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A Step-By-Step Approach for Students to Get a Summer Internship

Updated: Jul 3

The transition from structured school days to the open-ended summer weeks can feel like falling off a cliff for many students and parents. 🧗🏾‍♂️

With many parents busy working during July and August, teens and young adults may struggle to plan, initiate, and follow through on productive summer plans.

As an executive function coach, I've heard parents express their frustration around this experience:

"I come home and he has spent the entire day on YouTube!"

"I need her to get out and pound the pavement to find a job. I can't have her sitting around the house all day..."

Have you found yourself in the above situation?

If so, part of the solution is engaging your student in the process of identifying an internship or job that is aligned with their interests and skills.

Pro-active parents and executive function coaches know that a summer internship can be a saving grace for many reasons:

  • Provides daily consistency and accountability

  • Enhances time management and organization

  • Boosts confidence and social skills

Today, I will share my four-step process to help students identify and seek an internship that will develop valuable executive function skills and relationships for year to come.

Let's do this.

Why Many Students (And Parents) Avoid Summer Internships

When many students hear the word “internship,” they shudder.

They may imagine mundane tasks like filing papers or placing stamps on envelopes.

They probably don't imagine internships aligned with their strengths and interests, such as:

- Maintaining hiking trails while spending the summer in Yosemite

- Working as a bakery assistant for the Culinary Institute of America

-Volunteering with a community theater production

Not realizing the wealth of opportunities at their fingertips, when their parents say "summer internship," they may balk, "Can't I just have a break after 10 months of school?"

Pushover parents, not wanting to rock the boat, acquiesce, and the conversation ends there.

Or, if the parent is a bulldozer, they becomes insistent and force their student to engage in something that is unattractive, thus spoiling the process.

There is another way.

Research shows that when students self-select their learning opportunities, they are much more likely to engage and succeed.

Here is how you can use this knowledge to guide your student to an enjoyable summer internship.

Step 1: Identify Their “Board of Directors”

All skilled professionals know that the secret to success is to leverage your existing network.

As the saying goes, "Your network is your net worth."

Parents, you have been building an incredible network around your child since they were born. Think of your friends and colleagues -- are any of them:

  • Business owners?

  • Skilled professionals?

  • Educators?

Ask your student the following:

“Who is someone that you know who inspires you because of their work, lifestyle, or character?"

Then, ask them to name a few more.

Instead of starting the internship conversation by asking them to identify a job they have never experienced, guide them identify people who they like or admire.

This builds on their pre-existing knowledge which is key strategy of skilled executive function coaches.

During this step, parents and teachers can help by writing down the names that come to mind and prompting your student to identify at least 5 people they know.

This allows the student to focus on the cognitive labor of thinking about their network which strengthens their executive function.

As they wrap up their list, you can let them know that this list of people is like their personal "board of directors," and explain to them a board of directors are key in guiding great companies to achieve massive success.

Step 2: Set Up Informational Interviews

Now that your student has identified their "board of directors," their next step is to gather information.

Explain to your student that informational interviews are a low-stakes way to learn about different options and don't require them to commit to anything.

If they are nervous about interacting with others, you can share that people enjoy informational interview for many reasons:

- There’s no pressure on the person to offer anything beyond their experience

- People enjoy talking about themselves and their journeys

-The person being interviewed can see the student is curious

Your student may be wondering, "what should I talk about in the interview?"

Have them write out a list of questions they would like to ask or choose 3 to 5 from the list below.

If they are struggling to come up with questions, here are my top ten questions we share with our executive function coaching students at EF Specialists:

1. What is a typical day (or week) like for you?

2. What kinds of decisions do you make?

3. How did you become interested in this field?

4. How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?

5. What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?

6. What advice would you give someone considering this type of job (or field)?

7. What’s your first thought when you get up for work in the morning?

8. Who has been most influential in your career?

9. What has been the most important stepping stone in your career?

10. What do you recommend doing to prepare for an entry level position in your field?

Next, they can choose one person to reach out to from their "board of directors" list and use the email template below to schedule an informational interview.

Sometimes, students may feel anxious about reaching out to someone, so to get them started on the process, our coaches will suggest they just copy the email over and create a template in Gmail.

Step 3: Be Grateful and Useful

After each informational interview, encourage your student to send a thank-you note within 1-2 days to express appreciation for the time and information given.

Depending on the interview’s formality, this could be a brief handwritten note or an email.

By following these steps, students are more likely to:

- Build a powerful network of relationships

- Be invited to internships that may not already exist

- Gain clarity on future career paths

You can download my follow up template by checking out this article.

It's no secret that your student is seeking to expand their range of opportunities so there is no need for them to directly ask for a job or internship.

However, when coaching students, I do recommend that in their follow up they do two things:

  1. Share one of their key take aways

  2. Hint at their desire to to attain an internship in the field (if they are interested)

This might sound like:

"If you have any suggestions for how I might acquire an internship in (choose field), I welcome your input."

This is the exact process I used when:

  • Transition from public school teacher to executive function coach

  • Coaching dozens of middle, high school and college students

Bonus Tip

If your student gets clear on the field in which they would like to complete an internship, have them do some searching by Googling:

(place to intern) + internships

For example, check out the different internships pages here I found with a quick online search:

Of course, this is a very limited list of places to internship, so go make your own list!

If your student would like access to my templates for reaching out to set up informational interview, you can find them here.

In Summary

By nurturing a student-driven process like building a "board of directors" and engaging in informational interviews, your student will:

  • Build a powerful network of relationships that can serve them for life

  • Have a more defined purpose for their studies

  • Build key executive function and social skills

If you are ready to get started, try these three steps:

1. Ask your student to identify 5-10 people they admire or respect.

2. Have them develop a list of 5-10 questions for an informational interview and reach out to schedule an interview.

3. Help them follow up with a note of gratitude and an offer to be helpful if an opportunity arises.

By guiding your student through this process, you’re helping them build valuable skills and relationships that will benefit them for years to come.

P.S. These are skills that executive function coaches work on with their students. If you want to try working on them with your students, consider joining hundreds of other educators and parents who have completed my Semester Success Blueprint Course. In less than 2 hours, this comprehensive course will teach you and your student the system I developed to help hundreds of students learn how to manage school effectively and raise their self-awareness and engagement with school.

About the author

Sean G. McCormick is a former public school special education teacher who founded Executive Function Specialists to ensure all students with ADHD and Autism have access to high-quality online executive function coaching services. 

With this mission in mind, he then founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains schools, educators, and individuals to learn the key approaches to improve executive function skills for students.

He is also the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, a business with a mission to provide adults with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, access to high-quality executive function coaching services that can be accessed through Self-Determination funding.

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