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Rise of the 40-something intern

Some mid-career professionals are moving forward by starting over.

Inside the Manhattan offices of wowOwow.com (The Women on the Web) Randi Bernfeld, left, mentors mid-career intern Patty Fernandez.

Mary Knox Merrill/ Staff

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While she was a student at the University of Arizona, Patty Fernandez never had a chance to intern. But two decades later, she’s doing just that.

Laid off from her copy-editing job last summer at Standard & Poor’s and seeing her freelance work dwindle, Ms. Fernandez applied for an unpaid internship at the website start-up company wowOwow.com, an online community for women. “I was really attracted by the possibilities and being able to do something that I didn’t necessarily have experience [in],” she says of the Internet-publishing venture.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times. The internship role, once reserved for college students and entry-level candidates, is attracting mid-career professionals eager to retool their skills. With 7 million jobs lost since the beginning of the recession, internships are becoming a sought-after way to reenter the job market.

“There are a lot of adults who are out of work, a lot of adults who want to transition into second careers – and an internship is the best way to get a foot in the door and ... learn about a new industry,” says Lauren Berger, founder of InternQueen.com, a website devoted to college internships.

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