How I Got a Paid Internship

💬Student Stories

Getting any internship, especially in high school, is extremely difficult and now tougher than ever before. The selection process is highly competitive, there aren't many companies that provide paid internship experiences, and even then, the experience in itself may be poor and invaluable.

However, getting internships isn’t impossible! I am currently a paid intern for 3 companies (Fiveable included)! Here's my personal story.

💸 How I got 3 paid internships in 6 months

As of now, I'm currently a paid intern for 3 different organizations. Two are educational organizations, and I hope to go into the EdTech industry. For the other, I maintain a WordPress website and support Operations for an organization diversifying business leaders on an international basis.

I started as early as November 2020 when I tried freelancing website work at the local level. It began by reaching out and soliciting services to smaller companies, restaurants, lawyers, and other minor services. I didn't exactly have any valuable work to showcase in a portfolio, so 60 hours of cold-calling, cold-emailing, and about 130 rejections later, I decided that freelancing wasn't the best for me. It wouldn't be until five months later that I realized this was an unsustainable pathway–the reason being that I was only in high school and didn't have anything legitimate and genuine to showcase.

In December 2020, I decided to search for internship experiences on Indeed, a job-searching platform. At this point, I decided it would be best to start with an unpaid internship (while still trying out paid ones) because I thought it might be a better pathway since I still get to work under an official organization. This search continued until early January when one of my 121 applications caught someone's eye! They needed short-term website updates using GoDaddy. Additionally, one of their partner organizations (for who I'm now actually a paid intern) was looking for a long-term unpaid intern to help with website maintenance. The deal was sealed, and I was about to become onboarded.

However, we communicated poorly, and I never ended up doing anything for the internship. I started job-searching again in the meantime and found another small start-up that needed assistance with website development. I replied that I was familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and I was immediately onboarded. I quit the other two internships.

At this point, I was getting pretty familiar with interviewing and applying to internships. Upon deciding that I wanted another internship, I applied to Fiveable's Community Internship and moved on to the group interview phase.

Around this time, the internship from earlier that needed back-end programming work ended up dropping all 6 interns after I pointed out operation concerns that seemed to affect the company on a legal level. I had lost my third internship.

At this point, I was desperate for internship experiences and spent 4 hours preparing for my Community internship interview–I reviewed the job description again and again to see the traits Fiveable looked for, and I went into the Community group interview overwhelmed but ready. Three days later, I found a rejection letter in my inbox, and I felt disheartened. Applications slowed, and the search for internships became stagnant.

However, two months prior, I had secured a Fiveable Fridays, and that came to my door! I successfully led a Fiveable Fridays, to which the Marketing team later reached out and posted the video on Fiveable's YouTube! From there, I believed I could pursue and achieve an internship at Fiveable and support students.

The Community Manager at the time reached out to the CXO of Fiveable, who later reached out to who was then the Student Success Manager, Mikki Bruno, inviting me to apply to the Student Success Internship. Two weeks later, I was accepted, and a week after, I officially started interning for Fiveable.

At the same time, the first organization that I had quit for poor communication wanted to recruit me officially for website work. I took the offer and began a 16-week unpaid internship journey in March. At this point, I was a paid intern for Fiveable and an unpaid intern for a company called Mayshad CHOICE.

I decided it was time to increase my visibility on LinkedIn, one of the top platforms for job-finding, networking, and connecting with people worldwide. I started connecting with people and maximizing the number of invitations I could deliver (100 a week) while continuing to actively utilize LinkedIn as a place to showcase my experiences. I highlighted my internships, volunteer experiences (one of those being the launch of the Community Connector program, which was then known as the Community Engagement Initiative), and other side projects I was working on.

I saw that many companies were posting summer internships in May, so I applied to a total of 62 company internships there. I was rejected from all 62, but I decided it would be best to work with what I had. I decided to quit the internship search and continue to focus on what I had on my hands already.

June 2021 was the month that started showing me the results of my consistent action towards gaining experiences. I received four straight-up internship offers from LinkedIn within 1 week after one of my posts received 15,000 views. I accepted one and declined four (the one being an educational internship that outlined plans to grow exponentially over the summer and into 2022). Mayshad CHOICE, who I was working with as an unpaid intern, offered me a paid internship for this summer and into the fall. And, most recently, Fiveable offered me a transition to the Community as a paid intern working on scaling and building the Community Connector program and increasing engagement and retention numbers in the Community.

I faced 313 rejections in total over the last 7 months, but am now a paid intern for 3 companies, all of which are reaching students and business leaders on an international level.

Below are some additional general guidelines that can help you get the internships you want, based on my own experiences from the last 6 months of internship-searching.

🙏 Create a solid foundation for yourself

Without creating a foundation for yourself, you'll have lower chances of either finding an internship or gaining valuable skill sets specific to your personal and professional growth in your internship.

1. Actively pursue what you want to do 🏃

This might seem irrelevant to the main point of getting internships, but it is the most crucial aspect of the process. By pursuing what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to run a strong race and show your passions.

In order to successfully get an internship, you'll need to actively work towards gaining skills and building a portfolio that can notably supplement your application to companies.

2. Explore your passions 🔥

What are you passionate about? Many students focus too much on what career they want to pursue in high school, rather than exploring their passions and interests. Exploring what interests you is foundational in pursuing what internships you’d be interested in.

If you get an internship but don't value the company's mission or aren't excited about your work, you will not get any ideal internship experiences. In turn, you will be unable to grow in areas specific to your passions.

3. Use every experience as an opportunity for growth 🌱

Throughout your internship and your professional pathway, you're going to hit roadblocks. No one's pathway is linear, and you should expect (and accept!) rejections because they are inevitable. However, take advantage of every outcome–every achievement and every rejection–as an opportunity for growth! Be patient with yourself, and know that the experiences you've gone through this far may help you identify future opportunities.

🌎 Start building your personal brand

Your personal brand is crucial in helping you secure valuable internships worthy of your time. A personal brand is your professional identity, or, in other words, the way people recognize you as an individual. It can be easily related to a professional brand or a company’s brand, such as Fiveable!

Showcase your Growth and your Goals🏆

Using LinkedIn is one of the best ways to showcase what you’re passionate about and how you’ve grown through various experiences, whether it be a volunteer initiative, an internship, or a job. By showcasing your growth, goals, and experiences, you can grow a network and gain visibility numbers.

Share your Passions🙌

Recognizing what you’re passionate about is what you should chase, and any valuable experiences should be what you share with others! If you do not share what you genuinely love exploring and doing, you will not have the experience of sharing messages with authenticity.

Commit to actively exploring and sharing your interests🚀

You grow your personal brand by sharing your interests and passions with others. When you continue to explore your interests, you can share valuable insights with others (using a platform like LinkedIn), learn more, and continue to grow in areas in which you’re passionate.

✋ Seek experiences rather than payments when you start

When you start out, don’t begin by searching for paid internships. You want to optimize and showcase your personal value to companies when seeking paid internships. By gaining experiences with either unpaid internships or other valuable opportunities, you’ll have a lot more to show companies you stand out, therefore getting higher chances of getting paid internships when it’s time.

When you seek experiences over payments, you can also contribute to an official project for an organization, which shows your dedication and aptitude to take on more complex projects and even paid internships.

💙 Be personal, and be yourself

Being genuine and authentic with how you pursue internships, as well as how you apply to paid internships, is the most important thing companies want from you. Companies greatly appreciate when you showcase your abilities and project your aspirations–it shows them why they should pay you for your work!

The journey can be long but remember that if you’re true to yourself, you personalize your internship applications, and you actively pursue your goals, you’ll be able to achieve anything you put your mind to.

Whether you receive or don’t receive internship opportunities, you can do so much! Commit yourself, know your self-worth, and actively grow in all different areas of your life. You got this! 💪

Guide Outline

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