Since kindergarten, we have been asked the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Although each of our predictions may have changed over time, we will soon have that answer.
Let’s be clear: As alluring as the life of a college student may be, the entire point of attending college is to get a job. We often become consumed by classes and clubs, only to soon forget those classes and clubs are what prepare us for the jobs we are here to prepare for. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, recruiters ranked internships as the most important factor when hiring recent graduates. Internships provide a temporary window to the real world, but the importance of searching for a quality internship is sometimes overlooked.
Preparation for summer internships becomes a problem when people like to reside on extreme ends of the spectrum. One poor choice is to wait until the very end of this semester to begin to look for an internship. By that time, all the good internships will be taken, and the late arrivers will be forced to settle for leftovers. On the other end of the spectrum, some choose to find an internship by the middle of Fall semester, so they no longer have to worry about summer plans. The weight is lifted off their shoulders, but they may miss out on a better opportunity available later in the academic year. Whether from premature decisions or lack thereof, months of limitless possibilities can transform to a wasted summer. According to LinkedIn data, the first three months of the year have the highest activity for the hiring of summer interns. Now is the perfect time to begin searching.
I wanted to share this article because of my internship experience this past summer. I am an engineering student who took one of the first job offers received. From finger painting to mechanics of materials, it was time for years of schooling to contribute to the real world.
Hopeful perceptions quickly vanished by the first day. “Conducting risk analysis on product performance” translated to calling customers about their satisfaction with the company’s equipment. The first person I called was dead. I was expected to get references from past customers, but most customers hadn’t been contacted since the 1970s. After a month had passed and I finished calling everyone on my list, my position was eliminated. No one at the company had any investment in teaching me; I was temporary labor to complete a task no one really wanted to do.
Blinded by the opportunity to have a job in my career field, I chose an internship before appropriately weighing my options. I hoped to finally establish a bridge between college courses and practical application. Instead, I only have advice on how to avoid a bad experience this summer. Search online for employee reviews on the company. Ask if the company has an established internship program or if this is the first time it’s offered. Most importantly, apply to multiple positions, but only ones that actually seem interesting. Although it may seem any option is a good option, especially when seeking the first internship, avoid internships that perfect scanning skills and implement the optimization of coffee preparation.
No one can predict the future. One can prepare with full effort to find the ideal internship and still have a bad experience, but the chances of a bad experience only increase with a lack of effort and dedicated time. The knowledge from 14 years of education can be applied to pursue a passion that could have been approved by one’s kindergarten self. Preparation for the real world has been a lifelong pursuit up to now; don’t allow a three-month experience to dictate the future.
The writer of this column would like to keep their name anonymous.