The concept of high school interns may seem strange. Don’t most high schoolers work at fast food restaurants or mow lawns, if they have a job at all? When you think of a typical intern, you probably think of a college student or a twenty-something trying to ease their way into a full-time position. High school interns are becoming more common as the job market becomes more competitive and the demand for more relevant work experience increases.
When I was 17, I got an internship at VYPE Magazine Central Indiana, a local branch of a national high school sports magazine. My dad occasionally took photos for the VYPE magazine and web site, and I jumped on the opportunity to work with them. I was a senior in high school and I knew I wanted to go to college to major in journalism, but I had no idea what I wanted to do within the field. I was really into sports in high school, helping to start up the girls’ soccer team at my school when I was a freshman and running track for three years. I thought that since I loved playing sports, why not try writing about it?
I was one of three interns, the other two being older and more experienced, so I was a bit intimidated at first. I ended up learning a lot from both of them. It was important for me to recognize that I wouldn’t always know what I was doing and that was okay—I was there to learn!
At the time, I wasn’t too keen on the work I was doing. I would often sacrifice my Friday nights live tweeting basketball games, and my Saturday afternoons recapping wrestling meets. I would drive almost an hour to the magazine’s office every Wednesday after school. It took me a while to realize that I did truly enjoy the work I was doing, even if it required me to have a less-than-convenient schedule. Being a high school student is like a full-time job, but with a bit of sacrifice you can have an experience that will pay off for years to come. Perspective is key.
The work that I did at VYPE was the first step to clearing the path to what I wanted to do with my journalism studies, and helped me learn and sharpen my strengths. In addition, it helped me stand out when applying for future opportunities since not many high school students gain relevant work experience in their field so early.
My advice to any high schooler is this: if you have even the slightest idea what you want to do in the future, try to find an internship (or job) relevant to that and take it for a test run. This is a great way to “shop around” and find out what you like and don’t like! Some opportunities you come across may not actually be formal internship programs—maybe they’re job shadowing, or just working a few hours a week. Either way, you’ll have an experience on which to form opinions and make future decisions.
Look for any personal connections that you, your parents, or your friends may have in the industry you’re interested in, like how my dad worked for VYPE. Put yourself out there and (respectfully) ask for work where you have connections! I know that’s much easier said than done, but you’ll thank yourself later. If I can do it, you can do it too.