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The Value of a Summer Internship for Teens

By Sophie Borden
The Value of a Summer Internship for Teens

High school is the perfect time for a teenager to intern: teens aren’t presented with much financial responsibility, have several months off from school, and are eager to gain some work experience before college. A summer internship can benefit your teen in both the short and long term.

Immediate Benefits
In the short term, a summer internship helps teens further understand their goals for college. While most teens are under qualified for professional jobs before college, a summer internship can get them “in” with a company and provide them with professional experience. Not to mention, beginning to build a resume in high school sets teens apart from their peers. Future employers are looking for as much professional exposure and experience as possible – and an internship counts!

Every summer, TeenLife hires high school interns, and the experience is positive for both the company and the student. Nate Giess, a past TeenLife intern, recalls, “As a future business student, I found it fascinating to both observe how this growing media company functioned and to be a member of a team creating a real product. Working in an office was like living in a case study, as I was able to learn from observing the work place. But I was also a member of the team, which helped me understand the goals and challenges of the company.” Nate finished his summer internship with a clearer vision of his future career in business through real-life experiences.

Sarah Burrows, Director of Internship Programs at Lasell College in Massachusetts, is a strong believer in the importance of internships, even if they are unpaid. She encourages students to pursue an internship, even though “many teens are reluctant to do an unpaid internship.” She goes on to explain, “But what [teens] gain is marketable experience, which will enable them to land a job later. There are federal labor laws governing unpaid internships, so participants should know their rights as well.” Current labor laws state that if an internship is unpaid, it must contain a learning aspect and be beneficial to the intern. These laws protect teens from being treated like an assistant, instead of a professional intern.

Long-Term Benefits
In the long run, internships are an important way to meet and interact with adults in a professional setting. Burrows highlights, “Getting to know adults other than teachers and parents is a growth opportunity. A teen may come to see that their parents aren’t really that crazy, compulsive, or rules-driven, as their boss at an internship.” It is important for teens to know how to dress, act, and talk around employers before they enter the “real” workforce after college.

Other benefits of teen internships include:

  • Connecting academics with real-world experience
  • Developing 21st century skills and marketability
  • Identifying with a mentor
  • Creating a personal portfolio of projects and work
  • Increasing self-confidence
  • Contributing to a business organization
  • Building a professional network
  • Enhancing future employment opportunities

Burrows emphasizes the importance of an intern’s attitude in the workplace. She calls this “Maximizing Opportunity,” explaining in a Lasell College informational pamphlet, “To make the most of an internship, a student needs to maximize the opportunity. Ask questions; show up on time; dress for success; take initiative. Prove to your supervisor that you are interested not only in your future, but the organization’s future. Prove to your employer that you are worth mentoring and taking on responsibility. Every day matters.”

Before a student enters an internship, they must think about their goals, which include self-knowledge, self-assessment, and self-confidence. In other words, teens must know what they like, know what aptitudes they have and at what they excel, and feel optimistic that they can make a difference somehow, someway, somewhere. Being engaged at an internship is important for a teen’s professional and personal goals.

Choose Experience Over Money
Whether teens earn money or not, at the end of the summer, they will have experienced a work environment like never before. After an internship, your teen will be able to build a better resume, gain understanding of a particular career or profession, and have more confidence in their abilities. No matter how big the company is compared to the intern’s role, he or she is an important piece to the professional puzzle.

Remind your teen to thank their employer and coworkers when their internship is completed! A colleague or boss during the teenage years will undoubtedly provide important references in the future.