Not sure what you want to be when you grow up? What if you could give one of your passions or interest a “dry run” before you commit to studying it for four years or more? An internship is a great way to explore a career or field of study before making the larger commitment (both in time and tuition dollars!) to a college major. While most colleges now require some form of internship or workplace experience for their juniors and seniors, getting that same experience in high school can be even more valuable.
Let’s say that you have always wanted to be a doctor (or lawyer, or fashion designer.) You may have volunteered at your local hospital or animal shelter or even been a member of your school’s mock trial or debate teams. While that exposure is helpful, it doesn’t really give you an in-depth look at the daily lives of the professionals. An internship, on the other hand, or even a long-term job shadowing experience, can open your eyes to the good and the bad of any given profession. You may find that you faint at the sight of blood, or that research really gets you excited. Getting that hands-on experience will go far in helping you make informed choices when it comes to selecting both your college and your major. It may also open your eyes to new professions that you had never thought or even heard of!
How do you find an internship? This is where you need to get creative. Many formal internship programs are limited to college students; and some of those are coming under fire for their payment (or lack of payment) policies. For high school students, the best bet is to use local connections. Reach out to parents in the community who own businesses or are professionals in the careers you are interested in. Send them a well written cover letter and resume and express your interest in an internship or job shadowing opportunity. They might have a specific project that’s been sitting on the back burner just waiting for someone like you to come along. Many professionals are looking for interns with social media and computer experience; and you could offer those services in exchange for the opportunity to tag along and learn some of the other aspects of the business.
Your school counselor might also be able to connect you with people in the community who would be willing to host an intern; and while it is unlikely that you will find a paid position, just think of the money that you (and your parents) will by your making an informed choice about both your college and your major.