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Should High School Kids Feel Pressure to Do Internships?

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Pressure in high school

College was once a time of self-exploration, intellectual curiosity and good times.

Now, as we all know, it’s more about resume- polishing and internship collecting. And it seems this flurry of career prep is spreading to high schools.

The Rat Race comes to high school

That’s according to a new survey. from Millennial Branding and Internships.com. Released today, the survey asked 4,769 people (mostly students with about 300 employers thrown in) about career preparations and ambitions. The results reveal that pressure to think about resume building and internships is seeping down into high schools.

Have a look at some of the numbers:

  • 60 percent of companies agree students will need to begin to focus on their careers in high school to compete for internships and jobs in the future.
  • 90 percent of companies agree high school internship programs can help students get into better colleges.
  • 89 percent say they’ll have a competitive advantage when looking for a college internship or full-time job.
  • 83 percent said those internships will yield better paying jobs.

Parents, it seems, agree with employers that an early-start will yield benefits. More than half of students (55 percent of high school students and 57 percent of college students) reported their parents put pressure on them to gain professional experience during high school.

It’s no shock that the economy is mostly behind this increased early focus on career. “We found that the two driving factors were their parents and the economy, both of which are most likely correlated,” Millennial Branding Managing Partner Dan Schawbel told Brazen when asked what was behind the trend. “In order to get into a better college, get better college internships and eventually a higher paying job, you need to start focusing on your career as early as possible. Parents see how bad the economy is and want to prepare their children for the worst.”

Is this a good thing?

So should we stand up and cheer that internships and volunteering are inching in on the high school experience, putting a squeeze on pep rallies and studying? Schawbel is optimistic but admits not everyone sees the early focus on careers as a good thing.

“A lot of people are concerned that this study is going to change the high school experience and that they should be partying and having fun. The bad news is that the economy has changed the job landscape and if you don’t react and manage your career differently, you will wind up on the unemployment line. High school students are volunteering and are already focused on entrepreneurship. They can absolutely handle taking on jobs that will help them stand out and grow,” he said.

“Even if they were distracted from academics, we all know that work experience is much more important than someone’s educational background. You hire someone based on prior work experience and if someone went to Cornell but hasn’t even had an internship, they are immediately removed from the pile unless their dad is the CEO!” he added.

Those who see academics as preparation for leading a more thoughtful and fulfilling life, as well as participating meaningfully in a democracy, might disagree with Schawbel. Taking the focus away from studying and socializing is an unalloyed good, but it’s hard to deny that whether we like it or not, career pressure has now reached deep into the high school years.

Do you think internships in high school are a good idea?

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London. She writes a daily column for Inc.com, contributes regularly to Forbes and Women 2.0 and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch and GigaOM, among others.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • College Writingservice

    Good career preparation at high school level!
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  • Rise To

    I understand people’s reservations as it feels like we’re taking away the innocence of youth. However, I’m not the only person to regret not starting earlier, meaning I have to work longer hours to be where I want to be. If I had eased myself into the workplace with the odd short work experience or even a shadowing day or networking events I could have shaped my career sooner.

    It doesn’t have to be boring and hard work either, we personally (not advertising!) run a Social Enterprise Challenge that allows teams of young people to compete and almost forget that along the way they are learning and applying business skills that will separate them from the crowd in future. http://bit.ly/18nWlne