If you are considering changing careers, one of the biggest challenges you are likely to face is how to get hired for your first job in the new career. The problem for many job-seekers is that to get a job you need experience, but to get experience you need a job.
The solution for those who want to work in a trade such as plumbing (or for Donald Trump) is to become an apprentice. An apprentice can get practical work experience by working with a master trades person.
If you want to break into a career that doesn’t normally offer apprenticeships, you may be able to get experience with an “internship.”
An internship is a short-term, entry-level position that gives you hands-on work experience in a wide variety of occupations such as office jobs and creative careers. For example, at FabJob, we offer editorial internships to people who want to break into a career in publishing. Unlike an apprenticeship which might last for years, an internship may last for as little as a few weeks.
As an intern you would go to work for a company at scheduled times and carry out tasks assigned by your supervisor. The main difference between an internship and a regular job is that most interns are not paid. However, some internships such as ours offer pay in addition to practical experience.
Even if you are volunteering your services as an intern, you get work experience that can be very helpful once you start applying for jobs or start looking for clients for your own business. As an intern you can make valuable industry contacts, learn new skills, and build your resume.
How to Find an Internship
If you are currently enrolled in a career training program, your educational institution may arrange internships for students.
Online you may be able to find internships posted at employers’ websites. There are also internship websites such as www.internshipprograms.com but they primarily offer internships in the United States.
Another option is to set up your own internship. First, decide which companies you would like to work with. Then start phoning. If it’s a large company, you can ask their human resources department if they have an internship program. If they do have such a program they will tell you how to apply.
If you want to work with a small company ask if you can speak with someone who might be interested in your services, such as the owner or office manager. (To find that person’s name, try looking the company up on the Internet first.) When you get through to someone in the company, explain that you would like to volunteer your services as an intern.
While you might think any company would jump at the chance for free labor, some companies are so busy they may feel they don’t have time to train an intern. So be prepared to sell yourself and explain why you will bring value to the company. If you are willing to answer telephones, run errands, do filing, or whatever it takes to help them out, say so.
If someone is interested in having you intern for them, they will ask you to come in for an interview and may ask to see your resume. In many ways, applying for an internship is similar to applying for a job.
Making the Most of an Internship
Once you have an internship, do a first-class job with every task you are given, even the menial tasks. Everyone pays their dues when they are starting a new career, and those who do it with a positive attitude can make a great impression.
Look for any opportunities to get actual experience even if it means working a few more hours than you originally agreed to. If a project comes up that you would like to work on, ask your supervisor if you can get involved.
Consider starting a journal of your internship activities to document every project you work on. Keeping track of everything you’ve learned can help you when you apply for a job in the future. Also make sure you keep track of any networking contacts.
At the end of the internship, ask your supervisor for a written letter of reference.
If you have done exceptional work, you may even get a job offer. Dave Brandt got his foot in the door when he interned with FabJob four years ago. He did such a fabulous job as an intern, we offered him a full-time job and now he not only supervises the design department at Fabjob, he also supervises interns!
While there’s no guarantee that an internship will turn into a paid position, it could give you the experience you need to get a job with another employer.
Tag and Catherine Goulet are founders of FabJob.com. This article is an excerpt from their book Dream Careers. Visit www.FabJob.com to discover your dream career.