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High School Summer Internships

The facts about high school summer internships

  1. Internships designed for high school students are very rare. 
  2. Large/medium size companies and government agencies sometimes have summer internships for college students; you may be able to convince one of those programs to accept you. For the most part, these types of organizations are very bureaucratic and don't have the flexibility to create and manage a short term summer internship program.
  3. Small private companies and nonprofits are most likely to be able to create and manage a high school summer internship program. 
  4. If you are able to secure a summer internship, it was probably designed it just for you because you made a strong positive impression on your sponsor/hiring manager. 
  5. The most likely way of finding a summer internship is through informational interviews.
  6. It may take months to find what you are looking for. For an adult, looking for a full time job is a job in itself, and they are usually going after established roles that are well-publicized. You'll be in the right mindset if you approach this search like it's an elective or independent study.
  7. The best time to start thinking about a summer internship is at the beginning of Winter break. .
  8. Most ad hoc summer internships will be secured by the end of April. That gives the hiring manager about four weeks to prepare your projects. 
  9. There may be no financial compensation. If you need to earn money during the summer, be up front about this after you are confident you have good chemistry with a potential hiring manager. But be prepared to consider a summer job instead.
  10. First, watch these three videos:

How to request an informational interview
How to conduct an informational interview
Informational interview with Nathan Perez

A) Before you begin your search, prepare these items:
1.    Choose one target industry/role.
2.    Resume (see UHS guide to creating a high school resume here)
3.    LinkedIn profile that is an abbreviated version of your resume (last name visibility optional, photo strongly recommended)
4.    List of companies where you would like to work
5.    List of entry level job titles and descriptions at those companies
6.    List of people who work in the industry you are targeting. This can be family friends, classmates' parents, public figures you read about in the newspaper, UHS alumni, or neighbors.
7.    Your summer availability. We strongly suggest you make yourself available for a continuous 6-8 weeks, for 6-8 hours per day. Be able to tell a potential sponsor what weeks you are available while you're in the discovery process. It may make extra work for your employer to put your projects on pause if you need to take a break in the middle of your assignment.

B) How to prepare to request an informational interview
Before you begin, take this to heart: an informational interview is not a job interview. Requesting an informational interview with someone you respect (or with someone whose job you are interested in holding one day) means you're asking to hear their story without pressing your own on them.

Now that you've completed Part A and found the ideal person to speak with, you also need to convince them it’s worth their time. Look up their work history, educational background, past awards or certifications on LinkedIn. Search to see if they’ve been interviewed in the press, featured in an article, or if they have a bio on their company’s team page. When you cold email them, you'll persuade them to say yes if it's evident you've done your homework. 

Building on step A6, make a list of 1-3 goals for the first interview, tailored to your interviewee. It's best to approach your second desired interviewee after the first interview takes place so you can applied what you have learned to the next experience. Each time you approach a new person to request an interview, make a new list of goals specific to that meeting. Everyone’s career is different, so you should make the most of their experiences by adapting your goals according to the research you did in Part A.

C) Prepare questions that you can't find the answers to online
If you ask questions that are easy to find the answers to online, you will make your interviewee feel like you wasted their time; and that you will not be a good investment of their time or a colleague's time as a summer intern.

D) Send the email inquiry.
Start with "Dear Ms. Doe". This email should be about 300-500 words, and ask for a 20-25 minutes of time. Introduce yourself and state your goal(s) for the interview. Attach your resume as a PDF file named "First Last resume". Share your availability up front and make the windows of time very wide. For example: "I'm available weekdays before 8:30 AM and after 3 P.M. Pacific time, and any time on weekends." Whatever you do, don't ask, "Can you tell me how to find an internship?" Also, "I want to ask you about where you got your start” is too generic and impersonal. (Warning: If you miss the scheduled appointment, your interviewee may not agree to reschedule.)

E) Sample script for interview kickoff
"Ms. Doe, I appreciate you making time for me today. This conversation should last 20-25 minutes. I have two goals for this call. My first goal is to learn more about (the field of)_____________ so I can start thinking about what I may choose for my major in college. My second goal is to learn information about entry level roles in (the field of) __________ that will help me search for an internship this summer. If your interviewee wants to make a little small talk, that's OK, but if it goes on too long, politely remind her that you want to stay on schedule to be respectful of her time.

Sample questions
1.    What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for you in your role today? 
2.    What are some big projects you’re working on now or that you’ve finished up in the last few months?
3.    How do you think (the field of ) ______________ will change in the next decade?
4.    I've looked online and identified a few positions like "assistant __________" and "junior________" that appear to be entry level roles in (the field of)_____________. What is a typical work day like for these roles?
5.    What are the characteristics and skills that make entry-level employees in (the field of)________ successful?
6.    Do you have any specific suggestions about areas of study I should seek out as I prepare to 
enter (the field of) ___________?
7.    Closing remarks: Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience with me. May I keep in touch with you? …thank you again.

Pick and choose the questions that are most important to you, and keep an eye on the time. Informational interviews are meant to be no longer than 20-25 minutes, so you'll want to find a logical place to cut yourself off if you notice you're running long. Thank them when you're through—and we mean twice. Say thank you as you say goodbye, but you'll also want to write them a follow-up thank-you note as well.

E) Write a follow-up email within 24 hours
Send an email thanking Jane for her time within 24 hours. Reference specific information you learned during the call. 

F) Keep in touch
Every three to four months, regardless of whether you’re actively job searching or just want to stay in touch, reach out to Jane to check-in via email or LinkedIn. It's good to set a calendar notification on your phone so you don't forget. Ms. Doe may not be able to help you find a summer internship, but she may become a valuable mentor, and she may be able to help you find a full-time job after you graduate from college. 

G) After completing steps A-G and conducting a few informational internships, you may consider approaching a company or nonprofit directly and ask them to convert an entry level full-time role into a summer internship for you. 

Good luck!