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Rise of the 40-something intern

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An internship allowed Linda Franklin to blaze a new career path after 22 years on Wall Street. At age 50, Ms. Franklin applied for an internship at New York’s public radio station WNYC. For the next two years, she lived off her savings while she worked – unpaid – recording sound bites at press conferences and from pedestrians on city streets. The experience, at first, was a hit to her ego.

“You’re running around in snow, rain, cold, and I would be standing on a subway platform saying ‘What am I doing here? I used to send people out to do errands for me,’ ” says Franklin, who formerly ran a trading department for an investment firm. “You really have to get over that.”

The training developed her writing skills and, eventually, allowed her to launch a website for mature women – TheRealCougarWoman.com – host her own Internet talk-radio show, and write a book to be released in the fall.

As the recession has deepened, the need for nontraditional internships has gone up.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, for example, professionals looking to reenter the science and technology fields can enroll in the Career Reengineering Program, a 10-month part-time curriculum that requires students to take a class in the fall and complete an internship in the spring. Over the past year, inquiries about the three-year-old program have increased 50 percent, says Dawna Levenson, associate director of the program.

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