When is someone too old for an internship?
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The questions submitted by readers and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
I have been in my first job for two years now. I thought it was the right job for me, but now I want to change my career path. I’ve researched a new career, and I’m even willing to start over as an intern. But I wonder if a 25-year-old like me is too old for an internship?
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: You’re never too old to do something that will make you happy. Besides, 25 isn’t old, especially when you consider your career will likely span four decades or more.
As far as getting an internship, did you happen to see the movie, “The Intern”? Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old widower who becomes an intern for Anne Hathaway, a successful but overworked business owner. De Niro’s character is a perfect example of how attitude and hard work matter more than age.
I also could give you many real-life examples of people much older than you who have started over with new careers.
There’s nothing wrong with considering changing careers after a few years doing one job. No one should feel obligated to stay in a career that doesn’t make him feel fulfilled.
While it’s good to know that you’re willing to try an internship, there are other steps you should take before going in that direction.
First, consider that sometimes a particular job may not be the right match for you, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change careers or even employers.
If you have been in a job for more than a year and believe it is not the right fit, try speaking with your boss about other opportunities within the organization. Before you do so, take time to understand the different job opportunities that exist.
In some circumstances, it’s the organization — rather than the job — that’s not the right fit. In this case, you may find more fulfillment in your current career with a different employer.
Whether it’s the job or the employer, it’s important you explore all options before making the bold decision to change careers.
If you decide you want to make the move to a new career, I recommend researching jobs online and talking to friends, colleagues, mentors, career coaches and even university career counselors. They can help you explore fields and decide which might be right for you, based on your interests and abilities.
If you are considering a particular job, I also suggest speaking to people who currently hold that role to learn what they like and dislike about it. Ask questions about what the job entails and what skills, abilities and traits would be needed to succeed.
Even better would be spending time shadowing someone in the job to determine if the position and company are the right fit for you.
You also will need to explore whether you have all the skills required for a position. If not, you will need to figure out how to develop them. For this, I recommend checking out related courses, classes, workshops and other training.
Finally, yes, internships are available for some positions. Like apprenticeships, internships are wonderful opportunities to help you get that all-important feel for a job. The hands-on experience you get can be invaluable and will give you a realistic preview of what to expect.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
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