Interning Mid-Career

September 7, 2011

Everyone wants an intern!

The saying goes “you need experience to get experience.” This catch-22 approach to job hunting has plagued just about everyone. Many of us worked for little or no pay in high school or college. I was lucky to intern at at a PR agency during my junior year of college and without that, I doubt I would have found a job after graduation. However, things change. Take social media for example, it didn’t exist when I went to college. I fell into the world of social media-driven events completely by accident. There was no training, no internships were available. I learned by spending my free time playing, researching and testing.

I often hear from people who want to break into the events industry.  Event planning is considered to be a sexy industry and everyone wants a piece of the action. However, most people aren’t willing to take a pay cut from their current careers to make the leap. They end up in that never ending loop of wanting experience without having experience. However, my friend Mike may have found a solution. I will refer to it as Mid-Career Interning.

I met Mike a few weeks ago at an event in Ottawa. Mike is an HR manager and has spent most of his career working on people issues.  Mike really wants to work in events so he decided to do something about it. He volunteers at local festivals to get experience. He works in all of the volunteer positions and asks questions that can help him learn.

When Mike contacted me after the event and started asking me about working in the industry, I decided to give him some projects to work on. They were very basic tasks, yet he was enthusiastic to help out. Mike has been working on small projects that he has been assigned and going above and beyond so that he can learn as much as possible. He has a full-time job, but is using this opportunity to learn the ropes.  With our arrangement, I get some much needed help and Mike gets some priceless experience.

When I started my company I worked a full-time job and grew the business. Mike has a full-time job, yet uses his free time to advance and change his career. It’s not easy.  It’s much more fun to watch TV at night, go out to bars or spend time with family than it is to “intern” in order to get ahead. But it works. It worked for me. I am confident that it will work for Mike and thankful for his help!

Would you be willing to take on an “mid-career internship?” Would you volunteer in a new industry simply to get experience? Would you take classes in a brand new field? Would you hire someone who wants to take this route? Let me know your thoughts.