As we approach summer, there’s a lot happening around campus. With all sorts of events, athletics, and academic work, many of us find it hard to find time to even do something as simple as enjoy the weather. But there’s no rest for the weary. It’s also the time to find that summer job or internship!
This process can seem incredibly daunting, especially with all of this stuff happening at the same time. Every student wants that perfect position that is going to be the launch pad into their dream career. Many see their summer internship as the thing that is going to lock them into an industry for the rest of their lives and give them the skill set they need to succeed. But the reality can be far different…
Here are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating your choices:
1) This doesn’t have to be what you do for the rest of your life!
I know this seems obvious, but taking that first job or internship can feel like you’re locking yourself in! Particularly for people who really aren’t sure what they want to do after graduation. They see their friends go off to big financial institutions for the summer with the end goal of being hired by that company after the internship, and suddenly feel very far behind the 8-Ball. It’s been very well documented by experts that most young people (millennials, if you will) are going to have a number of different jobs throughout their career. This job-hopping can even be helpful is you do it properly (http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/15/job-hopping-can-boost-your-career-if-you-do-it-right.html). That means you don’t at all have to feel like your internship choice determines the rest of your life!
2) Be Strategic About It!
Yes, it’s not the rest of your life. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think through what the internship could do for you. There are really two ways you can look at it: industry and function. For example, you may know that you love journalism and want to be a writer. In that case, maybe look for an internship with a newspaper or magazine. It doesn’t have to be as a writer, but any role in the that industry would give you a taste for what that world is like and expose you to people who can help you. On the flip side, someone else could love accounting and know that’s what you want to do. In that case, you don’t necessarily have to get an internship with a big firm, but you could work in the accounting department in any industry. In fact, both of these fictitious students could end up working for the same company, and be on their way to achieving their goals. You have to build your own strategy after a bit of soul searching.
3) Pay Your Dues!
I put the word “millennials” in parenthesis in my first point for a reason. Like it or not, there is a perception around those in our generation (I’m still close enough that it applies to me too!). The perception is that we aren’t willing to take our lumps and pay our dues. The validity of this perception is a topic outside the realm of this post, but we have to acknowledge that it exists. There are few things more satisfying than proving someone with that perception wrong, no matter what it takes. Interns or summer employees find themselves towards the bottom of the proverbial totem pole, and are sometimes (often) given grunt work tasks. Monotonous data entry, inbox monitoring, and even the dreaded coffee run could be assigned tasks. Don’t see this as an insult to your talent, see it as an opportunity. Show everyone that you take pride in your work, regardless of what that work is. To add a personal anecdote, I once had an internship that required me to do the coffee/lunch runs. Because I did it without complaint, remembered what my boss liked, and made sure I didn’t delay, I soon became the go-to person for these tasks. But when my boss needed something important done, guess who he gave it to? I also got access that few others got because my boss appreciated that I would do anything for the project. Now I don’t think his thought process was, “He remembers my coffee order, he must be smart.” But I do think it was, “He gets stuff done and is dedicated, I can trust him.” Don’t be afraid to take a position like that if you think you might learn something along the way.
4) Network, Network, Network!
Another fairly obvious point! Use Hoya Gateway to get in touch with people in industries or functions you might be interested in. If you find someone whose career interests you, ask them what they did for a summer internship. Family friend work for a sports marketing firm that sounds cool? Make a deal with him/her where they hire you for the summer and you coach their youth lacrosse team (did that once). You’ll be amazed at the opportunities you can find as you talk to people!
Thinking through these things takes time, but they are important. Carve out some time to plan out a road map for your summer, and pick three things you want to learn…then go get it! Happy hunting!