As you’re preparing for the next academic year, there’s one area that many non-traditional students do not consider: taking on an internship. For valid reasons, many adult students do not consider doing internships while getting their degrees. According to the EAB, about 58% of adult students work while going to college; more than 25% are raising children, and about 38% undergraduates are over the age of 25. If you consider the “normal life” of an adult student (work, family, school, and other commitments), it makes complete sense that taking on an internship seems out of the question. However, there are adult students that make it work: with and without a job and caretaking responsibilities.
For adult students who are completing a degree in order to transition into a new field, employers expect to see some experience in the new field, even for entry level positions. As one leader put it: “We look for 1-3 years of experience even for entry level roles because we realized it correlates with candidates onboarding more quickly and contributing more meaningfully in their first 90 days. ” Therefore, students should think about when and how an internship can take place. For those with multiple responsibilities, below are ways to gain experience in a new field:
- Get opportunities at your current job: One of the best (and easiest) ways to get new skills is to ask for new responsibilities at work. Ask to take on a new project, shadow a colleague, or work in a new area for a few weeks to gain the new skill. Many employers would rather work with their current employees than have them leave to gain experience elsewhere.
- Do an internship over winter break. If your school offers a winter session, consider completing an internship then. Most employees are off for an amount of time over the holiday break. If you’re taking an internship as a class, you can then request time off to complete your internship. *Obviously, negotiate for this if your employer is open to this type of arrangements. Companies that support their employees improving their education are usually open to reworking schedules.
- Look for adult-intern friendly companies. Believe it or not, some companies would rather have interns that are traditional college age (18-22). When looking for internship opportunities, find out if companies support adult student interns. Most will be very honest about their position and why. You want to do this because a company that uses adult interns are more accommodating and flexible because they completely understand the non-school related responsibilities that those students have.
- Consider virtual internships: virtual internships allow you a broader selection of companies to work for, along with flexible hours. If you can’t get away from your primary job and your responsibilities don’t allow for much flexibility, a virtual internship is a great option. *You also might not be stuck with a traditional Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm schedule.
As you plan time to gain new skills and experiences, be sure to plan ahead. The closer you get to completing your degree, the more you’ll want free class time to take on an internship. If you’re in your first year or so of school, start setting a little money aside. That way, if you have to take unpaid leave to complete an internship that you really want, your bills are covered. Interning is a meaningful way to carefully transition into a new field and test out your skills and talents.
Keep moving forward and be safe,