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Using Unpaid Internships Differently to Get Experience

Dear J.T. & Dale: A year ago, my manager left and I was promoted to manager of the purchasing department. I don't have any staff, and the company is cutting down, so I don't think I will be getting any soon. I recently had an interview with a larger company, and the HR manager said my background was good and my resume was impressive. She asked me about my staff, and I told her I do everything by myself. Because of that, they doubted my managerial skills, and I didn't get the job. What can I do now if I want to find a new manager's job? Should I lie and say I have an assistant? - Jonah J.T.: I wouldn't suggest lying. It always catches up with you. DALE: Instead, establish a new truth to tell. Even though you don't have direct reports, you can still demonstrate leadership skills. For instance, you might create a team to study cost efficiencies, perhaps one built around the process called Lean. This would make you a hero to your financially challenged company while giving you a great story to tell in the interviews. Heading a company-wide team might even trump having employees. J.T.: Let me also suggest a creative way of getting an assistant: Go to your company and ask if it would be willing to let you host an unpaid internship. If so, contact the career centers in colleges in your area and ask for guidelines to create an internship that will give the student school credit in exchange for working for you. That would get you some help in your department while giving you experience as a manager. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Unpaid internship experience image from Shutterstock