Internship Search Creates Unneeded Stress, Pressure

“So, do you know what you’re doing this summer?”

This dreaded question has begun to bounce around the halls of Boston College … and let me remind you it’s only January.

At BC there are myriad routes students can take to have what is considered a productive summer, but most of them involve one of two things: traveling or interning. It’s almost as if it is socially unacceptable to be taking up your old minimum-wage summer job back home. My boss at the Career Center gave me a look like I had just told her I ate my lunch out of the trash when I said I was considering going back home to the job I’ve held for the past four summers.

Since when has summer turned into a time to see who can make the most money, travel the farthest, or get the most prestigious internship at a popular company in the city with the best nightlife?

The summer break was originally built into the school year to give students a period of relaxation, a glorious three months to refuel so they can come back refreshed, not worn down from 40-hour plus work weeks filled with exhausting busywork.

Part one of the internship fair was last Tuesday, and I was the girl handing you a name tag and ushering you toward the sign-in desk, wishing you good luck as you walked into a sea of a few hundred of your peers. And when I said “good luck,” I really meant it.

Over 750 students and alumni attended that fair in the Heights room, on average you met four employers, and overall you were satisfied with your experience, according to the survey I politely handed you as you headed out of the room looking more frazzled than you did when you walked in.

Not to be cynical or to put down the efforts of the Career Center (don’t fire me, boss), but how much do you think really got accomplished in that small of space and time?

Your resume got placed into a pile along with about a hundred other kids’ resumes (something that could have been done electronically), and your face got mixed in with the hundreds of other students that frazzled recruiter saw that day, that week, or that year, who are all vying for the same position, probably a process he or she went through a mere year ago.

It’s overwhelming when you think about how competitive the internship interviewing process is, especially in a city like Boston with over 250,000 college students all looking for a well-known company name to paste on their resumes. Who really wants to be answering phones, sending emails, and getting other employees coffee for the few months we can actually spend outside here in Boston anyway? I knew BC was filled with a hyper-competitive student body, but students are perhaps even more competitive when they aren’t on campus in the summer months.

It’s as though half the reason people strive for the top internship or the most exotic travel plans is so they will have something substantial to say when the other half of the dreaded question comes around in the fall: “So, what did you do this summer?”

I guess what I’m trying to say is the entire process of both obtaining an internship and actually completing one can be unsatisfying and not worth the few lines it will contribute to your resume. Especially for the younger classes, what’s so wrong with going back home to the job you’ve held for the past few years?

It’s okay to take a step back from the competitive atmosphere of BC and look at your summer from the point of view of an overworked teenager and not from the point of view of your resume or future employers.

When you do begin looking for an internship, though, make sure you realize that it should be about your discovering more about who you are and what you want to do for a career and not about proving to your peers that you can get a better job than them.
I still can proudly say I am considering returning home this summer-and I don’t feel guilty about it.

January 26, 2014