years and decades younger than you. It’s vitally important that you treat even younger co-workers with the professional respect and consideration that is due anyone in the workplace. Don’t lord your age over others. Don’t condescend down to other co-workers, even if they aren’t as experienced as you are.
4) Mentor And Be Mentored– You can leverage your experience to teach others, but you can also learn a thing or two yourself. In your new position, don’t be afraid to enter into mentor/mentee relationships, on either side of that equation. After all…
5) Don’t Forget The Purpose Of An Internship– An internship is all about opportunity. You have the opportunity to gain experience you might not otherwise have. This can pad your resume and lead to a new, paid position. Because above everything else, an internship is your chance to impress an employer and hopefully convert your unpaid position into a paid one.