by Kathy Kirchoff

Are you an older worker who wants to go in a different direction with your work life but not sure how to do it? Have you been you laid off and unable to find work? If this sounds like you, consider a mid-life internship or “midternship”.


Midternships are designed to help middle-aged workers use their skills in a more fulfilling way or in a career where they have no previous experience. They are the latest trend as employers begin to see the value of more experienced interns in the workplace:


  • They don’t need as much guidance.
  • They aren’t afraid to communicate their ideas.
  • They have the maturity and accumulated knowledge to do good work.


A 2010 article reports that 23 percent of hiring managers reported receiving applications from older workers for paid and unpaid internships.


Midternships in Minnesota

If this sounds interesting, a pilot program called SHiFT Midternships is available to help. You have to be 50 years of age or older and live in the Twin Cities area to be eligible for the program. You can work up to 32 hours a week and still collect unemployment benefits. Watch a video overview of the program:



It is best if you know what direction you want to go in, but SHiFT counselors can help you determine which field you would like to pursue and offer many other transitional resources. A good way to figure this out is by asking yourself the following questions. It may help to write your answers down.


  • What kind of work you would like to be doing?
  • Where would you like to work?
  • What kinds of responsibilities do you want to have?
  • Which skills you would like to make use of or learn?


You will also need to prepare a functional resume, fill out an application, and provide referrals to SHIFT. They also recommend that you attend a 32-hour employment readiness U course (ERU) currently offered at two Minneapolis WorkForce Centers. If you qualify, you will work with a SHIFT midtern liaison to help you facilitate a midternship with prospective employers. SHiFT will set up the initial meeting with employers, but you are responsible for:


  • setting up interviews
  • follow-up activities
  • deciding with the employer upfront what the parameters of the project are and what you will be doing


Create Your Own Midternship

Once you identify what you want to do and where you want to do it, you may even be able to create your own midternship. Read tips on how to set up an internship (.pdf) and advice on midlife internships.


It is important to research the company or organization you are considering to make sure your experience will be a quality learning and skill-building experience. Apply to those places that welcome the older worker, are open to new ideas, and looking for interns. Currently, about two-thirds of midterns work in non-profit organizations.


A midternship can offer you the chance to do something different, fill a time gap, and demonstrate that you are employable. It may even help you to land a full-time job in your preferred career field. It can be the bridge that gets you back into the workforce doing the kind of work you always wanted to do.


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