Saying “no” to the summer status quo

By Inricka Liburd ’13

Around this time of the year everyone’s stressing about getting internships and jobs and wondering whether they will actually be successful in life. It’s true that gaining career related experience can be helpful in the search for a post-graduate job, but it’s not about what you do during the summer, but how you make the most of it.

Internships and other summer experiences are absolutely necessary to the development of college students because getting a job is not about what you know but, rather, who you know. With a wider network your chances of finding someone who knows someone that can help you pursue your dream career are much greater, especially when entering competitive industries. Therefore, no matter what summer opportunity you decide to take on, remember that networking is the key. For example, if I had not networked and chatted up a few people, I surely would not have received my first job offer.

Look at Spike Lee, who did not have a summer job or internship in college. Instead, he walked around New York City with a camera filming everything in sight. That summer Lee learned that film was his true passion.

Lee’s professors and mentors saw his drive for filmmaking and by talking to people, getting to know them and staying in contact with them, he was able to make his dream come true. However, had it not been for an entire summer spent making connections while sticking his camera in people’s faces, he may not have become the cinematic genius he is today.

Although Spike Lee would have made more money crunching numbers at Goldman Sachs with the bigwigs, I am sure that the traditional 9-to-5 would not have gone over too well with him. Let’s be honest, corporate jobs are just not for everybody, and, more importantly, they are not the only jobs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a camp counselor, working for a non-profit, backpacking or selling your art work on a street corner for an entire summer. What is important is that you meet people because networking is the key to getting your foot in the door of any career field.

A prime example would be a friend of mine who has always been interested in teaching. She absolutely loves everything about it, and you almost have to ask her to stop talking when you get her started. Teaching is her passion, but by no means did she have internships working in school settings. For the past two years she was a camp counselor, and through the connections she made at her jobs, she was able to land a job as a teacher.

Although I am in favor of alternative summer experiences, others can equally argue that a solid 9 to 5 summer internship is great for learning professional workplace etiquette. Being a working young adult is quite different from being a student and there are certain things—such as emails, attire, jargon, etc.—that are good to know about working in a professional environment.

If you are looking to go into such an environment, then crunching numbers with your homies at Goldman Sachs is definitely the route you will want to take. However, make sure you network! Keeping in contact with your boss and her colleagues will more than likely be your number one way of landing a full time position after Hamilton.

Equally important to networking, is learning about your interests. All summer experiences, no matter how good or bad, allow you to highlight strengths and weaknesses, making you more cognizant of what you have to offer. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses also allows you to find career fields with jobs that best fit your personality and skill set.

I remember thinking how cool it would be to work in publishing. Until I got an internship with a publishing company. Think of it as wanting to be doctor. Many high school seniors and college freshman think they want to be a doctor until…well you know the rest.

Therefore, it is worthwhile to pursue an internship in your career field of choice just to make certain that it is something you can really see yourself doing. If not, you will not be very happy having signed a two year contract to work in a field that you absolutely hate, or find that you are no good at.

Most importantly, whatever your definition of success, do not lose sight of your passion and desire by focusing on the success others may have, and do not believe that their path to success is the only way. Sometimes taking the alternate route really allows you to find your “true calling.” There is nothing wrong with a 9-to-5 job or an internship because it is important to gain professional experience in “the real world.” However, I do encourage you to take advantage of your undergrad years and explore the possibilities. The road less traveled may lead you to your destiny.


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