Over the summer of my junior year of high school I spent four weeks as a Marketing Intern at TeenLife Media. As I am (soon-to-be was) a high school student, it was a rare opportunity to experience working in an office 9 to 5 and assuming group work outside of what I do in school. As a future business student, I found it fascinating to observe how the company functioned and how I was able to contribute to a start-up creating a real, substantial product for parents and teens. Working in the office alongside the TeenLife team was like living in a case study. I was able to learn from observing the workplace, as well as from playing a major role as a member of the marketing group.
Much of the work I did at TeenLife was centered on two main areas of focus—production of informative guides for parents and teens and advertising the TeenLife brand name. Over several weeks I had the opportunity to work on two separate publications (TeenLife's Guide to STEM Programs and the larger Guide to Performing and Visual Arts Colleges). While working on these guides I helped edit and proofread the articles; compile, organize, and edit the college and business listings; and edit the final drafts of each guide. In addition, I profiled my student experience as a member of my high school's FIRST robotics team for TeenLife’s annual STEM guide. I also helped check the sales numbers against the marketing numbers to ensure that no ads had been misplaced or forgotten.
When I was not working on the guides, I spent a significant portion of my time working on blog posts; I even wrote and published my own piece on taking a gap year. The task of writing a blog post encouraged me to learn a new writing style, as the tone of a blog is unique and extremely personal. While I had read blogs before, the challenge of writing my own post made me analyze blogs in a new light. As it turns out, that experience would prove to be valuable in the present when it came to writing this one!
Another project I was assigned at TeenLife was the creation of event newsletters, which required me to research various teen events in 4 different cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and D.C.), add those events to the master calendar, and then enter them into the TeenLife newsletter format. I needed to learn basic HTML coding to create their newsletters from the pre-existing template. While at times difficult, the experience taught me a lot about how skills are obtained in the real world: on the job! By pushing myself to acquire the necessary coding knowledge, I was able to become a more valuable asset to the marketing team.
In addition to learning skills based on the tasks I was assigned, I also learned how a small business operates through observation. Because of the placement of my desk (it was in the sales office), I was able to get to know sales cycle quite well. Throughout the day, I listened in on how they conducted their calls, how they sold people on the product, and (in one case) how they handled a problematic customer. While I personally did not work in sales during my internship, observing and overhearing the sales process in action contributed to my knowledge of an advertising business model as a whole. A similarly valuable experience was sitting in on the office meetings and being able to hear the goals and work of each individual department in the company. The meetings provided insight into what other work was being done and the importance of coordination within an office—not always a simple task!
Though I have taken a number of business courses over the past few years, nothing has taught me more about how a business is really conducted than my internship at TeenLife. Ultimately, my internship was a window into a potential lifestyle. It provided me with the opportunity to gain real world experience and on-the-job skills, even as a high school student. During my four weeks, I learned through both experience and observation. I was able to further my knowledge of how small businesses operate on a day-to-day basis. I am positive that my internship at TeenLife will continue to benefit me throughout high school and into college.
I would encourage all students pursue an internship in high school. I was amazed at how much I learned outside of a typical classroom setting—even about myself.
By Nate Giess