Internships aren't just for college students

Published On: Apr 01 2014 02:34:41 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 02 2014 07:55:00 AM EDT

Lane Sutton is a popular face at his high school.  And between schoolwork, his duties as class treasurer, and other extracurricular activities, he's a popular face in the office, too.  Sutton recently learned the ropes in the "real world" as a marketing intern.

"I was able to see all of the components of a company working together," he said.

A lot of students are getting are getting an early start in the workplace.  According to a recent study,  nearly 50-percent of all high school aged respondents are doing internships.  And they aren't just serving up coffee or shuffling papers.

"Companies are looking to tap this, this new generation in order to fuel what they do with technology in the work place.  Seventy-four percent of those companies surveyed said that they're recruiting social media marketing interns," explained Dan Schawbel with Millennial Branding.

Sutton says as an intern, he put his social media skills to work, tracking the company's online engagement and interaction.  And, he encourages others to intern, not just for the work experience, but also for the connections.

"The other colleagues and people you meet from it. You never know how those connections can get you really far in life and in your future," Sutton added.

Developmental Psychologist Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell believes the benefits of interning in high school go beyond networking.  She says students develop skills like organization and strategic thinking that they can't learn in a classroom.  And, for high school kids, internships are less about finding a career track and more about finding themselves.

"They begin to know who they are, what their abilities are, and they begin to believe in those abilities. So that they can go out and meet whatever goals they set," she said.

The internship coordinator at Sutton's high school, Lori Curtis, says that result is clear among her students.

"These students come back to school and they're more focused, they're more excited about what they're learning.  Suddenly, the real world is real to them," Curtis explained.

But with all the pressure on high school students today, is an internship just one more thing to worry about?  Price-Mitchell discourages kids from looking at them as resume builders.

"The drawback here is that we look at internships like we've been looking at community service, so that you have to have one in order to get into college, instead of paying attention to the meaning behind the work," said Price-Mitchell.

Sutton says in today's competitive world, every activity, including an internship, helps.

"You have to differentiate yourself and, you know, that's why its so important to do a lot," he said.

Price-Mitchell says the right internship involves three things:  The work must be meaningful, it should provide some real-world challenges to the student, and there should be adults in the office willing to mentor the intern.

Learn more about internship opportunities at internships.com.

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