Career coaches have been advising college students about the importance of internships for decades. More recently, Baby Boomers have been encouraged to take on "adult internships" to help them transition to new occupations or enter a new field. However, the first-ever study on high school careers by Millennial Branding and Internships.com says 50 percent of companies are creating high school internship programs this year and high school students are even more career-focused than college students. The study, "High School Careers," shows the importance of career development activities, such as internships and volunteering, for high school students who want to get into better colleges and find future employment.
How can high schoolers position themselves to be competitive for internships? Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself, offers the following tips to enhance potential opportunities:
1. Ask your family members for help. "We found that 54 percent of parents have helped their children get work experience during high school," Schawbel says. Students should encourage their parents to introduce them to people they know who may help connect them to an internship, and parents should help high schoolers prepare for interviews. Schawbel suggests parents talk to their children about what to expect in work situations and to suggest how to make the most of the opportunity.
2. Attend networking groups and meetups. Go to eventbrite.com and meetups.com and join networking groups in your city. "By going to these events, you can start to establish your own network and differentiate yourself from your fellow high school students," Schawbel suggests. "Rarely will you see students attend events, so professionals will be more than impressed if you take the initiative."
3. Ask your high school. See if your high school administrators or teachers have any connections to companies that are offering internships. Your high school probably has the resources and connections that will help you get these opportunities, Schawbel says. If they don't, they should be able to point you in the right direction.
4. Apply for an internship online. Internships.com is a source of high school internships. For example, Microsoft offers a paid internship program for 8 to 10 weeks only for high school students. Many of the top colleges also offer internships with online applications. For example, Boston University has a research internship in science and engineering during the summer for six weeks.
5. Do freelance work. Instead of applying to internship programs, Schawbel says, "You can also use sites like oDesk.com and Freelancer.com in order to find work that matches your skills. In our study we found that about 40 percent of internships are administrative, but freelance work is solely based on your skills and you can have more flexibility with where you do the work. Do freelance work in order to build a portfolio that you can use to get into a better college."
> Find an internship opportunity
With some tenacity and skills, high schoolers can get a head start on their career paths via internships and make good impressions on employers. One thing the study shows: the pressure to gain work experience is likely to continue to intensify. Take advantage of resources at your disposal, both in your communities and online, and you will stay ahead of the competition.