Internship for High Schoolers
What is an internship? An internship is a work-related learning experience for those of you who wish to develop hands on work experience in a certain occupational field. Internships for high school students are not very common in India; but the concept is slowly catching on.
For a start, you could check out www.indianinternship.com, www.india-interns.com and www.hellointern.com – though bear in mind that these are geared towards college students. If you have a flair for writing, you can also check with your neighbourhood newspaper or local editions of large newspapers and magazines.
Another option you have is to intern with research institutions. There are a number of institutes across the country that do work in pure and applied as well in social sciences. Few of these have formal programmes for school students. As M. Vijaya Baskar of Madras Institute of Development Studies explains, “It could be because internships for school students are still a new concept in India. If students are very enthusiastic, they should identify research institutes in their area of interest and write to the faculty there– this approach may open doors.” Please see above for research institutions, including private-public undertakings and independent, not-for-profit initiatives.
For both research institutions and corporates, it may be a good idea to draft a proposal – this not only establishes that you are serious about interning, but also that you care enough to have done the ground work that goes into a project proposal. How does one draft a project proposal? See Box.
A couple of important tips – it is not as much about the brand name of the company or research institute you are interning in, as much as the project you are working on. Ideally, the project should tie in with your interests and demonstrate your passion for the subject. Second, while paid internships are like a dream come true, places that both give you an internship and pay you are scarce. So, do prioritise learning to earning and take up opportunities that will help you enhance your knowledge.
|Drafting a project proposal
Creating a win-win proposal is not easy and will take time – you may have to start work on this a full six months or a year in advance. Your first step should be to identify your areas of interest and think of projects you can do in these areas. Draw up as long a list of such projects as you can, since you will most probably have to whittle them down. For example, if you are interested in biology, draw up a list of research projects you’d like to assist with – independent research projects in research institutes, in pharma companies, in biomedical start ups etc. If you are interested in business/economics, make a list of projects such as market research, economic modelling etc. Next, identify certain people who work in the industry/field of your interest; this again will take time, as you may have to tap into your parents’/ relatives’/ friends’ networks to do this. Once you have identified these people, run your project ideas past them to see which they think has the most potential of being chosen by the company/institute you want to work for. These contacts might also be able to point you in the direction of potential employers, or fine tune your project ideas to what is required in the field at the moment. Next, you should contact the company or institute you wish to work with and send them your proposal. Your proposal will either be accepted, or the organisation will come back with its own proposal of what it would like you to do. Or, you may not hear from the organisation at all – so, it is a good idea to have several irons in the fire! Now, though we have written all the steps in one paragraph, it will become obvious to you as you begin the process, as to how long everything will actually take. Be sure to take help if necessary to draw up a concrete proposal, with a hypothesis, a detailed plan of action, and time lines, resources required (for travel, transportation, etc.) – this makes it easier for the organisation to accept your proposal, or tweak it to better suit their needs.
|On Research Internships for High Schoolers
Dr. Sandhya P Koushika of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, is a veteran of sorts when it comes to working with high school children – she has provided many opportunities for them to get a flavour of what it is to be part of a research environment.
How relevant are internships, at school level, for careers in India?
While students who pursue the IB curriculum seek out internships regularly, the concept is rather new to students in Indian boards like CBSE or ICSE. But rather than looking at internships as a way to enhance his resume value, the student should use this opportunity to gauge his inclination for the subject. Internships give a chance to test out one’s passion and interest and can help a student to decide his future career path. Internships are also a good way to get a taste of actual work life. For example, research may seem very glamorous from the outside, but there is grunt work to be done (like any other profession). One may think people skills are not very important, that one works by himself, but in research also, one has to deal with other human beings all the time! Internships can be quite a transforming experience because of all these reasons, and are hence relevant for students who wish to continue their higher education in India too.
What is the approach that high schoolers should take to find internship opportunities?
Word of mouth is the only effective medium at present – parents can tap into their contact network and come up with a few suggestions. But beyond that, the process has to be ‘owned’ by the high schooler. He has to draft a statement of intent or purpose about his interests and inclinations and possible areas that he can contribute in and then meet up with senior researchers. Speaking on behalf of the academic community, we need to know if the student is genuinely interested or is being pushed by the parent. By showing involvement, as detailed above, a student can establish his keenness and initiative.
What about students whose parents do not have any contacts in academia?
Students could take the assistance of their schools or school teachers. Also, they could contact institutes of higher education in their cities.
Your word of caution
Not all research institutes will be open to taking in youngsters. The duration of internship is fairly short (around two months); this combined with the student’s limited knowledge of the subject and negligible experience means that they cannot be assigned something which is part of a mission-critical project. Most researchers are very busy and may be unwilling to spare the time to engage with a youngster. Again, not all are able to do the tight rope walk of managing a youngster and getting the best out of him while not hurting or damaging his self-esteem.
What, according to you, should be the role of the parent?
Specifically in the context of the internship, parents should let the ‘child be’– provide necessary support for transport and other logistical issues, and be available for any help. They should refrain from micromanaging. The student has to make the internship happen, by convincing the relevant people, and also make it a success by being sincere, dedicated and regular in his work. However, parents can definitely play a role in instilling good work habits in their children. They could help them develop a daily work routine and a mind-set that is akin to preparing for a marathon – steady pace of work rather than a rush just before the exams. If one wants to be a good singer or sports person, one needs to do the same thing over and over again – if parents can prep their children, before interning, on this approach, it will definitely help.