This weekend I went to see the movie, “The Intern“. It was a story of a 70-year old who takes an internship at an up and coming fashion-based tech company.
Robert De Niro is a retired executive from the phone book company and is looking for something new and interesting to pass the time. He’s already gone through the normal options that retirees choose to do – golf, go to coffee shops, tai-chi, hanging out at the senior center.
Well through this new “Senior Intern” program he ends up contributing a lot more than the hip young techies expect.
It is an awesome heartwarming movie that I’d highly recommend.
But beyond that there are some interesting business applications.
A Captive Workforce Not Yet Ready to Retire
What we’re seeing these days is baby boomers starting to retire. And retirement can be hard for many people.
They’re used to going to an office every day for the last 40 years or so. They have their coworker relationships. Their water cooler talk. Their routine commute to and from work.
If they are married then they have their spouse who has their routine as well – whether working outside the home or not.
And so when someone retires they often go from not enough time to get things done and running around like a chicken with their head cut off. To having waaaay too much time on their hands. What is said about idle minds?
So the issue is retirees either continue to work and don’t retire (because they haven’t saved for retirement). Or they retire and get bored or start to feel less self worth because their role and responsibility and power that they held in their job for so long just disappeared.
And so the smart ones, who don’t want to become a statistic and just die within a couple years of retirement, need to find something to do fast.
Why You Need A Senior Intern
And that’s where this “Senior Intern” idea makes real sense. In the past I’ve seen another version of this which is the “Office Mom”. The “Office Mom” is someone who is a mom and maybe has kids in school but can’t work a full day and still take care of the kids. So she looks for a 4-6 hour a day job to pay the bills and give her some adult time out of the home.
The neat thing about that is they are often awesome multi-taskers, can handle stress with aplomb, and are motivated to contribute and do a good job. They may not be the most tech savvy, but handling tasks that need to get done but would take away from other high performing staff members’ time is valuable. They do things like office manager or receptionist type functions often. Or they can be a personal assistant to the company owner.
Tech Match-making Filling Gaps
With the recent introduction of ways for people to earn quick cash outside their job or for stay-at-home moms or retirees who need money to fill in the gaps – like like Uber (taxi-service) or TaskRabbit (miscellaneous needed tasks from shopping to handyman services), people are finding more ways to stay busy and make money while doing it.
So back to the movie. What intrigued me about the “Senior Intern” business model is the fact that so much of the intellectual property of successful companies is tied up in retirees’ heads. Now not every retiree wants to return to work – either part time or full time. But there are some that do.
You see them volunteering at SCORE (retired executives who help people with their businesses, whether start-up or existing business). You see them helping with churches and charities.
Score Great Intellectual Property at a Bargain-Basement Price
So why not flip the internship idea on its head? Why not have 70-year-old interns helping today’s 20- or 30-something business leader get to the next level with guidance from some of the prior generation’s finest?
Why not have senior interns help those who are transitioning into the workforce make that transition smoother? Being mentors. Being part of Human Resources departments.
In most cases you could get a senior to work for your organization at a fraction of the cost you would have had to pay for a senior executive (think $15-$25/hr vs $75-$150/hr). And think of the knowledge, experience, and business savvy that those “interns” could share with your company.
Check out this story about senior interns and “Encore Fellowships”.
And maybe you can enjoy the benefits of having someone like Robert De Niro working for you (maybe minus the celebrity coolness).