An internship offers the typical undergraduate student a logical way to gain work experience in their field of interest and ultimately secure employment. But what path is there for those outside the initial stages of their careers like adult students—more than half of who are, according to multiple studies, interested in changing fields? If you’re a prospective career changer looking to make the next step, how can you incorporate experiential opportunities into your education, just like an intern who is learning by doing, to ensure that you’re headed toward the fulfilling career that you have been seeking? Here are a few out-of-the-box approaches to incorporate experiential opportunities into your education:
- Job shadowing. If you work for a large employer, perhaps you can arrange to work with another department or multiple departments. In some cases, you could even tie this opportunity into your academic coursework.
- Mentorship. If you are looking to break into a new career field, attend networking events and find a mentor that can give you the exposure and advice you need to avoid common pitfalls.
- Volunteering. If your new career is in the services industry, there are plenty of organizations that could use additional assistance. Don’t underestimate the skills and experience that you can bring to the table.
- Temporary employment. If you have the extra time in your schedule, a temporary employment opportunity through a staffing agency is a great way to gain exposure to a variety of employers, allowing you to learn more about what types of opportunities interest you most.
- Contract employment. An ideal outcome is to receive compensation for your contributions. Even if you have a full-time position, today’s technology-driven workforce offers ways that you can make valuable contributions outside of 9 to 5.
Remember that many professions have experiential-education requirements. Physicians have residencies. Accountants have hours of practice before licensure. Don’t let the term “internship” deter you from a valuable first-hand learning experience.
What are some ways that you have gained experience in a new field while balancing family, work, and school? How has this helped you achieve your goal of transitioning your career?