Can I Complete an Internship Even if I’m Not a Student?
When most of us think of internships, we think they’re for students only.
That’s because the vast majority of colleges encourage their students to apply for internships. You may have even completed an internship while you were in school.
These internships help students gain real-world experience and make connections that will be valuable in their post-graduation job search. In turn, companies get a pool of pre-screened, experienced candidates they can offer jobs to in the future.
While it’s true that many companies only offer internship roles to students, there are many firms that open their internships up to all applicants, including non-students.
When Should You Consider a Non-Student Internship?
You may want to consider a professional internship if:
1. You want to make a career change
If you’re looking to change your career trajectory, then going through an internship program may a perfect option for you. You’ll get experience in your desired field and make connections which you can leverage in the future.
You’ll also get a taste of what the job will be like before you commit to it full time. It may turn out you don’t like it at all. Think of the internship as a test run.
2. You’re re-entering the workforce after a long hiatus
Internships are the ideal way to get your foot in the door at a company if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while. Maybe you were a stay-at-home parent or were taking care of a sick relative for several years.
Companies may be reluctant to hire someone full-time after they’ve been away from the workforce for so long and you’ll have an employment gap on your resume.
By taking on an internship, you can show them why you’d be a valuable full-timer. Even if you don’t get a job at the firm you interned for, you can put the experience on your resume.
3. You’re currently unemployed
If you’re currently not working and can’t seem to land a job, consider an internship in the meantime. You’ll be able to update your resume with the experience you gain. This can be especially helpful if it’s been a while since your last job.
Plus, it can boost your confidence. Nobody likes being out of work. Instead of being home and searching for jobs all day, you’ll have a new routine. You’ll be going to a professional setting, updating your skill set, and meeting fresh faces.
You can share the good news about your internship via LinkedIn and with your contacts. This newfound optimism and confidence will come through on your next job interview.
4. You want to gain experience at a specific company
These companies and others often have robust internship programs. One of the reasons they offer these programs is to screen for new talent. Employers say they are able to convert 50% of interns into full-time hires on average according to a study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
But even if you don’t get the job, simply landing the internship itself will be an impressive line on your resume.
5. You lack experience in your desired field
Sometimes people love the industry they’re in but don’t have enough skills or expertise in the field to be considered for a full-time job or higher-level positions.
An internship is an ideal way to help you fill those gaps in knowledge and skills to help you become a more attractive candidate for promotions.
How Do You Get an Internship Outside of School?
A quick Google search will bring up dozens of websites that offer internship opportunities. Or you can go directly to a company’s website to see what they may be offering. Also, reach out to your network and ask if there are internship opportunities at their companies.
Apply for an internship the same way you would for a full-time job. First, create a strong resume and cover letter. Then, when it comes time for the interview, show up prepared and dressed professionally. After the interview, send a thank you note to the interviewer.
What Should You Look for in an Internship Opportunity?
If you’re going to pursue an internship opportunity, then you have to make sure it’s going to be worth your time. Here are four things you can expect from a high-quality internship program:
- A clear job description. You want to know that you’ll be gaining relevant knowledge and skills. You can expect there to be some grunt work (e.g., copying, filing, etc.) but those tasks shouldn’t take up more than 25% of your time.
- Specific start and end dates. Internships shouldn’t be open-ended. You want to know how long you’ll be with the employer.
- Regular, ongoing feedback. You should know how you’re performing and how you can improve at all times.
- Mentorship time. Set up a 30-to-60-minute meeting each week with those in leadership. This is your time to ask questions about the industry, their career paths, and future opportunities.
How Can You Make the Most of Your Internship Experience?
Once you do land your internship, make the most of it by following these tips:
- Treat it like a full-time job. Show up on time, dressed professionally, and ready to work.
- Be proactive. When you’ve completed an assignment, ask for additional assignments. Volunteer to help co-workers when you can.
- Network. You’re in the perfect position to grow your network. Invite colleagues out to lunch or grab a coffee. Ask them about their roles and what they like and don’t like. And don’t forget to add them on LinkedIn.
- Stay positive. There will most likely be some boring parts of the internship. That’s just part of the job. Stay positive, don’t complain, and do every task to the best of your ability.
You Don’t Have to Be a Student to Get an Internship
Internships aren’t just for college students. There are literally thousands of employers around the U.S. who would welcome anyone at any age into their internship programs.
If you think you’re interested in an internship. Then go ahead and apply. It just may put you on the road to a whole new career.