Finding a high school internship isn’t easy
To find an internship in high school can be a little like finding a needle in a haystack. Do you have any workplace skills? Have you worked anywhere in the past? Have you ever volunteered? Do you know anyone who trusts you handling parts of their work?
Many young people rely on friends and family to gain their first steps into the workplace, but what happens if you do not have that opportunity, or you are not interested in any of those positions?
You might have to live with a job that may not be the perfect fit for you. Many professionals today started from humble beginnings sweeping floors and grabbing coffees. Even Elon Musk was a boiler room janitor at a lumber mill when he first started – a job that required him to wear a hazmat suit in a small tunnel at sweltering hot temperatures.
The earlier you can get a glimpse into the professional world, the earlier you can begin to understand your place in it. Most people will agree that getting a first (good) job is not easy. This is especially true if you do not already have an idea of where you want to work.
Below we have collected 5 of the best ways for high school students to land an internship. Hopefully this can help spark inspiration to start looking for a job. At the end of this article we have even included tips on how to request an internship and what to do once you have started your internship.
#1 Friends and family
Family and friends are going to be your best option if you do not have any prior work experience. Usually these are people you’ve known for a long time and maybe you also know a little about their company and the type of jobs that may be available to you.
These people know you and your skills and may even have a good job for you. Friends and family are invested in your future and want to help you succeed. These contacts will probably see you in the future regardless of whether they offer you a job and it’s likely that they genuinely want to help. It’s okay to ask your parents for a little guidance when first thinking about people to contact, but ultimately the work learning about and reaching out to these contacts should be handled on your own.
Try to think of 5-10 people you know who you can ask questions related to their company and any upcoming roles that may become available. Not sure how to ask them for a job? Skip to the end of this article for some tips.
#2 Coaches, trainers & teachers
If friends and family do not know how to help, then your favourite coaches, trainers, teachers, guidance counselors, club moderators or school staff are also great sources for finding jobs. They may not be in a position to hire you directly, but they can vouch for your skills and work ethic and put in a good word with a friend or colleague who may have work opportunities.
You don’t need high grades or crazy extracurriculars to be a good fit for a job so don’t be afraid to ask. If you have a good relationship with this person, you might be surprised what they are willing to do in order to help. It definitely helps if you have special skills or interests in a certain area related to your job opportunity but don’t let that stop you from applying anywhere that piques your interest.
Do you already see these people at work often? Learn what they do and try to help. Ask questions like “is there anything else I can do to help?” or “can I help you with this?” If they ask why you are so keen to help, let them know you are learning in order to try and get a summer job.
#3 Make your job
If you have any special skills or are laser focused on a career path, it’s worthwhile to consider a cold approach at company where you really want to work. A cold approach means you’re contacting someone who has never met you before and you’re asking them to consider making a role for you. This is not an easy feat but for those who are driven to get what they want, sometimes it’s the only option available. Not everyone’s first jobs were predefined roles.
Not quite convincing them to hire you? If they are not already impressed by your ambition, perhaps mention the student grants and incentives that are available to them for hiring a young person. If you’re a local student, New Ventures BC created a helpful resource for finding applicable grant opportunities.
For those with the entrepreneurial drive, you can try making some money on your own. You might have outgrown your chance at a lemonade stand but it’s never too late to find a business opportunity that works for you. There are countless opportunities out there. The trick is finding one that’s the right fit.
You could find free furniture online and fix it up to resell. You could start a babysitting business. You could help take photos for businesses’ social media accounts. You could coach your younger peers. Ever thought about learning how to paint?
Whichever direction you take, taking initiative and creating your own job often leads to the most learning opportunities.
#4 Job boards
Job boards are one of the most difficult places for inexperienced applicants to stand out. For those who have never had a job before it requires doing the impossible: demonstrating your experience without having experience. Not to mention the number of undergraduate students and recent grads who may also be applying for the same role. How does your application look next to an undergraduate? Most employers will attest that the odds are against you if the company expects someone with university experience.
Be on high alert as some predatory business models thrive on inexperienced youth. If an employer does not have strict safety requirements, or if they request a financial buy-in, then it likely will not be the experience you are seeking. It’s a good practice to discuss the opportunity with friends and family before accepting any offer that is presented.
Don’t forget to follow-up. A personalized application with a follow-up letter is an excellent way to make sure your application is reviewed.
#5 Make a statement
Out of options? Maybe it’s time to try the ‘shout from the rooftops’ approach. You don’t need to buy a megaphone to find an audience and make a clear statement that your ready for work. The easiest way to make a statement this day in age is by using social media. One post to Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media profile can have a great impact reaching hundreds and maybe even thousands of people who could possibly line you up with a job opportunity. Bonus points if you find your opportunity using LinkedIn.
If you have some email contacts you can consider sending an email to a list of people you know. And hey, if all else fails, you could always stand on the street with a sign (pictured but not actually recommended).
How to apply to an internship
There are a few things you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd and ultimately get that job you need to start building your career. Some include following up on your application and being equipped with thoughtful questions well-before an interview.
This is a crucial step to get right. But don’t sweat it if you think you messed up. There will always be more possibilities and the person receiving the message probably did not think much about it. Not everyone will respond to you.
If you haven’t made a resume and cover letter yet, here’s a good resource help you write your first ones.
After you land an internship
The work doesn’t stop here. It’s up to you to get valuable experience out of your time spent at this internship. A good internship will teach you a TON about business, the working world, and how you fit into it. Although you may not be building the skills you want to build yet, it’s up to you to get every ounce of relevant experience out of the position. It’s up to you to ask to take on more meaningful work.
There are countless things to learn about a business. Do not just do your job. Try to learn about other people’s jobs. Ask if you can help in multiple departments. Learn, observe, and ask questions that increase your knowledge of the operations within the business. The faster you learn, the faster you can adapt your way to your dream career.
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