It's no longer a shock to see a 40-year-old intern. Stay-at-home mothers trying to get back into the workplace and unemployed workers hoping to transition into new careers are accepting internships as a way to get their feet in the door. In fact, many successful retraining programs require that students spend time in an internship. But even if 40-year-old interns are more accepted, it doesn't mean that it's easy to work side-by-side with 23-year-olds. Especially if your boss is a decade younger than you. There can be big challenges, but here are five survival tips.
1. Walk in with confidence.
The negative self-talk -- "I can't believe I'm doing this" -- is going to hurt your performance. Focus on what you want to learn about the job and the industry. Give your younger boss the same respect that you would want given to you. Hold your head high and feel confident that you are being proactive about your future.
2. Recognize that your previous experiences are an asset.
You've probably had many life experiences that other team members have not. So when looking at new project, ask yourself, "How can I add value?" What prior experience and skills do you have that will help you contribute to the end goal? Once you do that, you will be recognized as a major asset -- by your manager and co-workers.
3. Open up.
Everyone has a story. Some interns will talk about their parents pushing them into the field. Don't feel like you need to hide your situation from your co-workers. Come up with a three- or four-sentence explanation of why you are at the internship. Perhaps it's because you are exploring a new field, going back to work or got laid off. These aren't reasons to be ashamed of. Make sure that your story has a positive spin. The goal isn't to make people feel bad about you -- it's to help people connect and relate to your experiences.
4. Let your boss know your goal.
You, more than any other intern, must make sure that your superiors in the workplace know your post-internship goal. You aren't there to play around for a summer or just appease your parents. Sit down with your internship coordinator at some point during the internship; after you thank him or her for the opportunity, explain what you like about the work, what your career goal is, and ask for advice. This will ensure that you are on the same page as your employer. Also, two weeks before the end of your internship, sit down with your employer again and ask for advice on how to land a job at that company or a similar one.
5. Constantly build relationships.
Anytime you meet someone from a department that you might be interested in, ask the person if you could have a brief meeting at some point so you can hear how he or she got started. Informal, informational meetings are a great way to turn these contacts into strong professional relationships. Always remember to ask, "Is there anyone else at the company you think I should connect with?"
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