11:00, Paperwork. 1:30, meeting to discuss paperwork. 4:00, put paperwork into a database. 5:00, go home feeling unproductive and unencouraged.
Unfortunately, this is the type of brain numbing schedule that students imagine when they hear “internship,” and even more unfortunately, this is often the type of internship that schools who claim to be innovative and experiential place their students in.
So what’s the solution here? How do we encourage real world experience for high school students without turning them off to the adult workforce? As a 11th grader who has participated in both successful and unsuccessful internships, mentorships, and workshops, here’s my take:
Schools: Let students choose their field. Schools have to stop patronizingly placing students in internships that idealize 9-5 jobs, and pretend like sitting behind a desk is “real world experience.” Allow students to pursue an area that they are truly passionate and interested in, regardless of the hours and income. If the connections in this field don’t pre-exist within the school, support and push students to make the connections and land the internship themselves, because not relying on the system you’ve been raised in to arrange things for you - that’s the real world.
Employers: Open your doors to students, be patient and willing to teach, and entrust them with real work. I promise that students will surprise you with the ideas and perspective they bring to the table when they feel valued as more than mindless paperwork machines.
Students: Seize the opportunity and work hard. What is real life experience? It’s hard work that produces results, not grades. Earn the respect of your elders, and start developing habits of professionalism and efficiency early. Use your individual talents, personalities, and ambitions to truly contribute to the environment you’ve chosen, and watch where it takes you. Intern on.
By: Lucy Manley