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August 07, 2002
Baby Boomers Interning for Experience
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The usual crowd of summer interns includes college students and some recent graduates. But the trend this summer is different, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The usual demographic has been joined by an increasing number of people over 30 who are taking internships to fill time between jobs or just to gain experience in a new field.

Businesses from restaurants to health-care companies to public relations firms are happy to accept these seasoned workers who are eager to start at the bottom and work for little or no pay.

With the economy struggling and jobs scarce, many of these older interns don't have much of a choice. Others simply want to take a break or venture into something that they never had a chance to experience before.

According to career information company Vault Inc., 20 percent of internships are available to people out of college, compared with only 5 percent in 1995.

Bonnie Ulmer, 56, was laid off from her regular job and was looking for something to do. So she signed up for an internship at Triad Communication in Washington, DC. Although her job entails grunt work like stuffing envelopes and answering the phone, she told the Journal, "It's all fun money for me."

Marissa Rothkopf Bates is taking a temporary internship as an apprentice to a pastry chef in a small New York restaurant. While the former vice president of Oxygen Media says that she doesn't see herself becoming a chef, she told the Journal that she enjoys the "adrenaline rush" of being in the kitchen.

According to the Journal, while some companies may design internships to fit a certain age group, they are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of age. And many companies like the idea of hiring older interns. They get the benefits of a person with more skills and experience in the business world without having to pay a lot or make a long-term commitment.

But to some people, the idea of older interns is less appealing. Some corporate veterans are insulted by the idea of companies hiring experienced, out-of-work veterans for short-term positions. Young interns forced to work with older interns sometimes don't like the idea either.

Jonathan Krause, a 22-year-old law student, worked with an older intern who he says patronized him and "snorted" whenever she overheard him making plans to meet his friends at the bar after work. He told the Journal, "At first I was irritated, then I tried to provoke her."

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