When you’re in high school, having an internship can often feel like a distant dream. You spend your summers working as a barista or a camp counselor in your hometown. If you’re lucky, you may be able to attend a prestigious high-school summer program affiliated with a university to try your hand at different subjects and figure out what you want to study.
When I was in high school, I certainly felt that internships were reserved for college students with years of serious academic experience under their belts. While it may be true that the highly sought-after internships with big companies are nearly impossible to secure as a high-school student, this is no reason to shun the concept of internships entirely.
During my sophomore year in high school, my father told me about a local real estate lawyer who was looking for a part-time assistant while one of her employees was on maternity leave. She needed help with administrative tasks in her office, and having previously worked with my dad, she offered me the position. Given that I was considering law as a potential future career, I decided to give it a try.
Making the Best of Any Task
I started working at the law firm during my second semester, typically spending four to six hours per week there. My job consisted mainly of administrative tasks such as answering phones, handling mail, and making document copies. At first, I was apprehensive. After all, I had never held a real job before, I had no idea how to answer phones or use a fax machine, and I felt like an impostor in this new world of adults. I was very introverted and shy in high school, so the prospect of talking to strangers initially terrified me. Every time the phone rang, I would silently pray that my boss or her second assistant pick it up first.
However, answering phones was my primary task , as I had no legal expertise and could not really work with sensitive documents. With each ring, I grew a little bit more confident. Although the majority of the calls required nothing more than noting down the client’s name, phone number, and reason for their call, I felt like an active participant in the “real world” whenever I would pass a new call sheet to my employer.
After a few weeks on the phone, I received a more exciting assignment: sorting through client files and organizing them in the archives. All the files I worked with were closed cases, so I was able to spend some time reading through them, gaining an understanding of the types of services a real estate law firm offered and the issues that brought clients to the firm. Although I was never entrusted with what seemed to me were more important tasks such as putting contracts together, I did observe h my boss in action, experiencing what working in a small law firm was really like.
Sitting in that office and listening to conversations about sales, permits, and municipal hearings, I quickly realized that I never wanted to be a real estate lawyer. Quite frankly, I found the whole experience to be incredibly boring. However, I don’t regret taking the job and I definitely don’t consider my time wasted. This opportunity allowed me to discover what I didn’t like about the legal profession and exposed me to the type of law that I certainly never wanted to practice. Thanks to this internship, I had a more confident response to the inevitable question all adults asked when I mentioned my future plans: “Oh, a lawyer? What kind?”
Find Out What You Don’t Like
With three years of college and numerous internships behind me, I can confirm now what I had first learned in that law office – figuring out your career plans is as much about what you don’t like as what you do like. Many job opportunities sound fascinating on paper but turn out to be mind-numbing exercises in serving as a glorified office assistant. As a high-school and college student with little professional experience, it is impossible to choose a career path blindly. It is terrifying to commit to something that you don’t fully understand, which is why finding internships as early as possible and trying your hand in diverse industries is so crucial.
For those of you wondering if I stuck to my plans of becoming a lawyer: I did not. I discovered new passions in college, both through my coursework and my internship experiences, which I am hoping to pursue after graduation. However, had I not accepted my first internship offer in high school, I may have spent several additional years thinking that a career in law was a viable option for me. So, given the opportunity, don’t be afraid to try something you hadn’t previously considered — you never know, you may just stumble upon your dream career…or figure out that your initial dream career was a terrible choice and move on to something else.
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