Many families flock to Silicon Valley with the lofty idea that its innovation and spirit of work will rub off on their children’s academic experience. Commuters see major companies and startups throughout the city on their daily commutes. However, despite being surrounded by an abundance of companies, these corporations can still seem aloof and intimidating to high school students who want internships. In most cases, companies will not advertise internship opportunities for high school students. However, this does not negate the possibility of openings for high school interns.
“Even if companies say that they do not want to take any more interns, they realize that when you contact them that they are getting an intern who is passionate enough about the job to take action,” said senior Thomas Chapman, an intern at Issuu, a digital publishing platform company.
Senior Eli Zucker, a summer intern at NASA, attributes his success with taking initiative.
“Being proactive is extremely important in getting internships. It’s a way for them to filter out who is truly interested and also shows that you can get things done.”
According to Zucker, another contributing factor to obtaining an internship is making connections. Zucker initially applied for a summer internship at NASA through the student work opportunities tab on NASA’s website, but never heard back from the company. Instead, he found an internship by contacting specific departments separately.
“For NASA, you need a connection to have any chance at all,” Zucker said. “Everyone I know with a NASA internship did not apply through public channels.”
Fortunately, living in Palo Alto provides students with opportunities to make more useful connections than the average high school student living in the United States. Overqualified Paly teachers, classmates with Stanford professors as parents or tech cafes like Coupa Cafe and Hanahaus give students plentiful opportunities to expand their networks.
Although networking proves to help in landing an internship, there is not an iron rule saying you need connections to obtain one, according to work experience teacher Meri Gyves.
“I feel that having networking abilities are very important, but it’s not the only ability. Your ability to research a company and know a lot about that company gives you a heads up also, even over networking.”
Gyves said students can begin their internship inquiry by researching an ample number of companies they would be interested in working for and then follow up by cold-emailing these companies. These cold emails involve sending these companies an email explaining why you are interested in the job, explaining previous knowledge you have in the field and attaching a resume or portfolio of accomplishments.
Internships can serve as an effective connector between securing a future occupation and going to school for a particular interest. The accumulated experience gained from an internship allows students to explore their passions, discover their talents and decide whether to pursue a career in the field of their internship.
As an intern, Zucker got to attend conferences with researchers and professors who were developing future launch plans and demonstrating cutting-edge technology. Across the desk where Zucker worked was a team developing an elastic structure to cushion Mars landings. Zucker said having the opportunity to observe top-line professionals was both motivating and inspiring.
“My internship was the time I was completely surrounded by scientists,” Zucker said. “I wouldn’t say it helped me discover a specific field that I’m interested in, but I know I definitely want to be in that type of environment.”