How to Make the Most of a High School Internship

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Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

As you prepare to start a high school internship, there are a few things you should bear in mind. This is true whether your position is paid or unpaid. You’ll want to ensure that your internship gives you the most metaphorical bang for your buck!

We’ve previously discussed ways you can prepare yourself for your internships, but here, we want to elaborate on what you can do during your internships on-the-job.

So what should I, as a high schooler, know before I start my internship?

  1. Have a can-do attitude. Being enthusiastic and ready to learn makes a great first impression. But you’ll want to continue this energy throughout your internship. When faced with an obstacle, start thinking of solutions. If work gets especially busy and someone asks for your help, consider it a compliment that they trust you to help out. Showing dedication to your high school internship will take you far.
  2. Show up on time. One of the easiest ways to demonstrate respect in the workplace is punctuality. It’s worth setting your alarm 15 minutes early or bribing yourself with a treat for breakfast, if that’s what it takes to make it in the door (or logged in at your desk) one or two minutes early. You can even ask a parent to help keep you accountable. Trust me, people notice.

What’s next, after I get there?

  1. Raise your hand whenever you can to help out. First and foremost, make sure you’re finishing the tasks that you’ve been directly assigned. From there, don’t worry if you aren’t given any “real” work or not trusted enough to help on large-scale projects. It may not be glamorous work at first, especially if your coworkers are a little overwhelmed. But constantly exploring how YOU can help the team. That will put you first in line for those prime, fun projects you’ve been dreaming about, when they do roll around. 
  2. Take notes during the first week to help you remember. During the first few days you’ll face a steep learning curve as your colleagues take you through your work. Take the time to learn everything you can well, the first time around. It shows you appreciate the guidance and won’t need to ask the same question four weeks into your time at that job. 

How else can I make my internship in high school really valuable?

  1. Make connections with people. You’re interning for a reason: to learn what it’s like to work there. The best way to gain that insight is to talk to people who are actually doing it. You can ask them how they got where they are, how they feel about the work, and about their personal life and work life balance. Connections that are meaningful are more likely to last. Here are some more tips to help out!
  2. Collaborate. Get outside your comfort zone. Consider consulting coworkers or supervisors with a slightly different job title to see how they might handle a problem. Not only does this show that you respect their opinion and want to learn from them, it may turn you on to an area of the job you had never considered before! And most of all, make sure you follow through on the advice you receive and the projects you’ve been assigned.

Once I’ve done those things at my internship and it’s almost over, what can I do?

  1. Ask for a letter of recommendation when you leave. Right at the end of your internship is when everyone will remember you best. If you’re not sure why you want a letter of recommendation, just schedule 15 minutes to sit down with your boss and discuss what you accomplished, learned, and assisted with during your tenure there. Having concrete details and feedback on your growth is always helpful, and doing so in-person will make asking for a letter even a few weeks down the line much more organic.
  2. Reflect on what you learned. What’s the use of showing up every day for a semester (or a year!) unless you are gaining something to help you in the future? Consider what you liked, what you didn’t like, where you grew, where you struggled, and how you changed your approach to the workplace. Take a few minutes to reflect, say thank you where appropriate, and consider your next steps. This will cement the value of your high school internship for life.

There is always something valuable to take from an experience like an internship, whether that’s one or two meaningful one-on-one interactions, the start of a professional network, or tangible job skills that will rocket your career path. It’s a worthwhile extracurricular to explore your options and solidify your interests.

Are you a high schooler who needs help with the internship search?

Did you know Empowerly offers an internship matching program that helps students find positions at early stage startups? When complete the registration process for this special program, you can get introductions to up to three startups in our network looking for high school interns. They will have business roles available, as well as technical roles depending on your skill set. We’ll help you with resume and interview support from the team to get you ready to ace it.

Want to learn more about Empowerly’s start-up internship matching program and put these skills to the test? Book a consult with one of our team members to learn more about how to enroll and get started today. 

Questions? Let us know!