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Will I Like It?

(PAH-ver-TUNE-i-TEE) 1. A job that comes with no salary but has the promise of advancement. “An internship at Vogue offered Margot a great povertunity.”  

Wordsmith and blogger Lizzie Skurnick coined the word povertunity to describe what is becoming a common pursuit in this economy. There are times when offering your services to a company for no or low pay can result in a more permanent and profitable opportunity.

Companies that provide apprenticeships and internships meet their goals if a participant completes the program 100 percent assured that it is the right field for them.

The flip side of that is also true. If the apprentice or intern completes the program and knows beyond a doubt this is NOT what he or she wants to do, it was also a success.

There are many career options in every industry sector — including nonprofits — and taking advantage of an internship opportunity can provide valuable exposure to the real world of work in that field. At the same time, it provides you with work experience that might help you qualify for other opportunities once the internship is complete.

Patrick Sheffield and Alyssa Ten Eyck are two Florida professionals who made the leap from intern to employee.

Taking a Step Back

Patrick Sheffield graduated from the University of Florida with a marketing degree in 2009. Even in that tough economic climate, he landed a lucrative offer to manage an automotive parts retail store in south Georgia. It was good money, a respectable position and not too far from home. But it didn’t take long for Patrick to realize it was not a good fit for him.

“It was a good job,” says Patrick, “just not the job for me. I couldn’t imagine spending 40 to 50 hours a week doing that for the rest of my life.”

For nine months Patrick stashed away his paychecks and continued to do a good job until he was ready to make a job change.

Patrick swallowed his pride and moved back home to Perry to start over. He worked odd jobs for three months and made looking for permanent work a priority. Then, through a friend, he heard Moore Cmmunications Group in Tallahassee was looking for an intern. Patrick applied and was accepted. But it wasn’t easy; he had to use his savings to manage the cost of commuting while working for no pay.

“I was a sponge to learn,” recalls Patrick. “I sought every opportunity to get my hands on as much as possible. I loved the work and was fortunate to be in a place where interns are given responsibility for projects, not just there to be helpers. I was able to prove myself.”

Within four months, a full-time position opened up, and Patrick’s povertunity paid off. He’s now an account executive  developing and managing communication plans for national and local clients.

Turning “No” into “Yes”

Alyssa Ten Eyck graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in communications in 2008. She was diligent in applying for positions and networking to find job opportunities. She applied for an internal communications position with aviation company Embraer in Fort Lauderdale, knowing she was not fully qualified for the job.

“I had the education background for the role, but despite my lack of work experience, I decided to go for it anyway,” Alyssa says.

Alyssa made it through a very extensive interview process. Embraer liked her — she was a good fit — but not for that job. She accepted the rejection well and made it known she was interested in other opportunities with the company.

“I really liked it there while I was interviewing,” says Alyssa. “I appreciated the time they invested in choosing the right candidate, even if it wasn’t me.”

Embraer later had a need for more help and thought of Alyssa. It was an internship — less prestigious than the job she originally applied for — but it did come with a paycheck. The real payoff was in the experience she gained. Alyssa worked hard, assimilated quickly, and when a permanent position as an internal communications specialist opened up, she got the offer.

APPRENTICESHIPS: LEARN AND EARN

If you like working with your hands and seeing the results of your labor, you may want to consider a field in a skilled trade such as manufacturing, construction, drafting, culinary arts and a variety of other industry sectors.

Skilled workers, especially in manufacturing, are in demand. Today’s manufacturing jobs are most often performed in state-of-the-art, innovative facilities. But highly specialized equipment requires highly specialized employees to operate the equipment. An apprenticeship is a great way to learn those skills while earning a paycheck.

An apprenticeship is similar to on-the-job training in that you are hired as an employee and receive a base salary. Your employment comes with an education/training program that requires you to meet performance levels or pass test requirements to move to the next level. Training is usually provided by craftsmen who are the best at their trades.

At the end of your apprenticeship, you should earn national certifications along with the higher pay scale they command. Most companies that invest in apprentices expect that you will stay as a long-term employee. Programs vary by positions and can last anywhere from 18 months to six years.

Check with trade organizations (homebuilders, manufacturers, etc.) or contact the One-Stop Career Center in your area to find out what’s available.

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship at www.doleta.gov/oa.