Age is But a Number: Baby Boomers Are Getting In Line to Fill Internships

by Traci K and BrightMove, Leading Provider of Global Recruiting Software and Onboarding Software

When you say the word “intern”, what image comes to mind?  A snot-nosed college kid trying to jumpstart their career?  Maybe a twenty-something young woman who still isn’t sure what she’d like to do with her life?  Both are fairly stereotypical.  But what about a 50-year-old accountant with 30 years of experience under their belt?  No?  Well get ready, because the stereotype is about to change.

As with every aspect of business today, the current economic situation has left (or perhaps is still leaving) its mark.  Retirement ages are fast approaching for an entire generation of workers and as they are running down the home stretch, many are finding themselves in unfortunate circumstances.  These skilled workers are overqualified for most open positions, yet still are forced to wonder about age discrimination when applying for the jobs that do match their skill sets.

Applying for internships has become a great tactic for experienced workers to broaden these skill sets and find opportunities through a more diversified job hunt.  Careerbuilder and Harris Interactive recently conducted an online survey showing that 23% of employers have had workers with more than 10 years of experience and those ages 50 and over applying for internships within their companies.  Only 5% of these internships will be paying wages of $25 or more per hour, translating to potentially large pay cuts for older workers that land these new roles.

“The last 18 months have reshaped internships as more than an experience-builder for college students. Now, they’re also a way for experienced workers to explore new opportunities,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Internships can act as an extended, full-time job interview and potentially lead to more opportunities for college students and for more seasoned employees. In fact, 52 percent of companies we surveyed said they are likely to hire interns as full-time, permanent employees.”

In competition with Gen Y, how can this older generation stay ahead of the curve?  Haefner gives out a few tips including getting connected, starting the search early, and staying open-minded.  Ask around to find networking opportunities through family and friends.  If a company doesn’t have an internship program, perhaps you can pave the way.  By looking early, you can get a head start on the competition.  Haefner suggests considering charities or small start-ups as “organizations with limited budgets are often especially receptive to the extra help an intern provides.”  Staying open-minded will broaden your options.

To the employers out there – prepare yourselves for a new demographic of internship applicants.  With the right career path or advancement opportunities, an experienced worker may be exactly the type of intern your corporate can take advantage of.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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