Starting over in the working world doesn't have to be a daunting experience, in fact if you think of it as 'evolving' rather than changing your career, you might just approach the opportunity with renewed vigour.
In my ignorance, I had always thought of interns as slave labour - I couldn't be further from the truth. Whether you're starting an internship to get a foot in the door, you're nearing the end of your working life, or you just want a detour along the way, internships can provide much needed practical, hands-on work experience for those interested in a career in that field.
My husband left his ten year career in the army and took up an internship in the office he now works in. He was 34 at the time. When he first started looking for possibilities in this new sector he was told (at 34) he was too old to break into that area. He scoffed at the naysayers and broke in anyway. He didn't feel old or out of place because the rest of the interns on the program were of a similar age and from a similar background. It's only now in his regular job does he feel a little like a fish out of water, being 38 and having the same responsibilities as someone ten years his junior.
As our burgeoning population continues to live longer resulting in raised retirement ages, people are forced to look for alternative sources of income until they get access to their pension. I watched the movie The Intern the other night - disregard the saccharin plot, it was the notion that older people, with life experience, are an untapped work resource, with a lot more to offer than just tea making skills. I found it incredibly inspirational.
In fact the days of having a job for life are long gone, how can you possibly know when you're 21 what work you want to do for the rest of your life? And even if you did, most of the time these things are out of your control anyway: companies come and go, people are made redundant, technology evolves, you have to roll with the punches if you want to survive. Me, I'm in my third career and I'm 32.
So what does an internship offer?
1. An insight into a new career. Sure it's unpaid (or if you are paid, it will be very low), but the chance to learn new skills, on the job, in an industry that you are interested in, without having to pay for it (unless you won the internship at Vogue) is priceless.
2. Networking opportunities. The chance to meet and network with people who maybe able to open doors to your future is not to be missed. Even if they can't help you now, connect with them on LinkedIn, you never know where it might lead.
3. No guaranteed job. OK this part does suck a little, but you have to accept at the start of the internship that it might not end with a pay check (bonus if it does), so take all you can out of it: ask questions, put yourself in front of influential people and enjoy the experience.