How High School Students Can Land a Great Internship
As high school graduation looms closer, many students frantically ponder what they would like to be, do, and accomplish in the future.
Here’s the good news:
Your life plan doesn’t need to be set in stone just yet. And there are plenty of helpful ways to start shaping that plan, including finding an internship.
Internships provide real-world career experience that can help you determine whether a career path is right for you. While many people traditionally think of internships as being for college students, more and more high school students are benefiting from the experience, too.
What is an internship?
An internship is a short-term, introductory work experience at an organization. Interns typically work on tasks that an entry-level employee would complete at the company.
Interns generally have a mentor or supervisor who provides instruction and guidance. Internships can last from a couple of weeks to a year or even more, can occur at just about any time of year, and may be paid or unpaid.
High school interns especially are often unpaid because they don’t yet have required qualifications and are limited in the work they can do. However, there are some paid internships for high school students as well.
What are the benefits of an internship?
Regardless of pay, internships can be an extremely beneficial experience for high school students. You’ll gain real-world work experience that boosts your confidence and helps you make a more informed choice about your college major and future career.
You will also:
- “Preview” a field you’re interested in and see if it’s enjoyable and a good fit for you
- Meet, learn from, and network with professionals in a career area of interest
- Develop new skills and knowledge
- Strengthen your college applications
- Potentially earn academic credit or money
Participating in an internship program will equip you with valuable experience, skills, knowledge, and connections. You may fall in love with a career field or learn that a certain field is not for you. And learning that now, while you’re still in high school, can save you from wasting tons of time and money in college.
5 Tips for High School Students on Finding Internships
Now that you understand the benefits of an internship, how can you find one? Follow the five tips below to start your search.
1. List your interests.
Begin by contemplating your skills, interests, and potential future careers. Ask yourself questions like:
- What am I good at?
- What do I enjoy?
- What careers might be a good fit?
Growing up, our imaginations are often limited to a few career choices: Firefighter, doctor, lawyer, teacher, police officer, etc. A few of us may have contemplated becoming a Power Ranger or Wonder Woman, but we didn’t understand the full scope of careers available to us.
Now that you’re older and wiser, take a deeper dive into researching potential careers that fit your skills and interests. See what’s out there and get creative. It may even be helpful to take an online skill and interest assessment.
Get the word out about what sort of jobs you’re interested in. You never know who may have an industry connection that can help you get your foot in the door.
These tools provide you with a list of careers that may suit you and can often introduce you to jobs you’ve never considered before.
So, your list, and/or a Skills Assessment coupled with research on various careers will give you a solid starting point for your internship search.
2. Ask around.
Talk to your family, friends, teachers, and anyone else you know about your internship search. Get the word out about what sort of jobs you’re interested in. You never know who may have an industry connection that can help you get your foot in the door.
You can also reach out to your high school guidance counselor. Some high schools have programs that help pair students with internship programs. Alternatively, your counselor may have a list of organizations that have offered internships to students in the past.
Another option is to contact companies you’d like to intern with directly. Call, e-mail, or even stop by and ask if they offer internships to high school students. If not, they might have other opportunities, like job shadowing. And even if they don’t, the organization may appreciate and remember your initiative.
Because high school students aren’t the traditional target audience for internships, asking around can help you identify or even create opportunities.
3. Search online.
In addition to your personal network, the Internet is a great resource for finding internships. Sites like Internship Programs and Internships are designed to connect students with internships. Many of these postings are intended for college students, so read carefully to see which might accept high schoolers.
You can also search specifically for high school internships on job boards like LinkedIn, GlassDoor, and Indeed.
As always, of course, treat internet sources with caution. Carefully investigate the hours you’ll work, the requirements of the internship, and the duties you’ll perform. Make sure that you’re getting a valuable experience that goes beyond filing papers and answering phones.
4. Create a resume.
Of course, finding potential internship programs is only half the battle. You’ll also need to apply and get offered the position.
To do so, you’ll most likely need a resume. Many high school students are unsure how to write or format a resume. Others worry that they have no real credentials or experiences to write about.
Luckily, there are tools like ReadWriteThink’s Resume Generator to help you. The Resume Generator provides two different formatting options, with one designed for those who haven’t built much experience yet. The tool also provides tips on leveraging the skills and non-work experience you do have to create a resume that’s still impressive.
Once you’ve put together a draft of your resume, proofread closely for spelling and grammar errors. Have a parent or teacher review the document as well. Submitting a resume with errors can signal that you don’t pay attention to detail, rush through your work carelessly, or aren’t serious about securing an internship.
On the other hand, a carefully crafted resume can help propel you into a satisfying and rewarding internship position.
5. Put your best foot forward.
Whether stopping by a business to inquire about an internship or attending a formal interview, it’s important to always put your best foot forward.
Dress professionally, smile, and be polite, and be prepared to articulate why you’re a strong candidate for the internship. Don’t get caught up in worries about lacking experience. Think about what you do bring to the table: relevant skills, valuable personal qualities, experience volunteering or working with a team, etc. You should also be ready to discuss why you’re interested in this company and career path.
Make sure that you’re on time or even 10 minutes early. When interviewing, leave your phone at home or in the car. Nothing sours an interview more than a buzzing phone or a candidate who can’t stop surreptitiously checking for texts.
If you feel nervous, don’t worry — that’s perfectly normal, even for experienced adults. Briefly pause to consider your answer to questions as needed, and focus on being friendly, polite, and enthusiastic about the position.
If you still aren’t crystal clear on your plans for the future, you aren’t alone. But completing an internship can help answer some of your questions, provide you with valuable skills and experience, and give you a confidence boost as you head toward graduation and college.
Think about your skills and interests, then brainstorm a list of careers that may be a good fit for you. Spread the word about the sort of job you’re looking for, search online, and talk to organizations in your community. Put together a resume and conduct yourself with politeness and professionalism.
Once you land an internship, be punctual and diligent. Act as if it’s a real job, learn as much as you can, and network with your coworkers. You never know what opportunities an internship can lead to in the future.
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