It’s official: internships for the over-50s are a thing. From Barclays to Anne Hathaway, employers are increasingly hiring people of a more mature description for first-rung positions. So what’s the logic? And should we really be encouraging OAPs to apply for entry-level work?

Well, maybe.

In this modern world, it’s clear that the current working generation will have to work harder, longer and later in life than their forebears. A third of Americans admit they have no retirement savings. Couple this with the fact that Social Security is designed to cover only 40% of pre-retirement earnings, and it seems obvious that many will be desk-bound well into their 70s. That makes for a fifty-year career – plenty enough time to change track somewhere in the middle.

Here’s why more and more of the over-50s are taking their career back to basics.

Rewind!

Finding the right job for you isn’t an easy task. Last year, the International Labour Organization revealed figures showing that 13-38% of UK workers are overeducated for their jobs and 17% undereducated. Throw in all the urban office slaves trooping through their daily grind – or, worst of all, living purely for the weekend – and it makes for grim reading. Finding a job you truly love can be a challenge indeed.

For those hitting the big milestones in life and unhappy with how their careers have panned out, a senior internship can be just the rebrand they’re looking for.  Taking an entry-level position in an industry you’re passionate about can be the first step along the road to a healthier work-life balance, or simply doing a job you love. After, it’s never too late to try things out or find a new niche.

Your story is your strength

When Paul Critchlow, former Head of Communications at Merrill Lynch, decided to take an internship at Pfizer aged 70, the ensuing events exceeded even his expectations. Working for $18.25 an hour, he not only blended in well with his fellow 20-somethings but offered them something even more valuable: his story.

Paul’s career ranged from managing nuclear incidents to witnessing first-hand the events of 9/11. He knew how to handle a crisis and his talks on the subject helped advance the education of his younger peers. He hotwired the junior workforce and found meaning for himself in his summer of employment there.

Senior interns and apprentices have the benefit of a long history and career behind them. Far from holding them back, leveraging this advantage could be the key to finding prominence in a new career.

You have a network to work

Older interns could also benefit from a lifetime’s network of successful working individuals. When 52-year-old Rosanna took an entry-level role at online content site High50 – a classic ‘returnship’ – it was her little black book that got the company excited.

By leveraging her contacts, Rosanna was able to produce a top-notch series of video interviews for the site. She comments: “It’s beneficial to be able to use any knowledge that I have and the contacts that I have made over the last 30 years. I have used these to interview entrepreneurs and to build a series of films for High50.”

It looks good

Going back to the drawing board may not feel like the most forward-thinking move. However, taking things back a step may actually look better on your CV than forging onward.

Midlife internships show potential employers that you are open-minded, self-improving and willing to go back to the drawing board. If it’s a career change you’re hoping to accomplish, it’s also a chance to prove yourself. After all, the shift from financial analysis to editorial isn’t the most obvious; getting a little bit of experience, however basic, will help prove you’re serious about the move.

It feels good

To many, the idea of retirement – endless free time, zero responsibilities – sounds like heaven. But the human condition drives us to want to feel not only valuable but useful. It’s not in most people’s nature to sit back and let the world pass them by, when they can actively participate in it.

As a result of this phenomenon, more and more retirees are launching back into work as a means of feeling good. Employment offers a clear direction and learning curve for those who might lack it otherwise. Basically, an internship might be the best way to preserve those grey cells into old age, and maintain lasting happiness as a result.

And that’s not the only benefit. Operating in a communal workplace, particularly in an internship or apprenticeship program, is usually an intergenerational activity. Interaction with a diverse range of people including the young can not only expand a potential pensioner’s social circle but enrich it – a sure route to a happy old age.

Guest writers and carefully selected for Career Enlightenment. Thanks for reading!

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