At a previous job, a high school internship program was something no one wanted to oversee. One of the issues we had with it was that it came from the top down and we were like “um, we have enough stuff to do, but thanks anyway.”
Another reason we were not interested is because we didn’t have time to waste with high school students when we needed to spend time targeting college students.
The ridiculous part there is, we were being stubborn and failing to consider how engaging with interested high school students might later make engaging with college students easier, but I’ll come back to that.
I remember when the initiative hit my desk and I was like NO WAY! My boss pulled rank though and said his NO WAY over ruled my NO WAY so I was stuck with it.
That meant I had to dig around for any and all documentation we may require for employing high school students; labor laws that mandated what they could and could not do and when they could and could not work; and how to navigate events with minors. Specifically, our annual lake house event. Do the kids get to sign the waiver? Do their parents have to sign it? Does it matter? Etc. All tasks I was not excited about even though I knew that it would be easy enough to find the answers.
Thankfully the first group of high school interns for the program was a small group. The technical mentor was a very knowledgeable employee who really took the time to invest in their learning that summer so that helped a lot too.
My biggest hurdles including incorporating them appropriately into an already established college intern program while making sure they were welcomed, learned valuable things, and had a good experience.
By the end of the summer the high school interns became my favorite interns. They were more dependable, inquisitive, invested, and polite than some of the college interns. (Sorry to my former college interns that are reading this, don’t worry though yall will always be my sweet baby interns LOL #IheartMATLAB…). Anyway, all the interns were great, but the high school interns really showed out.
After that first summer I couldn’t wait for the next round of high school interns. It was also cool that other companies started calling us and asking us how we did it. Since my boss adamantly refused to run the program, I was the go-to for these kinds of questions and I have to admit-that was fun!
Now I get the opportunity to go sit with other companies and help them develop an effective high school internship program. I also help local schools when I can on getting their messaging out to other companies who could benefit from a defined strategic high school internship program. (side note, I do that as much as possible because I remember how much I didn’t want to implement the program so I know I can’t be the only one having that reaction, so I want to help people see the possible end result when I can).
Something I thought would be glorified babysitting turned out to be one of my favorite things to participate in. I also very much enjoy running into former high school interns who can articulate how that experience from our program has helped them on their career path. Once those former high school interns got to college, they willingly became a resource to help with on site recruiting efforts. They basically became built-in brand ambassadors. To be fair, our college interns did too, but there was something to be said about having a brand ambassador on board from the first time they stepped foot on campus.
Moral of the story? Step out of your comfort zone at some point in 2019 and volunteer for something you wouldn’t normally do. If you hate it you never have to do it again, but you might be surprised.