Internships: A Glimpse of Your Future
By Sunjuna Chalasani, Vice-President of Membership
Confused. Lost. Frustrated. Feelings shared by high schoolers around the country. It is easy to get overwhelmed thinking about the future. There’s this expectation that high schoolers need to know what they want to study and do before they graduate, yet for many, this isn’t the case.
Internships allow you to experience different fields and careers without the weight of an actual job. They can narrow down your interests by helping you see if a certain path for you is fulfilling, or a mistake you would dread. They allow high school students to gain an increased understanding of the expectations in a professional workplace. Previous real-world job experiences can also provide a competitive edge when it comes to applying for college or jobs. Through high school internships, students gain experience, make lasting professional connections, and even learn about themselves along the way.
The hardest part of an internship is getting your foot in the door. Most companies are open to the idea of hiring and paying high schoolers to do real work. Many also have policies preventing them from hiring people under the age of 18. Here are some tips to help:
1. Be proactive
It is up to YOU to go look for opportunities. Businesses aren’t lining up to hire kids that are still in, or newly out of high school. You have to go out and contact places you are interested in learning about. Many times, you are applying or looking for positions that don’t yet exist. It is YOUR responsibility to create them.
This can be as simple as sending an email. The spring of my junior year, I reached out to as many local start-ups around me as I could, simply stating that I was a high schooler interested in learning more about the workplace in a business setting and would be willing to work as an unpaid intern. Luckily, I happen in live very close to two major hubs in Michigan for start-ups: Ann Arbor and Detroit. Even then, most places never contacted me back. The start-up I ended up working for typically only hired college students and had never had a high school intern. I was later told that I was the only high schooler they had ever had reach out to them, which allowed me to stand out amongst the piles of applicants. Take advantage this!!!
2. Leverage your connections
Use every resource available. This includes the personal and professional connections you’ve already established. Personal connections are a great source for internship opportunities, and chances are you have a wider network than you realize.
Be open about your search for an internship in certain fields and reach out to people who might be able to help. This includes mentors, coaches, parents, friends, and more. You never know when someone will reveal that their uncle’s second cousin is married to someone who currently needs a personal assistant in his or her law office. Reach out to anyone you already know that is working in a field related to your interests. Start asking several months before you hope to start, since it will take some time to do research, follow leads, and arrange interviews. Several of my friends were able to intern at the Ford Motor Company this past summer alongside actually engineers. By reaching out to family and friends, they created real-life opportunities and positions for themselves that didn’t yet exist.
3. Specify what you’re looking for
Know what you want to get out of the experience. Be upfront about this so you get the most out of your time at your internship. This also eases the process of searching. Is there a certain environment you are looking for? A corporate environment is going to range heavily from one of a start-up or local business. Are there certain hours you are willing to work or are best for you? Consider all of these options before starting the process.
4. Be professional and prepared
Make a resume. Created a LinkedIn. Show up to your interview in business formal, regardless of the attire of the workplace. Research the business and craft insightful questions to demonstrate interest.
Best of luck my friends.