Internships Beat Interviews for Job Changes

By Debra Wheatman

On November 5, 2010

In Ask Deb

About career advice, internships


Q. I want to change careers and have been looking for months to move into a marketing role. For the past several years, I have been a customer service specialist. I recently interviewed for a marketing position, but it’s an internship for six months. I am not making very much money in the customer service job and I have family who will support me temporarily.

MH Portland, OR

A. An internship is an excellent way to develop the skills necessary to make a transition. A six month internship will give you a number of things:

  1. Insight into the marketing world and access to people who have been in the business for some time;
  2. A chance to develop some skills that will enable you to transition to a new position where you can begin to further develop your marketing acumen;
  3. An opportunity to network with people within the industry to facilitate your ongoing learning and possibly learn about an opening at a company in need of a full-time resource.

If you are truly serious about making the switch, an internship is a great thing to do. Given that you have been trying for months to secure a new role, the internship will likely open a lot of new doors for you. Here are some things you should do to help make your transition smooth as silk:

  1. Conduct some research (if you haven’t already) regarding industry associations. Depending on your focus, here are a few that you might consider joining: American Marketing Association (AMA), Promotion Marketing Association of America (PMAA), and Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Industry associations are a wonderful way to advance your understanding of current industry trends while interacting with people that have extensive industry experience. I would join one or two associations at the most. It is time consuming to attend meetings. If you really want to immerse yourself and get involved, you will likely not have enough time to contribute to a number of different groups.
  2. Use LinkedIn as part of your online networking strategy. The LinkedIn Groups are a great way to get involved without having to go anywhere. You can ask and answer questions and become part of a robust interactive community. 
  3. Try the eMarketing Association Network, and depending on where you live, you may be able to find a smaller local marketing group on LinkedIn.

Once you join the new company as an intern you should:

  1. Do a lot of listening. You are there to learn. Ask questions (this is expected); and dig in. Try to get as much information as possible while you are there;
  2. Demonstrate your value. Ask to help out. Once you get there you might find that you can provide assistance to more than just one department. Make yourself available – and invaluable to the organization. Internships can and do lead to full-time offers of employment! 
  3. Come up with some new ideas. If you see an opportunity to streamline a process or you have a good idea, share it. You might be given the chance to run with it and really show what you are made of!

This six month role sounds like it might propel you into a new career. Give 150% of your effort and maximize your time at the company. Your new burgeoning career might be only six months away!

Do you have a career question?  Email me at

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