“I just know there’s a hole in my life and I need to fill it,” says Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker in new film The Intern, a ‘senior’, who does work experience at an online fashion business, reporting to Anne Hathaway’s Jules Ostin.
But how many companies actually have the imagination to give ‘older’ people new experiences? Barclays recently confirmed details of its Bolder Apprenticeships, aimed at people over 50 and others who have been out of work, and has been praised by minister for pensions Ros Altmann for enabling the business to ‘reflect its customer base; to better understand and better serve its whole range of clients’.
And at High50 we’re not just talking the talk about the benefits of companies taking on 50-plus interns and apprentices; we’re walking the walk. Our intern, Rosanna (pictured above left), joined us last summer at the age of 52.
She arrived claiming to have no useful skills, knowledge or experience, despite a lengthy career in book publishing, followed by having three children. She didn’t have a smartphone, said she was a technophobe, and insisted she didn’t know anyone who was anyone.
We chose to disregard that, focus on what she could do, encourage her to push her boundaries, do new things, and unlock latent skills and contacts.
Her insistence that she didn’t know anyone turned out to be the least true part. She not only knows everyone but has many interesting and entrepreneurially minded friends, and has developed a role interviewing them for our High50 films.
In fact, she came for the summer, and a year later has become a valuable part of our editorial team. After interviewing the likes of Johnnie Boden, Lulu Guinness and Emma Bridgewater for us, we turned the tables and asked her to tell us her story. Rosanna has also recently appeared in the Mail Online talking about her internship – and work – with High50.com.
Why were you looking for an internship?
I hadn’t worked for ten years as I’d been bringing up my three children. My circumstance changed when I was 50 and I needed to make changes in my life and get back to work.
My previous job was in book publishing as a production director on illustrated non-fiction. Since then, after being made redundant, I did a degree and then a masters in English Literature. But book production had changed so much that there was no way I could return.
How did you hear about High50?
I know Robert Campbell, who founded High50, and when they were looking for their first 50-year-old intern he asked if I knew of anyone suitable. Before I knew what I was saying, I had volunteered myself.
What did you want to gain from your internship?
Anything! I arrived with no skills so to pick up any would be a bonus. I needed hands-on experience of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. I knew this position would provide me with social media skills and the journalism skills that I have always been interested in.
What experience did you have?
I had life experience but didn’t feel I had anything more. I had no laptop, no up-to-date smartphone, no social media skills. There was no Twitter handle, no Instagram account, no LinkedIn profile.
What did your first job involve?
My first job was to research different models of online magazines, what advertising they have, and how much they pay their contributors. The editor-in-chief, Stefano, said he would like High50 to have the shareability of Buzzfeed, the consistently on-message attitude of Vice and the community of Mumsnet, albeit aimed at the 50+ market.
Even this language was alien to me. I had never heard of banner advertising, native advertising, branded content or listicles. I then had to present my findings in a Powerpoint presentation. I found someone to teach me and just managed it.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
In my second week I was asked if I would go online dating and write about the experience. I had to subscribe to a couple of the best known dating sites and to specific sites for 50-year-olds and Tinder.
I went on three dates with men who generally lied about their age and had clearly been on dating sites for some time. I didn’t fall for any of them but at least learned about how to manage an online dating profile and what the whole online dating game involves.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
I feel confident again. It’s very hard to convince an employer to hire you after you’ve been out of work for ten years. Internships like this reinforce a belief that I do have some valuable experience to share.
It’s beneficial to be able to use any knowledge that I have and the contacts that I have made over the last 30 years. I have used these to interview entrepreneurs and to build a series of films for High50.
What’s the best thing about it?
It has been challenging, frustrating and enlightening, but the most flattering thing was being offered a regular freelance position at High50 having been an intern.
What’s the worst thing about it?
Feeling useless among talented people and wishing I could be faster and of greater help to my colleagues.
What has been your proudest moment?
Seeing my name attached to published articles that I have written (albeit heavily edited) has been incredibly rewarding.
What do you most want to achieve?
I want to learn as much as I possibly can from the amazing team around me and, above all, enjoy it as much as possible.
Would you recommend becoming an intern at our age?
Yes, if you can afford it and don’t worry about the title. Look at the organisation, the job description and the people you will be working with, then who cares if you’re ‘just’ an intern.
Why should companies have 50-plus internships?
50-year-olds bring with them mature judgement and valuable experience. I like the idea of challenging the conventional wisdom that internships are exclusively for young people. People of all ages are looking for ways to enhance existing skills and learn new ones.