This is a guest post by Aja Frost student for Student Stories.
Most eighteen-year-olds spend their last summer before college getting in as much home-cooked food, unforgettable experiences, and time with their high-school friends as they can fit into ten weeks. However, some—like me—were eager to start gaining practical experience and making career connections. Although I knew missing my last summer at home would be difficult, I decided that the practical benefits of interning before my first year at school were worth the sacrifice.
The only problem was, who would take a recent high-school grad when there were so many people already in college equally willing to work and way more experienced?
My best bet—and to all the high-schoolers out there, yours too—was to find an internship not through a career website or application process but through those I knew in real life. I started by emailing all of my parents’ friends, asking not only if their workplace needed free labor but also if they knew anyone who wanted some help. Then I expanded my search, calling on former teachers and Mock Trial coaches and distant relatives.
Pretty soon, the offers came in. Thanks to my efforts, I had options! Ultimately, I chose to intern for one of my godfather’s friends, a woman who had just started her own Ed-Tech company. She wanted me to run her Social Media accounts; as I’m constantly on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, I thought the opportunity sounded perfect.
Because I didn’t have any “real-world” skills or college experience to recommend me, I knew that I would have to quickly prove my worthiness. I asked all of the adults I knew what they looked for in an employee besides expertise (which I obviously didn’t have) and made a list of the answers that showed up again and again: punctuality, honesty, maturity, anticipation of needs, and hard work. Although none of these are shocking expectations, it was helpful to have a fixed set of characteristics to emulate. I hung the list up on my mirror so that every night I could ask myself, “Was I on-time today? Was I honest? Was I mature? Did I anticipate my employer’s needs and try to meet them? Did I work hard?” Most of the time I could answer yes to every question… but when I couldn’t, I knew it was time to re-focus and put in a little more effort.
Meanwhile, I was also keeping another list. Each day to work I brought a Moleskine journal, in which I noted every new skill or lesson I learned. For example, on July 6th, 2013, I wrote, “Sat in on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) meeting. Every post should be at least 400 words or it won’t come up as high on Google search results! Make sure….” This helped me keep track of all the incredibly useful but random information I was absorbing. In addition, it’s a great resource for resume bullet points and future, “what did you learn from your internship?” questions.
This year’s internship season is quickly approaching, and the majority of people my age are in the process of finding their first position. I, however, have a clear advantage, thanks to both my knowledge of the process and my work-place experience. All ambitious high-schoolers should try to find a position. Although the search for an internship may be challenging, it will definitely pay off.
About the Author:
Aja Frost is a college freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which Oprah deemed the Happiest City in America. This suits Aja well, as she has been called “aggressively cheerful” and “someone who thinks the glass is 100% full” on several occasions. Her major? English. Everything else? Undecided. Aja does know, however, that her future profession will involve writing–and lots of it. She currently writes for her school’s newspaper, her school’s Her Campus chapter, The Prospect, and four other publications for college students. Besides writing, she LOVES to read. Don’t ask her what her favorite books are, because she’ll request a couple days and then come back to you with a list five pages long and categorized by genre, best time to read, and coolest characters. Other favorite things in life include oatmeal (it’s highly underrated), Anthropologie (overpriced but gorgeous), and gourmet peanut butter (she has fifteen jars and counting.) If you want more weirdness, her Twitter handle is @ajavuu.