In the popular comedy The Intern, Robert De Niro plays a seventy-year-old writer who accepts a senior intern position at a fashion magazine. While the premise may seem comical and unlikely, it’s becoming more common for experienced professionals to push pause on their current career track, and accept an internship that allows them to steer towards a new direction. In a recent BBC article, “The ‘minterns’ taking internships in their 30s”, the report explains the growing trend of established professionals taking on “minternships”
Simply put, a minternship is a mid-career internship, or an adult internship. Where a traditional internship position may have been created for students looking to ground themselves and find their first working experience, “minterns” typically return to this entry-level status after gaining meaningful experience in a previous career.
Why are young professionals ‘minterning’?
The millennial generation diverges from the baby boomers in the sense that they don’t envision sticking with one job for their whole lives. They place importance on, and seek meaning from their careers.
“Many young professionals prioritize happiness and want to have a strong sense of purpose with their jobs,” writes Sue Bhatia, Founder of Rose International. “They want to feel deeply connected to the work they are doing, so they are willing to take pay cuts to pursue an internship that leads them towards their dream job.”
Minternships can be seen as an expression of how millennials think about their careers. They are open to change, new industries, and seek opportunities to be challenged in new ways!
Having done a minternship himself, Jesse Castiel says that taking this kind of internship allows you to explore a career in a space that you may not have been able to penetrate before, or may not have envisioned in your original career plan.
If what you’re doing now in your career doesn’t align with how you see your future, then this could be an interesting career move for you. Respect that your career goals may change as you climb the ladders, and taking the opportunity to hit restart on your career can help you honor your priorities and desires.
The pros and cons
The pro of this kind of work is the chance to grow and expand your career horizons. With a relentless vision for your future, this kind of opportunity can help you create a career that you will love in the long term, with a bit of short term trade-off. Internships can offer you a low commitment and low-pressure way to get your foot in the door with employers, and an easier path to a full-time job once you’ve completed the internship.
As a “mintern,” you are in a unique position, where you come in with the same intent as an intern, however, you have rich previous experience, as well as the knowledge of what it takes to work hard to see results. You have a certain level of maturity that traditional 20-year-old interns may not have.
Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, spotted the trend of minternships and agrees with the value of ongoing learning and change. “My attitude is that I’m still an intern,” she commented. “I’ve been in my current role for a year and I’m learning all the time. And something else that’s really clear to me: Everyone, of all ages, wants to feel a sense of purpose every day they go to work.”
Of course, the obvious drawbacks of making such a brazen career change include the financial hit that comes with swapping out your mid-career salary for that of an internship stipend. Starting in a new field with younger colleagues might also give one a sense of imposter syndrome. However, this kind of experience can lead you to a greater sense of humility and a deepening of emotional intelligence.
How to find a minternship
A great first step is to look for organizations that promote their internship networks and programs on their career pages. You may run into organizations that frown upon an experienced worker stepping into an intern role, but those are the kinds of places you should steer clear of. Talk to the hiring managers, recruiters, explore job fairs, and tell people your story of why you want a minternship.
Another interesting point to mention, are the rise of returnships. For people returning to work after an extended period of time off, a formal returnship program provides a guided transition back into the workforce. Returnship programs are a great way for companies to connect with a unique group of talent, while building their diversity and inclusion efforts. Companies such as Shopify, RBC, Goldman Sachs, and more offer formal returnship programs as employers are realizing the importance and value in helping people return to the workforce.
Taking on a minternship requires a great deal of self-awareness of your own goals, and desire to delay gratification to achieve your longer-term vision. If you’re in a job or an industry and you’re ready for a change, it’s never too late to pivot and start fresh. Find the path that suits you best, and allow yourself the time to get there. Remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint!