How to Get an Internship - A Guide to Starting Your Career Off Right

To get a job at the start of your career, you need to have experience. To get relevant experience in an industry, you need to have a job.


If you are a high school student, you’ve probably heard of this common and frustrating problem from college/university students, older high school students, or online. You may have even experienced this yourself when applying for a part-time job. 


One great solution is to land an internship (paid or unpaid). An internship is a short-term work experience that allows students to gain relevant work experience with a company or organization. Internships are a great personal development opportunity for high school students, since they help you gain skills that can be used in any career. Landing an internship gives you the upper hand when applying to universities, and later, jobs.


For most high school students, it may seem virtually impossible to land a good internship. The process is confusing and difficult, but with the right strategies, you’ll be much more likely to get an internship. We have broken down the key steps to becoming an intern for businesses from startup companies that are in beta testing, to established tech giants like Apple and Google.


The Front Door


Front door internship-seeking occurs when blindly submitting your resume for an internship, without having any connection or referral within the company to vouch for you.


This method is most common, since it is advertised directly by the company to be the location to apply. Online methods that high school students generally use include the careers page of a company’s website and job seeking sites like Indeed.com and Monster.com. The front door requires much less time and effort than the back door, meaning most people who use it apply in quantity, as opposed to quality.

However, to land an internship, you only need one yes. Building and cultivating relationships within the organization you are applying to is a much more efficient strategy to get an internship.


The Back Door


As a high school student, the back door is an under-utilized internship-seeking method that you should most definitely use. The back door method occurs when you have a referral or lead inside the company that can fast-track your resume to the interviewer/hiring manager.

Going through the back door is much less common, especially for high school students, making it the perfect method to stand out among all the other students applying for the internship. The back door is all about connecting with professionals at a company to ensure that your resume isn’t the first interaction that they have with you. 


If you imagine a pile of resumes for a position sitting on a recruiter's desk that are read in order, the top of the resume stack are hiring manager referrals and internal transfers. After that are employee referrals. At the very bottom of the pile, sometimes never looked at, are cold applications and recruiter referrals.

Sometimes, the company may only choose to interview 5 candidates and choosing one. If from the top of the pile they already find 5 to interview, they will never get to you if you submit cold. Finding a job is not like applying to school - not every application is read.

Part 1 - Present Yourself Optimally


Before you even apply for an internship, everyone will look at your resume, your LinkedIn, and your website/portfolio/blog if you have one. 


The goal of the resume is to make it seem like it is not a high schooler’s resume at first glance. Most employers are hesitant to hire high school students, meaning it is important to make a strong impression so they know that you can do the job effectively. Here are some tips for writing a resume: 


  1. Keep it professional. This means using a black, white and/or one additional colour. It is also recommended to exclude pictures.


  1. Highlight up to three relevant skills. Listing too many different skills makes it seem like you are somewhat versed in all of them, but not extremely proficient. For example, a high school student can say leadership, design thinking, and marketing strategy as their three narrowed down skills.


  1. Different resumes for different roles. Hiring managers and employers are looking for a specific skill set that suits the job you are applying for. Ensure that you read over the job description and highlight the skills needed within your resume. The same resume can be used for similar roles at different companies.


  1. Keep your bullet points minimal and concise. Your resume is not showcasing your entire career, but a highlight reel of what you can do. Keep the resume to 3-5 points for recent experiences, and 1-2 for older ones. Adding more bullet points makes it more difficult for the hiring manager to find the information they are looking for.


  1. Add numbers, statistics, frequency, and scale to your resume. Including these metrics help show that you can deliver results and explain the importance of different tasks that you did. 

Before:
Completed first editing pass on articles.

After:
Reviewed and evaluated 40-50 topical articles per week and made the decision to either pass articles to the editorial team or send articles back to authors for further revisions.


For a more thorough overview of what to include in a resume, visit Jobscan.co, a website with great e learning resources.


Creating a LinkedIn profile is also a key step to establish legitimacy and is a core method to connect with professionals and hiring managers. Ensure that you have a cover photo and headline, and make sure to write about who you are, and what you do to help in the “about” section.


Part 2 - Capturing Opportunities


After setting yourself up to be presentable to hiring managers, the next step is to find and create internship opportunities. You need to do the work to find the jobs you want. This is the most time consuming part. No one not looking for internships are aware of internship opportunities. 


The key to building connections is to always add value. Without this, your network, professionals, and hiring managers will be reluctant to spend their time helping you. 


The first thing that you can do is reach out to individuals in your network and ask them to introduce you to someone else, whether it's a hiring manager or employee in a similar role that you want at a company. Your network can include teachers, friends, parents, alumni of organizations you are a part of, managers, and bosses. Always make it as easy as possible for others to introduce you by speaking casually, including exactly who you want to talk to and why, and sending a short blurb about yourself that they can pass along to others.


If you don’t have anyone in your network that works, you can also use other strategies to attract the attention of hiring managers by engaging with them or creating your own content. 


The best way to make yourself noticeable to hiring managers, or anyone that you want to connect with, is by interacting with the content that they are producing. Follow hashtags on social media platforms (especially LinkedIn) that you are interested in, such as #business, #technology and #entrepreneurship. Consistently commenting on top posts under these hashtags by adding to the conversation will get you noticed by other professionals that also follow these hashtags. Some examples of ways you can add to a post include: 


  • Commenting your key takeaways on work-life balance
  • Asking for more information about an online workshop that they are hosting
  • Sharing your own student success story under a post about perseverance


Another way that you can continue to add value is by becoming a content creator yourself. Creating posts yourself helps showcase your own knowledge and expertise with a topic. Some ideas of what you can post about include:


  • Time-management tips for virtual high school
  • Why you want to learn more about high school entrepreneurship
  • Fundamental marketing plan concepts


After there is mutual engagement, for example, someone comments on your comment or you have added value a few times to the content of your target hiring manager, you can send a Linkedin connection request. This request will no longer be cold as they likely recognize you from their notifications. You can then ask if they are looking for interns and send your pitch on how you can help them. Make sure to sell yourself!


What’s Next?


By doing this, you’ll be able to discover internship opportunities that didn’t even exist before, helping you gain more experience in the real work force.


Reading this blog post puts you halfway there. Now, all you have to do is just get started!


Related Posts

Get more information on BETA Camp, invites to information sessions, and reminders for deadlines

If you're a parent, make sure you forward this information to your teen!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.