High school students are beginning to understand what undergrads already know about internships—they enhance the resume, help develop job skills, and can be the source of all-important recommendations for the future.
While undergrads are usually first in line for the best internships, many local college-bound high schoolers have signed up for summer internships at a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations.
These assignments can be as short as a few days or can last an entire summer. Some come with stipends, but most are unpaid and provide other kinds of “experiential” rewards such as ideas for science fair projects or opportunities to learn marketable skills.
Wherever you land this summer, make sure your time is well spent by keeping in mind these ten “internship success” tips:
- Dress for success.
If you want to be taken seriously, work on developing a “professional”
image by dressing the part. How you look suggests level of maturity and how
ready you are to assume responsibility.
- Arrive early and stay late. You’ll make a positive impression if you’re
ready to work a few minutes early and don’t rush out the door at the end of the
day. It’s all about attitude. If you convey that the work is important to
you, you’ll gain the respect of others.
- Check the handheld at the door. Your friends can wait. Sneaking a peak at text messages or succumbing
to the distraction of a buzzing Blackberry will lose you points among
co-workers. Wait for agreed-upon breaks
to post updates on Facebook. Better
yet, wait until the end of the day and do it on your own time.
- Ask questions and take notes. Show interest in the overall mission of the
organization and try to get up to speed on ongoing projects before starting
your internship. Remember that writing down what others say shows you’re
unwilling to run the risk of forgetting something.
- Be upbeat and friendly.
Make it a point to keep energy levels high, acknowledge people, and be
friendly. View each assignment as a
learning opportunity and never communicate boredom or displeasure by look or
- Network and develop relationships. Don’t be shy about
interacting with your supervisor/mentor as well as co-workers and other interns. Volunteer for projects and assignments. Your curiosity and enthusiasm for the work will
be remembered long after you leave.
- Improve skills.
Whether it’s writing, speaking, editing, or anything specifically
job-related such as learning new software or a programming language, consciously work to upgrade skills. These kinds of talents will not only support college aspirations but may also make you more employable in the future.
- Stand out through the quality of your work.
Do a good job, ask questions if you’re unsure, be on time with assignments, and
always do the best possible job—a good attitude speaks volumes and may be
rewarded with strong character references.
- Be careful with social media. How your co-workers view your social media
posts will have a huge impact on how they view you as a person. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just
because people aren’t “connected” with you, they won’t see your posts or photos—this
stuff lasts forever and can sometimes be found in strange or unexpected places.
- Ask for a recommendation. When your internship is over, ask your mentor, supervisor or someone you worked closely with for a letter of recommendation. And then be sure to keep in touch. You never know when that extra reference or recommendation might come in handy.
Note that most of these tips are applicable in other kinds of “employment” situations. Whether you’re flipping hamburgers for the summer or doing community service, take pride in what you do and how you do it! The contacts you make this summer can be the beginning of a network that will last a lifetime.