People are starting to look for new internships. But time is valuable, and internships simply may not be providing students with enough in return for the time and energy that they put in.
People envision summer as sandy white beaches, traveling and summer camp. Nowadays, college students are often found scrambling around, trying to get their hands on impressive looking internships. There is immense pressure on students to acquire as many resume-enhancing internships as possible, in hopes of being able to appear more experienced as they enter the real world. With sources like the U.S. News articles titled “Degrees Are Great, but Internships Make a Difference,” this pressure is no surprise. But is this really what is best for our personal and professional development?
Internships might sound impressive, but they also tire already overworked college students out, tend to be unpaid, and unlike some believe, don’t always necessarily lead directly to a post-college career with the firm.
After working a grueling year at Wellesley, it’s no surprise that recharging during the break is a priority. These years are truly the equivalent to running a marathon, so pace and rest are ingredients to success. Students tend to overwork themselves, even during the summer as internships could lead to them burning themselves out.
It isn’t uncommon for students to build up an arsenal of resume worthy internships, and occasionally maybe even with firms in which they have little interest, just to appear more experienced. A lot of times, this may merely be because internships are not available in their field of interest However, selecting an internship merely because it sounds impressive may not resonate as well in a job interview as an activity which a student feels more passionately about.
I volunteered at a clinic as an ambassador for elderly fall prevention last summer and found that much more rewarding than other traditional internships I had done, merely because it allowed me to be hands-on from day one, absorbing more from the scene than from a desk-job. In addition, I was treated as a co-worker, rather than subordinate.
Regardless of the activity, if it is able to highlight desirable personal qualities in the candidate that a “impressive” internship may not be able to show, then the student is probably professionally better off. Employers are likely going to value passion, continuity, dedication, and leadership exemplified through other summer activities more than a one-time internship. The National Association of Colleges and Employed found that there is a marginal difference between those who had an unpaid internship – hired 37 percent of the time, compared to 35 percent who had no internship at all.
Now, for those students who select internships in areas that they do enjoy, there is a common misconception that scoring an internship with that firm will surely lead to a career with them after graduation, handed on a silver platter – but that’s not a given. Even if a summer internship with a firm surely leads to a career, students are often assigned clerical, menial roles in firms. That seductive looking Goldman Sachs internship on Wall Street could involve several coffee runs for superiors, data entry, and photocopying jobs. While my internship with a publishing company did allow me to write for the magazine a couple of times, a large portion of my contract actually involved making tea, phone calls and doing undesirable web research. One of my superiors was overheard at one point instructing his co-workers to “use” us interns to do their “dirty work” before our time with the company ended. It is possible that the time and effort students put into internships may not actually be helping to open doors, or provide an accurate picture of what working in that industry on a daily basis encompasses.
Moreover, the harsh reality is that most internships targeted at undergraduates tend to be unpaid. Most unpaid internships end up costing students more than they earn from them. That being said, there are, of course, internships that do pay, but stumbling across one is comparatively rare at this point in time. For many of us, summer is a time to earn some money to cover tuition, and earn a few extra bucks in our pockets for the financial struggles of daily college life. So, quite simply, students may monetarily be better off working a “low skill” high-paying summer job (such as waitressing), rather than running unpaid errands at your internship. The amount I spent on my internship on a daily one-hour return bus ride was severely more than the remuneration I earned from doing it. Both options, presumably, provide plenty of real world experience – and the former, perhaps, additionally provides a more holistic, humbling perspective.
Internships are viewed as being almost essential for every college student’s resume, but there are ways around this. Substituting a resume with more rewarding jobs and activities could potentially save a few thousand dollars or provide greater insight into the workings of society.
Photo Courtesy of Wellesley College