What do you hope to get out of an internship? Do you want to explore a particular area of interest? Do you want to gain specific skills? Do you want to be able to observe what a lawyer does all day or see what the daily routine is of someone who works in advertising? With clear goals in mind, you can more easily target the type of internship you would like to get and there are plenty of opportunities for high school students.
Finding an internship in high school takes what I call the three R’s: Resourcefulness, Research, and Reaching Out. If you do these three things, even the process itself of trying to find an internship will be a learning experience for you!
It’s likely that you already have all the connections you need to get a great internship. This is where you can practice your networking skills. Make a list of all of your personal contacts. Who do you know that can help you find the internship you want? Ask your friends and family whom they know that could potentially help you. Your high school administrators, counselors, and teachers may also know people who can connect you to a potential internship.
Have you ever tried to attend a networking group or a meet-up group? If you start to attend some of these events you can find people with similar interests to yours and maybe someone who is looking for a bright, eager and resourceful intern like you! Before attending an in-person event, make sure you practice things like shaking hands, introducing yourself, and having direct eye contact as you are speaking.
Do some research.
There are a variety of websites dedicated to posting internships. You can also search for local businesses and organizations that you are interested in and reach out to them. Often, companies don’t know that they could have an intern or what an intern could do for them. You never know unless you ask. The worst outcome is that they could say no. The process itself of doing the research and asking if they may offer an internship is a great experience for you.
You may also want to look into doing some freelance work or some individual assignments if it is not possible to get an in-office internship. Sites like freelancer.com or oDesk.com may have some work available that is a match to the skills you have to offer. In this case, you don’t have to even leave your house to get work experience to add to your resume and college applications.
Smaller companies usually have more flexibility than larger companies. You may choose to look at some of these organizations through sites such as LinkedIn or Twitter and connect with them to show your interest in their company.
If you decide to reach out to some of the contacts you were given by friends, family, or other connections, you can do so over the phone or in writing. If you reach out in writing, make sure you proof read your email or your letter before you send it out. Before sending it, have someone you trust read it. Be clear in your letter about how you are connected to the person, who you are and what you would like to do at their company for them. Include a resume that has also been edited by a trusted friend or adult.
Following up is critical. Professionals may be busy and simply overlook your first attempt. Be persistent but not annoying. Call within a few days to a week to introduce yourself by phone and remind them of your enthusiasm and interest in a position with their company.
Landing a summer or after school internship can be a great way for you to demonstrate your skills and learn new ones too. Colleges see students who are able to find their own internships as resourceful go-getters. Your internship supervisor may also be someone who can write you a letter of recommendation. Your internship will look great on your college application and you just may find a potential future employer.