Beginning a Career Change: Internships & Adult Students

Internships can be an impactful experience to help individuals apply new knowledge, grow their skills, and most importantly break into a new industry. Typically, people assume an intern is a young adult currently in college or recently graduated with limited experience. That doesn’t have to be the case. Adults who already are working can leverage internships as a way to embark on career changes and transition their skills to a new industry.

For National Work and Family Month this year, we’re featuring Shayla Pinner, current Director of Marketing and Development for Dress for Success in Indianapolis. Pinner originally was working in the public health and social services realm, but realized the tasks and projects she enjoyed aligned more with marketing and communications. After some encouragement from her supervisor to utilize their employee tuition benefits, she began taking courses at IUPUI and eventually enrolled in the master of arts in public relations program. “I liked to learn, but school was not my thing. Too structured. I had a life, but it seemed easy when someone said to just take a class,” said Pinner. 

As she continued her courses, she knew she needed to take on some experiences to allow her to apply these new skills. Pinner emphasized, “You can have a degree in something, but employers want to know you’ve used it and experienced results. So I asked myself how do I transition at my age into an entirely different field?” That led her to begin looking for internships.

“Don’t go it alone. Know the right people and reach out,” Pinner advised. She looked at her department’s job board and also leaned on career services and faculty members who knew her interests. That process eventually led her to apply for an opportunity at Eli Lillly. “The application for fall had closed, but they kept it on file and something opened up that spring,” she explained. 

Pinner successfully interviewed and was offered an internship with the brand team. She did express some initial nerves about what they may think about her taking on this role at her age, and how her interactions with the team might be as Black woman who already had some work experience, but she maintained confidence. “I’m here because I want to be here,” she asserted. 

Remember she mentioned school wasn’t on her mind because of “life.” Well, that didn’t go away when deciding to take this on. Pinner attributes making this all work thanks to planning. “I already made a plan to exit the position I was in,” she explained. “We were on a strict and tight budget. I did work while I had the internship as well…it was hard work.” Leaning on her support system for responsibilities or vent sessions were also helpful. “My husband had five good meals he could cook and I didn’t complain,” she joked. 

All in all, she was able to complete an internship experience that yielded an impactful experience in corporate America, the opportunity to demonstrate her skills, character and work ethic, and a new network of professionals who helped her get to the job she currently holds. “We’re in a weird place right now with the pandemic…If you keep feeling the pull, figure out how to make things happen. You can always go back, but try going forward.”


  • See if you can job shadow before taking the internship.
  • Continue learning. There are a lot of free ways to do it right now.
  • Start with your school or employer for networking.
  • Keep updating your resume and LinkedIn account.
  • Set boundaries to help you maintain the balance of school, internships and work.
  • Watch your representation! These networks can be pretty close knit. 

For more information on finding an internship, speak with your college’s career center or create a profile with Indiana INTERNnet


Related News

Classroom Worksheets

College Go! Bulletin Board Kit