smart spending

Find job, fix resume with adult internship

"To me an internship was like voc-tech," says Shafer. "You have a set of concrete skills you gain."

Now a marketing copywriter at Monitronics in Farmers Branch, Texas, Shafer credits her internship with her new job. Her current boss has told Shafer she was hired because of her internship experience.

To potential employers, an internship demonstrates initiative. "It also tells a hiring manager, this isn't just someone sitting on the couch eating Cheetos for nine months," says Rosenberg. "They were doing something to further themselves, further their career, add value and be a productive member of society."

An internship also fills resume gaps, something that good recruiters scrutinize if there's more than a 60-day lag between jobs listed. A successful job search today for midcareer to late-career professionals takes an average nine to 12 months, says Rosenberg, a former executive recruiter, so taking an internship can, in many cases, actually decrease the job search cycle.

The reality, the results

"The problem that a lot of professionals have with getting internships is that it feels like they're going backwards," says Shafer, whose internship paid $10 an hour. "It's what I could be making at 7-Eleven. There's a certain ego blow that comes with it."

Grunt work often comes with the territory, say our experts. "Anytime you start something they are going to throw you a bunch of basic stuff and see how you do. The more willing you are to do it, the more you are going to get interesting work to do," says Bull.

How do you make sure you gain transferable skills and don't just get coffee? "Make sure that you clearly state to the employer that your objective is to land a job in this industry and that's why you are taking the internship," says Berger, whose internship Web site works with some 500 companies. Put the arrangement in writing, says Rosenberg. "That way there's no he said, she said."

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