You might think of internships as something only available to college students. It’s true that internships are most often geared toward college students to give them a chance to experience a job before graduating. But it turns out that adult internships are just as useful, too. That’s good news for you as a transitioning service member.
Adult internships can help you in so many ways. You’ll be able to learn about new jobs that are available to them, and you’ll be able to reacquaint yourself with the civilian work sector.
One of the most difficult challenges you face as a transitioning veteran is going from something that’s completely known to an unknown environment. Whether or not you were satisfied with your military career didn’t matter as much as you knew what to expect. When you get out, all of that changes. Even if you were in the workforce before joining the military, chances are the landscape has changed dramatically.
The first and most important bit of advice here is to learn everything you can about your potential new career. The best way to do that is to experience it firsthand since what you see from a job advertisement and what the job actually entails could be quite different. An adult internship can offer you the chance to fill in these missing pieces – before you commit yourself to a job.
Even if you’re planning to stay within the government sector, either as a GS employee or a contractor, you’ll still benefit from an adult internship. An internship will prove instrumental as you begin your new life as a civilian, and it can serve as a gentle steppingstone from your military community to your non-military life. Interning gives you a chance to readjust slowly, which is always a good thing – especially if your time in service has been a while. An adult internship will also provide you the unique opportunity to show prospective employers that you’re up to date and current on existing job challenges, and you’ve invested in the field as well.
Downsides and challenges
Internships are often unpaid. If they are paid, the rate is far before what you might expect. There are specific laws that employers have to follow regarding pay for interns, but this often comes at a price. Namely, employers don’t want to pay someone with little or less than recent experience, so they might not offer an internship at all.
Before you begin an internship, take a close look at your finances and determine if it’s something that’s feasible for you. Remember that interning isn’t a guarantee for job placement.
One challenge you might face as a mid-life career changer is your age. Most employers expect intern applicants to be young college students. To get the attention of a potential employer, lean on the experience you already have. That means contacting your alma matter and joining any professional organizations that relate to your field. You might also consider exploring your LinkedIn and professional networks to help bridge the gap.
Finally, you’ll need to convince the employer to hire you. Be confident in this pursuit – you have something that college students don’t: experience. That means you’ll be able to take on more responsibility sooner. Make sure your prospective employer knows this. When you sell to your strengths, you’ll find that an adult internship is a great segue back into the civilian workforce.