You're Never Too Old for an Internship

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When you hear the word internship, you probably think of young students paying their dues while working their way up the professional ladder. Most successful people will tell you that they did an internship while they were still studying, and they usually talk about it with great enthusiasm. But internships are not only for the young.

My internship at the beginning of my career changed the course of my professional life. But after 25 years in the television industry, my career took an unexpected turn when I was terminated from my producing job at CBS News. The reality was that I was thrown into a job market that was in transition -- social and digital media were the new ways to communicate, and I didn't have the skills. 

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I had to rebrand, and part of my career makeover involved interning again. As an adult, I had to swallow my pride and forgo the monetary value of my years of experience and become a student again. If you are considering a mid-career internship in later life, here are three things you can do to benefit from it.

1. Create a new brand

The first benefit of a paying or non-paying internship later in life is the opportunity to rebrand yourself without having to go to school again. Going back to school is a luxury that many adults cannot afford, and even when the funds are available, they usually don’t have three to four years to spend on relaunching their careers. In this case, an internship can be a fast-tracked portal to several new things, including gaining skills to a whole new industry.

Make a list of your skills, the must-haves, and what you can do without in your new work life. Once you've narrowed the list down, it's time to start researching your internship. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It doesn't matter that you're maybe the oldest one in the group because when needed, you can always teach the young folks a thing or two about business.

2. Learn new skills

The day to day of any internship might not always be full of glamorous tasks and networking. There are lots of hours of tedious responsibilities that can quickly take a toll on your morale. The onus is on you to be proactive and make sure you’re really learning and getting to try new and different things.

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Because you are older, you bring skills, expertise and sometimes contacts to the work table. Regardless of the industry, practical experience will always be an asset, so don’t be shy at your own expense. Ask for more responsibilities, to sit in on meetings and conference calls, and to shadow the most active employees of your department.

If you feel that your skills are being used without much benefit to you, speak to your immediate supervisor or human resources and request that you be placed with people who will allow you to take advantage of every business scenario. 

3. Network, network, network 

It is not every day that you will get the chance to rub shoulders with influential people. Internships often allow face time with successful professionals who can give advice, motivation and inspiration. Having a mentor who is a veteran can open many doors in the business world.

Create friendly, respectful bonds with everyone you meet -- you never know who might become a useful contact or a helpful reference. Making the right friends can also be the key to finding a job after the internship ends. Colleagues might know of soon-to-be available positions, or they might recommend you for their own positions when it’s time for them to move on. 

A successful internship is measured by what you learn from it and how useful it is to land a job after it’s done. Maximize your chances by working your absolute best, maintaining good relationships with everyone, collecting contact information and staying in touch through LinkedIn. That way people will look at your career as evolving -- not changing -- and they will help you be where you want to be.

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