The Ultimate Guide to Adult Internships and Returnships

Posted by on Mon, Aug 10, 2015

adult internships and returnships

I took a 20-plus year break from the workplace in order to raise five children, and I found full-time work again through an adult internship—sometimes referred to as a “returnship.” When I tell my story to others, the first question is always, “Where can I find adult internships and returnships?”

In researching the answer to this question, I have developed this list of resources and suggestions which I am happy to share with you to help you in your own journey. My hope is that my readers will continually add to this valuable resource so that it remains a current and growing reference list for all adults looking to get a foot in the door of a new career.

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Here are six places to start your search for adult internships and returnships:

  1. Corporate America

    The term “returnship” was actually trademarked by Goldman Sachs in 2008 when they began their pioneer program to help women return to the workplace after taking time off to raise their families. The program is now open to both men and women with gaps in their work life, and other corporations are developing similar programs. An internet search for companies and organizations providing “returnships” brought me these results:

Check out any of these programs that are in your field of interest, and let us know what you find. Some of these links lead directly to returnship information and some do not, so you may need to contact the company’s human resources department for more information. By sharing the information you find, we can develop a comprehensive list that can be kept up to date.

  1. Adult Internship Websites

I found two websites that are devoted to sharing information about adult internships as well as offering some related resources. They are:

  • iRelaunch
    About: According to their website, “iRelaunch is the comprehensive resource for everything related to career reentry” and they “connected with a national network of over 13,000 people through more than 185 return-to-work programs and presentations.” iRelaunch believes that professionals who are returning to the workforce offer a unique value to employers and this is born out in many articles that tout the work habits of older employees over younger ones. 
  • On Ramp Fellowship
    About: This website describes itself as “a re-entry platform that matches experienced women lawyers returning to the profession with law firms for a one-year, paid training contract.”

I have noticed that a number of adult internship programs trend toward helping women, presumably because they more commonly have gaps in their résumés due to family obligations. But don’t despair if you’re a man, work on creating your own opportunities based on the publicity around these programs, and let us know what other resources you find out there.

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  1. Networking Events

Just like searching for a job, searching for an adult internship is enhanced by making contacts in your field of interest. There are many good online platforms to help you network. Here are some of the most popular and successful options:

  • LinkedIn
    If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, you need to make one. With over 330 million users to date, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. Connect with people you know, people you meet, people you went to school with, worked with, read about, or researched. Connect with friends and friends of friends – it’s all about building your network and sharing information.
    Jobs and internships are posted on LinkedIn, and you can be notified of them based on your interests and activities on the site. One of the best ways to use LinkedIn for inside information, and possibly introductions, is to join groups and follow company pages based on your professional interests.
    Remember, networking is a two way street; take advantage of opportunities to put yourself in the public eye, and let employers know what you can do for them as an adult intern if you’re trying to break into a new field or update your skills in an old one. You can also research contacts in companies you want to approach and send those people carefully crafted letters of interest asking about and/or suggesting internship opportunities. That way your information won’t get sucked into the black hole of automated HR forms, and you might spark some interest in your offer.
  • Meetup
    The Meetup website allows you to both find and create groups based on common interests and geographic location. Search for groups that are meeting near you that might be good resources for networking professionally or create one yourself.
  • Ryze
    Ryze offers it members a free networking-oriented homepage and quality business contacts. According to Forbes, “It’s all about the bulletin boards. Join discussions by geography… or professional identity, like venture capital and private equity, entrepreneurs and businesswomen.”
  • Ning
    Ning gives you tools to launch your own social network. According to Mashable, “It connects more than 74 million people around the globe with the topics they are passionate about, making it a great foundation for professional networking.”

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  1. Online Internship Sites and Job Boards

Online job searching websites list internships as well. Sort through their internship listings to determine if they are strictly for college students, or if you think they might be flexible. Even if an internship opportunity is compensated by offering college credit, many will accept adult students if you decide that going back to college is your best route to a new career. Start with these options, then come back and add more to our list as you find them:

    This website is so much more than just a comprehensive internship search engine. This site allows you to search for opportunities by major, job category, preferred city, and company as well as offering additional resources including tips and insights from experts on how to find internships.
    If you think you may want to intern for a nonprofit organization, this website is the perfect place to start! Over 2,000 internships are currently listed on this site.
  • and
    Type the term “internships” into the search box of either of these popular job search engines along with your location and you’ll turn up a page of results you can prospect for opportunities.
    Scroll through job listings in any designated field and internship opportunities are mixed in as well.

Applying to these standard student internships will mean convincing someone in the company that a more mature and experienced intern is a good option for them. Do your research so you can make a case for yourself. Some good articles have already been written about the benefits of hiring adult interns if you need some help forming your argument for a convincing cover letter. Please share more with us as you discover them.

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  1. College Alumni Services

This is an option that many adults overlook. If you live anywhere near your alma mater, check out your alumni office to see what help they can offer you. You may have access to resume and cover letter writing assistance, practice interview sessions, internship bulletin boards, and networking events. If you don’t live nearby, you may have virtual access to some of these services so don’t be too quick to write them off.

  1. The Inspiration of Others

I have come across other success stories in my research on adult internships and I offer them to you here for inspiration and direction in your own journey.

There is little doubt that you will face an uphill climb. Finding an adult internship will require research, perseverance, and the ability to “sell” yourself to employers who may or may not have heard about “returnship” programs in their industry yet. And don’t limit yourself to applying for posted internship positions only—approach companies you would like to work for with an offer that spells out the benefits you will bring to them. Perhaps they will create a position for you in response.

Also, be aware that you may have to work for free. There are some paid adult internships out there, but you will likely be blazing your own trail. Be clear about how long you are willing to work for free, and make sure that there are clear advantages to you in doing so. Most of all, I want to encourage you not to give up—the more contacts everyone makes, the faster this snowball will start rolling as employers realize the advantages they can receive from the positive energy, stable influence, and years of related experience adult interns have to offer.

Lastly, I invite you to explore the many resources that has to offer midlife adults who want to enhance their professional skills or find new careers. From free and low-cost online courses to degrees and certificates to career advice and expert insights, LearningAdvisor is happy to be your career GPS!

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Use the comment section below to add or subtract resources to this list, or share your own experiences and questions with others.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Diane Thomas says:

    Diane, thank you for mentioning the OnRamp Fellowship in your article — much appreciated! We started by placing lawyers in law firm internships and we are now expanding into financial services firms and corporations across the US and in Australia. Hopefully your readers will benefit!

    Congrats on successfully returning after your hiatus and thanks again for the mention!

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