It looks like we’ve got a lot of ambitious teens out there, judging by the number of high school students who have been asking whether Internships.com can help them find an internship. And the answer is yes — although not all of your dream internships will be willing to take someone so young.
We know that teens can and do take on internships. There’s proof on this blog, where we’ve recently featured a 16-year-old fashion design intern and a high schooler interning for KCOH radio in Houston. So here are some pointers for finding work experience before you’ve hit college.
- Avoid listings that specify “for college credit.” This should be a no-brainer, but for-credit internships are almost never flexible. Most internships that require college credit to be received do so because they’re unpaid, and would otherwise be in violation of labor laws.
- Consider government internships. Various federal bureaus and agencies seem to run internship programs that are open to younger applicants, like the CIA’s Undergraduate Scholarship Program and the Congressional Page Program. These programs typically choose interns well in advance, though, so they may not help this summer.
- Search for internship programs, rather than individual internships. Try including the word “program” in your searches. Established, structured and long-standing internship programs may be more comfortable with accepting younger applicants than employers who have never hired an intern before and aren’t sure what to expect. In addition to the government’s internship programs, some well-known employers like the Smithsonian Museum and Microsoft offer internships for high school students. The Rochester Institute of Technology has also compiled a running list of internship programs for high schoolers interested in the biological sciences and medical fields.
- Think local. If you want to learn more about broadcasting, try dropping by your local public access channel or news radio station. Even if they don’t have formal internships, they may be able to use the help of someone who’s passionate about their medium and willing to put in hours after school. If you’re a tech whiz, hit the message boards and see if there are any startups in your area that need help. If you write, check the local newsstand publications and get in touch with an editor. When you look independently, always remember to ask “Who could really use my help?” just as much as “Where would I love to work?”