By Gabija Žukauskaitė
Published 2022 11 14
Are you trying to decide between different career paths before choosing a bachelor’s program? There are plenty of ways to get hands-on experience in different fields while still in high school. Probably the easiest way students can easily narrow down and develop career choices is by taking on a work-shadowing or a short internship experience.
Although experience highly varies depending on both the job sector and the exact company, work-shadowing usually encompasses observing the supervisor’s activities during the work day and completing simple assigned tasks. For instance, if you shadow a judge at a court, you may be able to get acquainted with and discuss the case file before the trial, and then attend the real trial as an observer. In other words, a work-shadowing experience does not involve tasks that require special training. It is also worth noting that work-shadowing, as compared to internships, is usually a lot shorter and typically lasts for a few days. Short internships for high school students usually take a slightly longer period of time – from one week to a few months.
First and foremost, direct observation of different jobs provides an understanding of what those jobs look like in practice. For instance, you might have always dreamed of becoming a photographer, but the shadowing experience can make you realize how much time photographers actually spend on editing their photos or sales operations. Or, conversely, the shadowing experience in a completely new field can help you discover career opportunities you have never even seriously considered before.
Work-shadowing experiences will also significantly expand your extracurricular portfolio when applying to top universities in the US and Europe. Built on your insight into the roles and responsibilities in a field, you can acquire new practical skills and thus demonstrate how well a chosen discipline fits your interests, experience, and career goals.
The easiest way to get such experience is via your high school if it offers shadowing programs for its students. Quite often, short internship or work-shadowing opportunities via high schools are organized by high school career consultants/counselors and curated by parents of high school students who are enthusiastic about their job and are happy to supervise students voluntarily. If this is not the case, ask your friends, family, or neighbours if they know anyone working in the field you are targeting.
It is also a good idea to do research on the organizations (or individual professionals) who excel in your dream career field. Nowadays, it is easy to contact pretty much anyone – using LinkedIn or simply making a phone call (you can often find contact details on the company’s website) can help you achieve this. Alternatively, you can invite someone from the field for a cup of coffee to ask a few questions about their job – you will be surprised how many well-known professionals (especially experienced ones) are happy to talk about their success stories. There’s a running joke in the venture capital world: “if you want advice, ask for money; and if you want money, ask for advice.” Similar logic applies here as well: “if you want advice, ask for an internship; if you want an internship, ask for advice.” In other words, reach out to professionals you admire and want to emulate, express your interest in their work and the success they’ve had, ask them for advice over a coffee. Prepare well and ask intelligent questions – blow them away with how far ahead of the curve and how motivated you are, and convince them into giving you a shot at an internship/work-shadowing experience. They’re likely to go for it!
And don’t worry about being too young and inexperienced – no one expects you to have experience. And, if you’re more motivated and a stellar student, employers will sometimes be more inclined to give you the opportunity, instead of less driven local university students they usually recruit. Even if the answer is a “no” (and you can expect many such answers – for each “yes” there will likely be 9 “nos”), you’ve still won – now you have a better understanding of the field and the professional world more broadly, have made valuable connections that will lead to future opportunities, and have challenged yourself in a way that made you grow. Well done!
Here at Atlas, we can help you find connections in your desired field and get both work-shadowing and short internship opportunities. Our former and current students have interned at Nasdaq, a high-tech laser manufacturer, various tech startups, a venture capital fund and several law firms across Lithuania and Germany. You can too!
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