High school can be the perfect time for a teenager to intern: teens aren’t presented with too much financial responsibility, have several months off from school, and are eager to get some work experience before college. A summer internship can benefit your teen in both the short and long term.
In the short term, a summer internship can help your teen further understand his or her goals for college. While most teens are underqualified for professional jobs before college, a summer internship can get them “in” with a company and provide them with professional experience. Not to mention, beginning to build a resume in high school is a good idea. Future employers are looking for as much professional exposure and experience as possible—and an internship counts!
Every summer, TeenLife hires high school interns, and the experience is positive for both the company and the student. Nate Giess, a past TeenLife intern, recalls, “As a future business student, I found it fascinating to observe how this growing media company functioned and to be a member of a team creating a real product. Working in an office was like living in a case study, as I was able to learn from observing the work place. But I was also a member of the group, which helped me comprehend the goals and challenges of the company.” Nate finished his summer internship with a clearer vision of his future career in business through real-life experiences.
Sarah Burrows, Director of Internship Programs at Lasell College in Massachusetts, is a strong believer in internships, even if they are unpaid. She encourages her students to pursue an internship, even though “Many teens are reluctant to do an unpaid internship.” She goes on to explain, “But what [teens] gain is marketable experience, which will enable them to land a job later. There are federal labor laws governing unpaid internships, so participants should know their rights as well.” Current labor laws state that if an internship is unpaid, it must contain a learning aspect and be beneficial to the intern. These laws protect teens from being treated like an assistant, instead of a professional intern.
In the long run, internships are an important way of meeting and interacting with adults in a professional setting. Burrows explains, “Getting to know adults other than teachers and parents is a growth opportunity. A teen may come to see that their parents aren’t really that crazy, compulsive, or rules-driven, as their boss at an internship.” It is important for teens to know how to dress, act, and talk around employers before they enter the “real” workforce after college.
Other benefits of teen internships include:
• Connecting academics with real world experience
• Developing 21-century skills and marketability
• Identifying with a mentor
• Creating a personal portfolio of projects and work
• Increasing self-confidence
• Contributing to a business organization
• Building a professional network
• Enhancing future employment opportunities
Burrows emphasizes the importance of an intern’s attitude in the workplace. She calls this “Maximizing Opportunity,” explaining in a Lasell College informational pamphlet, “To make the most of an internship, a student needs to maximize the opportunity. Ask questions; show up on time; dress for success; take initiative. Prove to your supervisor that you are interested not only in your future, but the organization’s future. Prove to your employer that you are worth mentoring and taking on responsibility. Every day matters.”
Before a student enters an internship, they must think about their goals, which include self-knowledge, self-assessment, and self-confidence. In other words, a teen must know what they like, know what aptitudes they have and what they're good at, and feel optimistic that they can make a difference somehow, someway, somewhere. Being engaged at an internship is important for a teen’s professional and personal goals.
Nate, who will be attending Emory University in the fall, knew he wanted a career in business, but his summer internship solidified this choice. He notes, “Though I have taken a number of business courses over the past few years, nothing has taught me more about how business is really conducted than my TeenLife internship. Ultimately, my internship was a window into a potential lifestyle, as well as an opportunity to gain real world experience and on-the-job skills.”
Choose Experience Over Money
Whether teens earn money or not, at the end of the summer, they will have experienced a work environment like never before. After an internship, your teen will be able to build a better resume, gain understanding of a particular career or profession, and have more confidence in their abilities. No matter how big the company is compared to the intern’s role, he or she is an important piece to the professional puzzle.
Remind your teen to thank their employer and coworkers when their internship is completed! A colleague or boss during the teenage years will undoubtedly provide important references in the future. LWT
The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division set the following criteria for unpaid internships:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close ?supervision of existing staff.
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for time spent in the internship.
Securing a Teen Internship
Teens can learn about internship opportunities through their teachers, parents, schools, and guidance counselors. Other resources include these internship search engines:
This article was originally published in Life with Teens Magazine Summer 2014. Read the entire issue here!