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I have been looking at several internship programs that colleges offer. I am leaning towards an IT related internship or summer program. I am not sure if it is worth it to apply to those programs, due to the high cost. I applied to Carnegie Mellon's summer program last year and I did not enter. I assume one of the factors was because I was applying for the finance-aid program, which I most likely do not qualify due to my family's income. So without that financial aid it will be hard to apply to those programs. However, I did not let that discourage me and started to look for IT related jobs around the area.

I have found a few companies are looking for programmers and developers. Even though I am experienced in programming, I do not think I am even close to meeting the job criteria. However, would it be considered as impolite if I sent these companies an email seeking information if they were willing to take a high school intern? I am not really seeking for any paid internships, but more for an interesting summer. What is the best approach to obtain an internship in this field for someone that is not as experienced?

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    Have you talked to your high school guidance counselor? They would likely have information on the types of internships available to you. You also have to consider that companies may not want to deal with using minors for interns due to local labor laws. – Herb Wolfe Mar 9 '17 at 23:13
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    I have talked to my cap advisor and she gave me the list of summer programs out of state. I do see the age as a restraint on my opportunities, but I am not a freshmen, I'll be 18 by the end of the summer. – Pablo Mar 9 '17 at 23:16
  • You mean like careers.microsoft.com/students/highschool ? – enderland Mar 9 '17 at 23:23
  • @enderland that looks really cool. However, applications are due already for that program. – Pablo Mar 9 '17 at 23:25
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    (Almost) never hurts to ask. – Teacher KSHuang Mar 10 '17 at 8:36
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Go for it.

The worst that will happen is that you won't receive a reply, or you'll get a polite rejection.

So long as you're not being rude, sending offensive objects, or persisting when they've told you to stop, sending them a letter/email is going to be seen as nothing worse than standard mail they recieve in the course of business.

There are several good reasons to do it:

  • You'll get practise letter writing
  • You may land an internship or job
  • You may get some feedback on how to be more employable.

What you might want to do to increase your chances of success, is check the company's website to see if they already have information about their internship program, before sending an email blindly.

If they don't have any information - by all means, send an email.

I would suggest a process like this:

  1. Go to the website of the company you are interested in working/interning for
  2. Check the website's internship program, if they have one. If they do, follow the steps there to apply.
  3. Check the website's careers section, see if they have any junior roles open. Apply there, if they do.
  4. If they are advertising no internship program or junior positions - send them an email outlining who you are, what your situation is, and express that you're interested in any internship or junior positions. Don't make mention of pay or not - let them come back to you about that.
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    Do you think I should specify that I am not seeking for pay? or should I not mention pay at all? I was also thinking of mentioning how I am inclined for a programming internship, but open to any related position, since I don't have much on my resume related to that. Maybe a developer's assistant? I am not sure how that position system would work – Pablo Mar 9 '17 at 23:42
  • @Pablo I updated my answer. – dwjohnston Mar 9 '17 at 23:48
  • I will definitely follow your tips! I will include an initial general overview of my situation and then provide more information if they show interest. – Pablo Mar 10 '17 at 0:06
  • Seconding the advice to go for it! At my work we had a really impressive high school student apply for an internship and the only reason we turned them down was because they only had a couple of months free and we needed at least 4 months to bring them up to speed. We asked them to come back and apply again when they're in university and can take a longer work term. – Mel Reams Mar 10 '17 at 5:19
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    @Mel Reams me I ask what is it that made them great candidates? – Pablo Mar 10 '17 at 11:08
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I was going to add this as a comment to dwjohnston's answer which I completely agree with. So first off: yes, absolutely do this. What I want to add is what it looks like from the other side. In my case, from the perspective of a software developer that was involved with a small-ish US contracting company and was heavily involved with hiring.

To begin, in my opinion, the largest costs of an intern is in the form of the time taken away from other employees training/coaching/mentoring them (at least in the field of software development). So even an unpaid intern isn't "free". We paid all our interns, but even free I suspect interns are a net loss in the short-term typically. The good news here for you is that a paid internship is quite likely if you get an internship at all. The bad news is that it can be difficult for a company to take on interns even if that intern seems like a great match. In my case, since we were usually subcontracted ourselves, in many cases it wasn't possible for interns to be billable meaning they would need to work on internal projects or projects that didn't essentially bill through. That means, while every hour I worked paid for itself, an hour worked by an intern did not which leads to cash flow issues. This is just another way of saying that hiring an intern can be difficult regardless of the quality of the intern.

The typical response for anyone who doesn't get past a resume screen is a polite, generic rejection or no response at all. This is what you should expect from most places you apply to. For the reasons I listed above and others, the answer will often be "no", and this is no reflection on you. However, if you applied to the company I was a part of, since we didn't have an HR department, it would be handled by someone like me, and I'd say the following more or less describes how any of the people filtering resumes would likely respond.

If your application didn't come across as a completely generic application that you were just spraying everywhere, you'd very likely get a personalized response from me. It would likely be a "no" for the reasons I mentioned above, but I'd certainly give you advice on when would be a better time to apply. I'd inform my coworkers about you or annotate you in our recruitment tracking system so that your resume wouldn't be filtered out if you applied later. I'd also give you advice on topics to self-study or focus on both for the career field generally and in ways that would make you a better fit if you did apply later. To be frank, initiative is so rare, that it is a huge plus to demonstrate it.

  • Do you think I should send me resume right on the first email? Or should explain my situation first? Thanks for the advice by the way. – Pablo Mar 10 '17 at 10:49
  • @Pablo If you are going through a formal application process, just follow the rules which usually includes an optional cover letter which you should provide in your case. Otherwise, your initial communication should include all relevant information, so definitely your resume. The cover letter should explain your situation, explain your goals, and explain why you are applying to this particular company. The cover letter should be roughly half a page, max. Your resume should also briefly explain your situation, since the cover letter quite possibly won't be read, ... – Derek Elkins Mar 11 '17 at 1:21
  • ... and include the days/hours you can work. The resume should be skimmable and less than a page. Basically, assume you only have a couple of minutes of reading time before the reader decides to move on. If you're just emailing a "jobs@" address, then your email will effectively be the cover letter, and you should include or attach your resume. If you do get a personalized response, unless there are questions or statements to the contrary in the response, it is not an invitation for a conversation. You should respond with a polite and ideally sincere "thank you" email but that's it. – Derek Elkins Mar 11 '17 at 1:21

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