A High School Student’s Guide to Securing Internships
Boluo School | 2024-03-26 | 5 min read

In today’s competitive landscape, high school students are increasingly recognizing the importance of gaining real-world experience through internships. Not only do internships provide invaluable insights into potential career paths, but they also offer opportunities to develop essential skills, build professional networks, and bolster college applications. However, securing an internship can be a daunting task for many high schoolers. Fear not! With the right approach and mindset, you can unlock the doors to exciting internship opportunities. Here’s how:

Identify Your Interests: Before diving into the internship search, take some time for introspection. Reflect on your passions, strengths, and career aspirations. What fields or industries intrigue you the most? What do you think you’d like to do for a career or major during college? Identify your interests to narrow down your search and target relevant opportunities. 

Research: Once you have a clear idea of your interests, start researching companies, organizations, and institutions that align with your goals. Explore their websites, social media channels, and recent news to understand their missions, values, and internship programs. Make a list of potential employers you’d like to intern with.

Tap Into Your Network: This can be intimidating at first, but it’s essential-reach out to members of your existing network of family, friends, teachers, and mentors. Inform them of your internship goals and ask if they know of any opportunities or can connect you with professionals in your field of interest. Individuals in your network want to help you succeed and can open doors for you that might otherwise be closed.

Craft a Stellar Resume and Cover Letter: Your resume and cover letter are your first impressions on potential employers. If this is your first time writing a resume (which is likely), be sure to do your research and familiarize yourself with what should be on a resume and how to format one. Tailor your resume to highlight relevant experiences, skills, and achievements. Writing a cover letter is often the most challenging part of a job search-even for experienced adults. Consider using an AI program like ChatGPT to help you, but be sure to edit the answer to make sure it reflects you and your experience. 

Prepare for Interviews: Practice common interview questions and scenarios to build confidence. Research the company’s culture, projects, and recent accomplishments to demonstrate your genuine interest during the interview. Ask a trusted adult to role play the interview questions with you beforehand. Dress professionally (no jeans and nothing with rips or tears), arrive on time, and be prepared to ask insightful questions about the internship role. Don’t rely on coming up with questions during the interview, which can be stressful. Write down questions beforehand and bring them with you. 

Consider Virtual Internships: In an increasingly digital world, virtual internships are becoming more prevalent. Don’t limit yourself to local opportunities—explore remote internships that allow you to work from anywhere. Virtual internships can provide flexibility while still offering valuable experience. It might be a good idea to reach out to professionals in your chosen field and offer to be a “virtual assistant” for them. Highlight your skills (research, writing, calculations, etc) that would help lighten their workload. 

Be Persistent and Flexible: Since you’re in high school, this might be your first experience with rejection, which can be painful and disheartening. Try to remember that rejection is a natural part of any job search process. You probably won’t get the first position you apply or ask for and you must remind yourself that that is perfectly normal. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks; instead, view them as learning experiences. Stay persistent, continue refining your approach, and remain open to unexpected opportunities that may arise.

Seek Feedback: If you receive rejections or interviews that don’t result in offers, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback.Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement and refine your strategy for future applications.Demanding to know why you didn’t get the job will likely not result in constructive feedback or any feedback at all. Be sure to ask for feedback in such a way that makes the person want to help you improve and be sure to thank them for their time interviewing you (if that’s the case) as well as the time to provide feedback. 

Follow Up: After interviews or networking events, send personalized thank-you notes (which are now often in the form of emails) expressing gratitude for the opportunity to connect. Following up demonstrates professionalism and reinforces your interest in the internship role. Before sending a thank you email, ensure you know the format of a professional email and thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors before hitting that send button.

Consider Alternative Pathways: If traditional internships prove elusive, explore alternative pathways to gain experience. Volunteer work, part-time jobs, online courses, or self-directed projects can also enhance your skills and make you a more attractive candidate to future employers.

Create Your Own Opportunities: While college internships are common, many companies and professionals may not have even thought to seek high school interns. Entrepreneurs and small businesses often need help but may not be in a position to pay someone. Offering to help via an unpaid internship may open doors for you that didn’t even exist before your search. Can’t find anyone to work with? Consider starting your own business using your current skills. Colleges and companies want to hire people with initiative and few things show a greater level of initiative than starting your own business.

Securing an internship as a high school student requires dedication, perseverance, and strategic planning. By following these tips and staying proactive in your search, you’ll be well on your way to unlocking exciting opportunities for personal and professional growth. Remember, every experience—successful or otherwise—is a stepping stone on your journey toward a fulfilling career. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and keep striving for excellence. Your future self will thank you for it.