By Jon Fortenbury, freelance writer
The older-than-college-age intern is fodder for ensuing hilarity on TV and film: Chandler for a short bit in “Friends,” Drew Barrymore as the 31-year-old intern in “Going the Distance” and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as middle-aged interns in “The Internship.” Though being an older intern may be portrayed on the screen as embarrassing, it really shouldn’t be.
According to a December 2012 Internships.com survey, 69 percent of the surveyed companies with 100 or more employees offered full-time jobs to their interns in 2012. According to the press release, internships have “truly become ‘the new interview,’ in the job-search process for both students and employers.” With unemployment still at 7.3 percent the August 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonstudent interns often use that “interview,” or internship, to find relevant work.
But being a more experienced intern comes with its set of challenges. Here are three ways to thrive as a nonstudent or nontraditional-student intern.
1. Be confident, not embarrassed
As a more experienced intern, you may already have a bachelor’s degree and have possibly even dabbled in your desired career field. If there are other interns at the company you’re interning with, you might be older than them. They may be in college while you’re a recent college graduate, or you may even find yourself 20 years older than other interns. You may even be older than your boss.
This is no reason to be embarrassed, according to Lauren Berger, CEO of Intern Queen. “The negative self-talk — ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this’ — is going to hurt your performance,” wrote Berger for AOL Jobs. “Hold your head high and feel confident that you are being proactive about your future.”
Berger also recommends to not hide why you’re doing the internship and to come up with a three- or four-sentence explanation. Put a positive spin on it when people inquire, Berger suggests, and don’t be ashamed of your decision to further your career in this way.
2. Don’t let other commitments negatively affect your performance
Not all internships pay well enough to cover the bills, so some interns may need to work a part-time or full-time job in addition to their internship program, especially if they have family commitments. You don’t have to give up work or family obligations to thrive in your internship, but you do need to find a way to balance everything well.
According to a recent article on WebMD, to achieve a good work-life balance you should schedule relaxation and exercise and, if possible, outsource errands to family or a spouse. This will help you recharge and bring that energy and positivity to your internship.
While you may not have control over your work or internship hours, you do have control over the rest of the obligations in your life that aren’t so strictly ordered. This is where you can find ways to maximize your time so you’re not exhausted when you come to your internship.
3. Know what you have to offer and voice it
As an older intern, you probably have more life and career experience than your younger colleagues. Berger advises that these interns should recognize their previous experience as an asset and to ask themselves how that will help contribute to their company’s goals.
“Once you do that, you will be recognized as a major asset — by your manager and co-workers,” Berger wrote.
With all your experiences and skills, you may have an edge that younger interns don’t have, which could prove useful when a job opens up with the company. Berger recommends sitting down with your internship coordinator before the internship ends.
“Thank him or her for the opportunity, explain what you like about the work, what your career goal is, and ask for advice … on how to land a job at that company or a similar one,” Berger wrote.
Jon Fortenbury is an Austin-based freelance writer who specializes in higher education. He’s written for many publications, ranging from the Huffington Post to USA Today College, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He blogs regularly at jonfortenbury.com. This article was originally published on Schools.com.