In the 2015 comedy movie, The Intern, Robert De Niro plays a widower who realises that he is not cut out for retirement. He then takes up a job as a senior intern in a fashion magazine under a boss who is young enough to be his granddaughter!
While De Niro got lucky, in reality, most mid-career professionals struggle to get into accepting organisations that value their experience. Such professionals need to look out for positive factors while selecting an internship programme.
Mid-career internships or minternships are quite common. Mid-career professionals find themselves stuck in a job after a while if the growth has been faster than normal. They may even feel the drive to pursue a different career path altogether. There are certain organisations that see the value in hiring such senior professionals because of the wealth of knowledge they bring in.
In India, the concept is catching up fast. Organisations are increasingly looking for professionals with domain experience to bring on board, along with their younger staff. On the other hand, it is not as common as it may be in other countries.
How to find the right mid-career internship
(i) Start by looking at organisations that promote their internship programmes on their career pages. It is important to understand the kind of culture the organisation has. Many companies may be apprehensive about hiring senior professionals as interns. Steer clear of such companies.
“The only fallout that can come of mid-career internships is that these professionals are used to a certain degree of respect and they may bring their egos along with them”
Professionals who are thinking of starting anew have their own apprehensions. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the company culture is suitable for career growth. A non-hierarchical structure that encourages open communication, is transparent in its working, is capable of building trust, and respects employees will be most suitable.
(ii) Most companies with an inclusive and diverse workforce, and senior employees at the entry level, have programmes in place to help facilitate the smooth on-boarding of new joinees. For instance, organisations with a buddy programme will find it far easier to include and gain the most out of their senior newbies than companies that do not.
(iii) It is important to keep a balanced mindset. Starting afresh after 10 to 15 years in the industry can give rise to doubts and fears of being outdated or incompetent. However, these fears are mostly unfounded.
Company leaders value senior professionals because they bring to the table what the younger generation do not— Experience. Having worked in the industry for a decade or more, the senior professionals have already overcome all possibilities of making rookie mistakes. It is because of such experiences that the learning process is much faster for them and results are delivered quicker.
“First-generation entrepreneurs in new-age organisations have an open mindset and are keen to experiment on the people front, and offer opportunities beyond the typical JD”
As Ashish Chattoraj, head-HR, PayU India, says, “These people are key learners and resilient risk takers. Hiring them sets the right cultural tone—that the company is ready to go into uncharted waters.”
(iv) It is key to remember that when venturing into something new, old expectations need to be kept aside. Senior professionals get used to the respect and adoration that their juniors shower them with and they are likely to enter the new organisation subconsciously expecting a similar treatment. As a result, they may find themselves unable to adjust to the behaviour of their new colleagues.
Interns have to set aside their expectations and egos and come on board hoping to be treated as what they are, that is, interns.
As Archanaa Singh, SVP-HR, Reliance Broadcast Network, rightly points out, “The only fallout that can come of mid-career internships is that these professionals are used to a certain degree of respect and they may bring their egos along with them.”
(v) Mentally prepare for the fallouts of quitting an old job and starting afresh. The most immediate problem that can come of this is the financial shock that switching from a mid-career salary to an internship stipend can bring.
“Minterns are key learners and resilient risk takers. Hiring them sets the right cultural tone that the company is ready to go into uncharted waters”
In the process, certain lifestyle adjustments have to be made to fit in with the new job. Or else, start preparing for the internship by saving up. Either way, without a certain degree of preparation, financial or mental, handling all the new changes can get rather taxing.
Mid-career opportunities are on the rise for professionals who want to take a chance on their careers. With new-age organisations, which are more inclusive and diverse, offering more opportunities for growth, minterns may find it easier to find minternships today.
According to Abhishek Jha, head-HR, e-Emphasys Technologies, “First-generation entrepreneurs in new-age organisations have an open mindset and are keen to experiment on the people front, and offer opportunities beyond the typical JD.”
Ultimately, all one needs to remember is that there are enormous pros to starting over. Such opportunities can give rise to a better career that one is passionate about and present a renewed sense of purpose. Of course, there will be short-term trade-offs, such as swapping your car for a bus to travel to work, but the long-term benefits can be worth it all.