Experience counts. We can give our children all types of wonderful scholastic learning opportunities at the best schools, but ultimately, there will come a point when they have to get beyond the books and transition into the real crux of life…which is work! None of us want to rush them into the workforce at breakneck speed or anything, but working is what we’re actually developing them to do. In fact, for some parents, the idea of their child “working” is a little scary because they know that their childhood and youth are, in essence, quickly going away. Beyond the sentimentality, though, we all understand the value of good work experience. With that, one of the best work options for a young person is an internship.
Internships are often looked at with a bit more prestige than the job at the local fast food spot, as they are usually earned based on academic performance and perceived potential. Internships also give more concrete experience in a specialized field. These opportunities are designed to give them hands-on experience in the day-to-day operations of an industry. This is why they are so coveted amongst young people.
No doubt, internships offer the type of workplace and industry introduction that most would want for their child and look great on college applications. So, how can a parent help their child to secure one of these awesome internships? It’s actually not as hard as it sounds. Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t discount unpaid internship opportunities. If making money is your child’s key short term work goal, then an unpaid internship may not be the best option. However, if gaining experience is most important than an internship may be more accessible than they realize. Yes, it might feel like “unpaid” means volunteering, but encourage your child to look beyond that and understand the value of the experience. While paid internships are golden, they are considerably outnumbered by unpaid ones.
2. Tell your child to speak with their school counselor. The counseling department at most middle and high schools are usually the first to receive information about internships.
3. Check job posting websites or go to the corporate websites of the companies, in their desired industries, and look through their job listings. If internships are not listed, it’s perfectly fine for your child to reach out to the Human Resources department to find out how they source prospective interns. They may tell your child about the different internships programs that they partner with for filling those positions.
4. Teach your child to be respectful and to handle themselves professionally. This is not something that happens overnight. Soft skills are important because they’ll be essential in the interview process for an internship.
5. Reach out to your network. Someone you know might be willing to give your child a chance to work in their department or company.
6. Work with your child to prepare a resume and a cover letter. Remember, an internship is a real job. Be sure to include basic information on other work that they’ve done, such as volunteering and extracurricular activities in school.
Internships offer your child a real world view of work and an added benefit is they teach accountability to authority figures outside of the parental unit. Most importantly though, with your teen in the right internship, she or he will feel an independent sense of accomplishment and success!