The high school startup job market, and why it should exist

The bar to enter college is getting higher and higher. These days, high school students are expected to not only take college level courses, but also do things that show they have extracurricular skills as well, in order to gain acceptance into top rated schools. While most show this skill by playing an instrument, or a sport, or starting a club, some students are actually starting companies. And not companies that do small, boring things. These are companies that can shape the future of the world, such as Erik Finman’s Botangle and Jason Marmon’s HomeSwipe.

Not everyone can come up with an idea and stick with it long enough to start a startup. Especially high school students, who are constantly pressured by their parents and peers to focus their attention on ways to get into the right college. But, there are lots of high school students who do not want to play sports or do clubs, and want some way to get more involved in the industry they are thinking about entering, without starting their own company. So, most of these students go asking companies for internships, from startups to large corporations. But, without many projects or a degree to back up these students’ application for a particular role, they are usually rejected. So, ideally, if these students can’t get jobs at companies where the employees work full time on making products, they would try and join their high school friends who are trying to start companies, and learn the skills they need while providing needed support to a small startup, right?

Wrong. This rarely ever happens. And in the end, this leads to brilliant high school student run startups dying out from lack of coordinated group effort towards the idea, and lots of high school students unhappy and upset at their lack of internship opportunity that drives them to apply for expensive and quite generalized summer courses, such as those offered by Cosmos or SUNY Stonybrook.

But why is this? What drives high school students away from helping their peers start amazing startups? It all comes down to legitimacy. High school students have this perception that these high school startups will lead nowhere, and that these “companies” will simply exploit their work.

Yes, this does happen. But, this happens in many paid startup gigs run by adults too. In fact, even more so. I was once offered a job where I was to be the sole developer building an iOS app, without any compensation until I finished the app, and without any written guarantee saying that I would receive this compensation. And this is still no big deal. I’ve heard lots of stories revolving around startups that act as if they will hire and compensate you, when really, they steal your work, and large corporations that advertise internship programs for high schoolers that give these students real involvement in the company, but instead, assign them secretarial roles or small projects completely unrelated to the company’s objective. The point I’m trying to make is that legitimacy has everything to do with the goals of the company and your hypothetical position within a team, rather than the age of the people involved.

So, if you’re in high school and looking for work in your desired area of study or interest, your high school friends want you! Some may not pay you at first, but you would be the one of the first people working on the startup, giving you much more real experience and compensation over time than any internship.

If you’re interested in seeing the jobs offered by high school startups, please check out the High School Entrepreneurs Facebook and Medium page for opportunities.

For those of you who are the creators of high school startups and need people to work with you, post your job opportunity on this form!

Let’s make those amazing high school startups succeed, while providing high schoolers the skills and experience they need. High school students sometimes have better startup ideas than adults, so let’s come help make them a reality!