It used to be that internships were just for college kids. But today, the internship is for anyone who wants to do work they have no track record for doing. The internship is learning ground and proving ground for any age. It’s true that kids in college absolutely must get work experience to be employable after college, and an internship is a good way to do that, at any age.
My favorite internship story is when my eight-year-old son got an internship as a stylist and found himself dressing a model.
People in their 30s get internships to make up for lost time in their 20s. And also to land hipster jobs that are impossibly hard to get—this internship at Versace, for example, went for $3200. That’s right. Some internships are so cool that you have to pay for them.
Goldman Sachs coined the term returnship for people in their 40s who do a job as a test, and not as a hire. It’s a high-class word for temp-to-hire. And the Harvard Business review touts this as the on-ramp for a generation of parents who scales back work periodically to accommodate their personal life.
Even if you don’t get the job offer at the end of the internship, you can put the job on your resume. And whether you’re 20 or 40, you don’t need to say it was an internship. Internship is really just a way for a company to talk about tax issues (Is the company paying employment tax on you? Can you claim unemployment if you’re let go?).
The best thing you can do in an internship is to negotiate for a real title, something else besides intern, so you can put it on your resume. People will assume you were not an intern and they will give you the benefit of doubt that you have solid experience. (Remember, when it comes to a job hunt, omission is not lying. You don’t tell people when you wiped your butt in 2010, right? There’s lots of stuff you leave off your resume because you deem it irrelevant. Whether or not you were an intern is one of those things.)
The best time to be hired as in intern is the fall.
Interns just left their positions to go back to school. They are thinking they just finished their summer internships so they don’t need another internship. This is the time when you should be pouncing.
It’s very competitive to get internships because the definition of an intern is they’re not qualified. So the way to increase your odds as a nonqualified person is to compete when there are fewer nonqualified people competing. That will be your big differentiator – you showed up.
The hardest part of getting an internship is getting a company to create an internship. It’s actually really difficult to manage someone who is not qualified because you have to oversee them so carefully, yet they can produce so little. Managers have to be careful not to spend more time managing the results than the results are worth. During this cost benefit analysis, lots of internships are simply scrapped.
The great thing about looking for an internship in the fall is that companies have already created an internship, and there’s a spot in the company and they know what the intern can contribute, but the intern is recently gone.
When you’re selling yourself in the fall you can say I’ll do exactly what your last intern did. When you’re selling yourself in the summer, you have to make up a whole new role.
Students should cut classes to go to internships.
The best time to get an internship is when you’re supposed to be getting good grades because your grades don’t matter. It’s a complete waste of your time. There’s no way to translate that you got straight A’s in college.
If you’re from a good college, people already assume you’re smart. So if you’re at Harvard, you can just get C’s – your network will get you a good job regardless. If you are from a mediocre college, no one cares if you got good grades. You’re at a bad college. They assume it’s easy to get good grades at a mediocre college. So, all in all, grades don’t matter unless you go to graduate school, and that’s a ticket to hell.
So the time you’re supposed to be in class is a great time to do an internship because getting a C requires very little effort on your part – you have a lot of extra time. Anyway, going to classes and learning about history is total BS. If you’re so interested in history, you can do it after work for the rest of your life. Right now, what you need to be doing is focusing on making sure that your on‑ramp to adult life isn’t destroyed by anachronistic educational goals, like being well‑rounded.
What to do next?
Don’t worry about your resume. Interns, by definition, do not have killer resumes. Write a cover letter saying you’d like an internship in the company, explain what interests you about the company, and ask if they have any internships available. This letter is a long shot, but not in the fall, because all the internships are sitting open this month, and so few people think to apply.