When we think of interns, we usually think about college students. Just when they’re preparing for careers and self-sufficiency, internships open doors by helping them build real-world experience and contacts.
But if internships are so valuable, why shouldn’t high school students get the benefits, too? After all, they’re just like college-age students. They’re exploring career options. They want to stretch their boundaries. They’re eager to gain a better understanding of career paths and the skills they need to develop by seeing how the real world functions.
High school internships offer all this, and more. Knowing how to get an internship in high school gives students a head start as they prepare for life after graduation.
Can you get an internship in high school? Of course!
The first step is understanding what an internship is. Internships are short-term jobs, usually limited to one semester or summer, that introduce students to real-world workplaces. Interns have real work duties, often contributing to projects or performing entry-level tasks. Under the supervision of a boss or mentor, they build their own capabilities and see their professional colleagues using the skills they’ll need if they choose this career.
Internships for high school students are available in a range of industries and businesses. Students might greet customers or call on clients. They could conduct research in a laboratory, help produce news segments at the local TV station or organize community events for a nonprofit organization.
Whether paid or unpaid, part time or full time, internships can be a valuable steppingstone for high school students.
The Benefits of Getting an Internship in High School
Maybe you wonder, “Do high school internships matter?” The answer is definitely yes. In the high school years, students start to wonder about what’s next. Internships help the future come into focus by offering these benefits.
- Explore Career Opportunities: Reading books and watching videos can teach you only so much about the day-to-day life in a profession. A child can dream about being a veterinarian, a forensic scientist or an accountant, but until they live the life they won’t know if it’s a good fit. Internships can confirm that a student is on the right track, so they can start scheduling the classes to build a foundation for further learning. Internships can even help a student realize that a profession isn’t for them, allowing them to change course before investing time and money in further training or college degrees that they end up not using.
- Gain Career Experience: Every job applicant trying to break into a new field faces the same dilemma. They need experience to get a job, but they can’t get the experience until they have the job. Internships help smooth out that speed bump. Interns build the experience that future employers are looking for. They also see career paths that might not have occurred to them from the outside — for instance, that the entertainment field offers unlimited opportunities not just in performing but in managing, staging, design and technology. By working in professional atmospheres, interns also learn the invaluable “soft skills” — the abilities to work with others, communicate, show initiative and solve problems — that today’s employers demand. And, finally, internships connect students with influential people in the fields they want to enter, providing them with mentors, references and contacts who can help guide them along their career paths.
- Strengthen Resume and College Applications: High school students are on the verge of entering a world where grades don’t matter anymore. People will want to know what they actually accomplished. Internships offer the chance to show real-world impact and stand out from the crowd in a competitive climate. A job or college application can show that the student organized community blood drives, studied virus samples in a laboratory or developed social media campaigns. When it’s time to write an essay for college applications, internships give students out-of-the-ordinary subject material.
How to Get an Internship in High School
Internships are often overlooked as viable options for high school students to demonstrate their initiative, so the pathways are wide open. While some businesses offer internships through school guidance departments, students can also try to make their own internships through these steps.
- Do Research on the Field and Opportunities: The best way for a student to start thinking about an internship is to consider their talents and interests. The child who’s interested in chemistry can look into nearby research facilities. Someone with a fascination for computer science can explore the world of manufacturing, where complex, advanced machinery is revolutionizing factory floors. Prospective interns can start looking by talking to family members who have connections in potential fields. From there, teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and librarians offer a wealth of information, while they can also help students hone their goals. Any colleges in the area might be open to creating opportunities for high school students. Finally, local businesses and nonprofit organizations can be found through internet searches or on the websites of associations whose members share a common profession, such as a local bar association or manufacturers’ group. Try internship websites for local opportunities, but apply only for those that are a good fit.
- Identify the Value You Add: Potential interns must take a hard look at their talents and strengths, as well as their weaknesses. They should identify the specific skills and capabilities they can bring to a workplace, because that’s the first question that prospective employers will ask. The child who’s a good writer can offer help crafting fundraising messages for a nonprofit, while the budding graphic designer can offer a talent for creating eye-popping images for an advertising firm. Students should also know the character traits they hope exposure to a workplace will strengthen. For instance, the student who has a problem with time management might seek out an internship where scheduling is paramount and they can learn to make time management a habit for life. Students should also make sure they have the time to commit to the job — possibly 10 to 15 hours a week — and reliable transportation for getting there.
- Craft Your Message: It’s time for the prospective intern to craft a pitch. It should be a brief, professionally written statement encapsulating the student’s interest in an internship, experience such as classes taken or clubs involved in, and contributions that the student can make to the workplace. Make sure it’s clear of typos and spelling and grammatical errors. Be direct, avoid overstating accomplishments, and state the goals behind the request.
- Reach Out to Places You’re Interested In: Blanket outreach to random businesses is not the way to find a fulfilling, purposeful internship. By this point, the student looking for an internship should have a sense of the best fit for learning and career exploration. The pitches most likely to end in success are those that target the person who makes the decisions about hiring in their department. That’s not always easy to find, but an internet search or phone call to the business and the department the intern is interested in can yield names and titles.
- Follow Up: A “no” isn’t official until someone says the word. If the student doesn’t hear back, it’s possible that the email arrived during a particularly busy week, perhaps when an audit was underway or budget figures were due. A polite follow-up is often appreciated by the recipient, who might have been meaning to respond but simply let the task fall through the cracks.
How CCA Helps
CCA believes that school should prepare students for lifetime success and happiness. Finding the right career and mapping a plan to get there are essential to fulfilling that commitment. Each CCA student experiences customized, personalized learning tailored to their strengths and interests.
Internships enrich the career search by ushering students into real-world workplaces, where they can start to see their places in them. Our students have used their CCA schooling as a springboard to amazing opportunities. One student got to organize National Night Out events with a police department, and then choreographed a musical with a theater company. Another channeled her CCA schooling and experience into two once-in-a-lifetime chances — winning the $40,000 National Honor Society Scholarship and a prestigious Amazon Future Engineer paid software engineering scholarship at Amazon headquarters.
CCA helps students find meaningful internships in multiple ways.
- Courses: CCA creates its courses to offer career readiness and productive community engagement. A rich menu of classes helps students build a foundation of skills that will help them get internships and become college- or career-ready. Even while in high school, they can learn a variety of disciplines, from entrepreneurship and 3D art and design to coding and engineering.
- Clubs: Clubs are gathering places where children get together to explore their shared interests and build skills to show prospective employers. CCA offers more than two dozen clubs, in which students have fun while they’re learning about such areas as theater arts, gaming, computers, robotics and literature.
- Career Exploration Events: Hands-on learning in the full range of exciting career sectors helps CCA students get excited about learning. CCA developed the innovative CCAWorks™ initiative, woven into everything we do, to provide students with 21st century skills and to help them discover future careers and lifetime success. Through AgWorks at CCA™, students explore food production at the largest public educational aquaponics facility in the United States. Other students get hands-on learning in information technology, drones, computer programming and the burgeoning field of careers in health care with TechWorks at CCA™and MedWorks at CCA™.
- College and Career Readiness: Even in elementary school, CCA students start learning the skills for success, such as empathy and problem-solving, while they begin exploring college and career options. Through CCA field trips and internships, students are exposed to health care, animal care, media and entertainment, protective services and many other exciting careers.
Get High School Internships That Mean Something
Internships bring students out of their circles of school and neighborhood activities and friendships. They open new worlds and help students see how the skills they learn in the classroom matter in the real world. CCA firmly believes high school students can tackle the challenge of internships and make them the starting point for careers with impact. CCA’s commitment to personalized learning puts all the college- and career-readiness resources available at your child’s disposal, for a student who graduates from high school ready for the next step in life. Contact us today and learn more about how CCA helps your child explore internships and all the opportunities that go with them.