Landing an Internship as a High Schooler; you are not limited to the classroom
I hate math class. Like hate math. And math hates me. Does that make me a bad student? Does my C in precalculus define my intelligence? Were my sophomore biology days reflecting my fate in the real world?
No. Absolutely NOT.
You know why? Because I can write a killer essay for AP Lit and I spend my afternoons working for professional designers and mingling with architect venders.
I am sick and tired of watching kids around me feel like shit because of their GPA. So before you even get the chance to say “But I won’t get into college if I don’t have good grades”, listen up kid! Yes you will! There are alternative routes. You need to have passion, hard work, and a bit of dedication, but you can thrive outside of the classroom.
The best advice I can give comes from my own experience. I am currently interning at Mosaic Design Studio, an interior design firm specializing in five-star senior living facilities. Yes, somedays I run to get my boss coffee. But at least I don’t raise my hand when I have to pee!
Here’s the thing: you don’t just get hired as an intern because they want free labor. While it is amazing for a professional to use you for their dirty work (and I will fully take advantage of this someday), businesses don’t just want anyone. They want a mature, hard-working, interested individual who is willing to learn.
I make a lot of mistakes. So has everyone before me. But each and every one of those mistakes is preventing me from faults in the future. It’s a win-win situation, the office gets your services and you get the experience. Internships are hands down the most effective way to dabble into the real world, amp up your resume, and get you a killer reference letter in the future.
So, how does one do this you ask?
Step One: Use Your Resources
School counselors aren’t helpful for a whole lot, but when it comes to internships they can be. Talk to your counselor about what it takes to incorporate an internship into your high school schedule. For me, that meant getting classes out of the way early on to have the open space. Your counselor can tell you the requirements and may even know of a match for you.
It’s also extremely important to network. A family friend of ours is a contractor, therefore he uses interior designers. That was how I was able to reach potential firms looking for help. Talk to your friends and family, they may know someone who knows someone!
Step Two: Plan Your Schedule
Be sure to think about when you can intern. I knew that I wanted the opportunity during the school day of my senior year, so I made sure to complete my credits after talking to my counselor. That allows me an open study hall in the afternoon. Do you want to intern after school? Everyday? Just a few days? Be sure to figure out these details and maybe even well in advance. I began planning my classes around a potential internship sophomore year.
Step Three: Find Your Area of Interest
You are not supposed to intern for your dream job (I mean if you do, you’re thriving). I don’t particularly want to go into commercial interior design as Mosaic specializes in, but it’s teaching me valuable tools in the industry and giving me an idea of what I don’t want to do. That’s equally, if not more important than knowing what you do want to do!
For example, say you would like to intern in photography and your ideal job is to shoot Weddings and own your own studio. If a local boutique is looking for social media help, this could be a great fit! They will want to use your photo and aesthetic talents while you gain experience in another area. This diversifies your portfolio and challenges your creative abilities.
Step Five: Research
Whether you landed a particular gig or are deciding between a few, it is important to educate yourself on the brand you are working for. Check out their website. This may include their portfolio, products, awards or other key parts of the job. Go into your first day with background knowledge to make sure and let the employees know you are invested. You may also want to browse their social media pages or read news articles related to the company.
Remember: First Impressions are Everything
Wear your best shoes and hold your head high (I am a firm believer that to dress for success is everything, look good feel good!). Don’t let intimidation get you down, employers looking for interns know what they are getting themselves into. Their job is to teach you. Just be yourself and go with the flow.
Also Remember: Keep at It
For the first few weeks or even months you may feel anxious, excluded, or lost. Give it some time. It’s strange for the employees to have such a younger worker around, but if you’re doing your job right they will warm up!
I was so paranoid at the start. Every time I messed up it would freak me out. But no one has ever gotten mad at me or wanted to fire the unpaid intern, they are constantly educating me.
It’s kind of like the first day of school. Everyone already has their friends and you feel like the outcast. After your co-workers have gotten to know you better and see the work you are able to do, they’ll be inviting you to the office Christmas party!
A high school internship has saved me from the pain of sitting through four more class periods full of information I don’t want to learn and people that I don’t fit in with. I now know so many terms related to the design field, have connections to designers, and have been given a hands-on opportunity to what the future may hold. Colleges and future employers love to see your interest and talents being put to work. Those skills are not limited to the classroom.
All the love,