People usually think of internships as a way for students to get work experience before they graduate. Internships, however, don't have to be for students only. An internship can also be helpful for someone changing his or her career or for someone who is returning to work after an extended absence. For example, Mary K. graduated with an M.B.A. a few years ago. She has been having trouble getting hired because of her lack of experience in the field she wants to enter. n an email she sent to me, Mary says "I am bright, articulate and would be a valuable asset to any organization willing to hire me in a business related role." Also she said she would be willing to do volunteer work to get the experience she needs. Mary wanted to know if I had any suggestions. I did have one suggestion. "Look into doing an internship," I said in an email I fired off to Mary.  An internship would give her hands-on training, something to put on her resume, and possibly a foot in the door although it would not pay much, or anything at all. Mary's response? "Aren't internships just for students or recent graduates?"

Internships are not for students only

Others can gain necessary work experience this way while interns are usually students or recent graduates. Generally they are unpaid but they provide an invaluable opportunity to learn about a field by actually working in it.  Not just a student, seems like this is something that would benefit anyone trying to enter a new field. It would also benefit an employer who would get an intern with actual work experience, albeit not in that field, and a willingness to learn. Traditional interns don't have the experience and the maturity of someone who has been out of school for a while. Students usually take part in formal internship programs. These programs run concurrent with the academic year. Non-students may want to look for something less formal. You may have to "create your own" internship experience in case you are entering a new field or re-entering the workforce after an extended absence. Try contacting the school from which you graduated. The career services office should have some suggestions. Contact our alumni association which may have information on your fellow graduates and what they are doing now. Also contact them in case any are working in the field you want to enter. Do not forget to look at your network. Is there anyone who could provide you with a training opportunity? Maybe someone in your network can hook you up with a colleague who can provide you with such an opportunity. Join a professional association and network with the other members. One may be willing to establish an informal internship. Contact local employers. Explain your situation and tell them what you can do for them. Explain that you are willing to volunteer your time in exchange for the chance to learn about the field in which you're interested.