Q. I want to make a drastic career change from accounting to training. A friend suggested I seek an internship to get the relevant experience. Do companies really use forty-five-year-old interns? I've been in this field for almost twenty years.
A. I'd rephrase the question: "Are internships the best way for a 45-year-old (substitute 35, 55, and even 65 if you like) to change careers?"
When you accept a position that's typically awarded to newbies, you may find yourself welcomed. And you may find yourself accelerating on your new path.
On the other hand, your new colleagues may regard you with suspicion. Why is he here? Is something wrong? Am I being threatened? And your new bosses may begin asking you to make contributions that draw on your former expertiseŠwith or without acknowledging your value.
So I recommend keeping your options - and your eyes - wide open as you make this kind of move.
Even better, why not leverage your former skills to get what you want? While employed as a manager, sign up for some classes - especially if your company pays the bill. Get some kind of certification. Are you a senior accounting manager? Hold your own classes for junior staff and new managers. Build credibility by asking participants to complete evaluation forms. Hold classes in adult education centers, such as Learning Annex.
Alternatively, when you sign on for a new position, negotiate for opportunities to expand your skills. How you make the request is a judgment call. Rather than say, "I want to develop expertise in training," you can say something like, "As part of my new job, I'd like to design and implement a staff development program. That's something I've always wanted to do and I can demonstrate a contribution to the company's bottom line."
Anytime you take a step back, you take a risk. Sometimes the move pays off and you end up much higher on the ladder than if you'd stayed where you were. And sometimes you have trouble climbing up to the next rung again.