Make us your home page
Instagram
Working | Unemployment

Mid-career job seekers turn to internships, volunteer positions

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A commercial pilot with more than 20 years of work experience, Jagpal Mandaher saw work dry up shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He decided a career change was in order, and in his late 30s he did something usually associated with college students: He took an internship.

The Santa Clara, Calif., resident, now 44, held a low-paying intern's position with Sensitel Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based software company, for about 10 months. He worked in all areas of the company's business, including finance and sales calls. Now employed at Logitech in a finance role, he says the internship "set me up for this job."

Not only did he get his first taste of a white-collar job, but he gained insight into what part of the field most interested him.

"I actually learned a lot," Mandaher said. "The internship helped me realize I felt more comfortable in a financial analyst role than I would have felt in accounting."

With unemployment still high, mid- to late-career adults are increasingly turning to internships — paid and unpaid — or are doing "career volunteerism" to fill in gaps between jobs, learn new skills and network. These workers say the low-paid or unpaid work keeps their minds active and gives them something to talk about when they land job interviews.

Although there are no statistics available, a perusal of more than 500 internships recently advertised on Craigslist reveals that while many were for students, some specifically sought out professionals with more than a few years of experience. These positions are often unpaid, but those that did pay usually offered a stipend or salary that was at least a little higher than minimum wage.

Career experts say there are few downsides to working an internship or volunteer position to learn skills if you can make ends meet in the meantime.

"It's great if you can economically afford to do it," said Hilary Romanoff, a career counselor at the Bay Area Career Center in San Francisco.

Romanoff holds career counseling groups at the Bay Area Career Center and says the topic of mid-career internships comes up frequently these days. Applicants are getting "creative," she adds, sometimes shadowing workers in another field or asking to help in an office for a few hours a week to gain new skills to put on a resume.

Mid-career internships can be a good path for anyone interested in a new field or jumping back into the workforce after time off for whatever reason, including layoffs, said Heather R. Huhman, author of Lies, Damned Lies and Internships.

"People these days don't see the market the same way they used to," she said. "An internship is not seen as a lesser position anymore. It's seen as an investment in your future career."

For employers, mid-career professionals are attractive because they've likely already proven that they're reliable, can work well in an office setting and can provide some level of expertise, even if he or she is not an expert in the field.

For-profit companies aren't the only ones willing to take on mid-career interns.

After Jim Dean of San Ramon, Calif., was laid off from his information technology management job a year ago, he didn't just want to apply for IT job after IT job. He wanted to cast a wider net. So he decided to go back to work, even if he wasn't paid.

Dean turned to the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, which set him up as a software trainer helping other unemployed San Francisco Bay area residents learn how to use LinkedIn and JibberJobber websites.

The 61-year-old now spreads his time between looking for work and actually working, perfecting new training skills so he can, hopefully, get a similar position in the future.

"Being unemployed, that experience is so difficult," he said. "It's depressing. It's demoralizing. It challenges your self-worth."

Working, even in a volunteer capacity, has brightened his outlook. "I tell people I am no longer unemployed. I am just doing whatever I can to prepare for my next position. If I never get a job because of it, I still really believe I am better off because it gives me the positive attitude."

Toni Littlestone, a veteran career counselor in Berkeley, Calif., said many older adults like Dean are basically doing internships. But in the nonprofit sector it's called "career volunteerism."

"They go in for a minimum of 15 to 20 hours per week and act like a real worker and receive assignments and are involved in real work," she said. These volunteer positions are also flexible but are not paid, she says. If a volunteer ends up landing a job mid assignment, the efforts are still appreciated.

Mid-career job seekers turn to internships, volunteer positions 11/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 26, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]