You have a summer internship, moved to a new city, and live in a new apartment. This is the story of so many Tulane students that go from eager-to-achieve freshman to just-quit-my-job-as-a-camp-counselor juniors. And then, with pasty skin that screams, “I spent 40+ hours a week inside a corporate office,” you will join students as they return to campus to tout the benefits of their summer internships in NYC, LA, Chicago, Boston, Miami – you get the point. These students will say they learned “invaluable skills,” “networked,” and even “found their new career path.” But what’s behind all of that rhetoric? What is there really to be gained from the summer grind?
As pessimistic as I sound, a lot of people share this sentiment. Maybe the summer internship you scored wasn’t exactly your dream position, the work feels tedious or stifling, or you’re wondering why you didn’t just stay home and take that job at the local day camp. Stop right there. There is nothing a boss dislikes more than a sad, limp looking intern who abides exactly by the guidelines.
Be the data analyst who offers to draft a blog post. Be the marketing intern who uses data from another department to drive key findings. Be the social media intern who suggests a brand-new media strategy to an executive. No one is going to shame you for trying. And if you really feel neglected by senior staff or feel lost in your job role, spend time networking on LinkedIn, revamping your resume, building a portfolio, or even researching other career options that make you more excited. Sitting at your desk and lamenting the shortcomings of your summer internship is simply a waste of time that will get you nowhere. Trust me, I’ve been there. Paid or unpaid, you are never getting those hours back, so you might as well try to make something out of them. The form that comes in is up to you.
Now, let’s talk networking. I take a simple approach: be a “yes” person. When your boss or coworker invites you to join them for lunch, say YES. If you are invited to sit in on a conference call or a meeting, say YES. If you are invited to attend a conference or an event outside of work hours, say YES. These are non-negotiable. It may not lead to a job offer after graduation, but it will lead to something. Even if that something is simply a friendlier work environment or a new friend in a coworker.
So, take the leap, whatever that means for you. Be bold, speak up for yourself, and suck all you can out of every opportunity. It might just take you one step closer to your dream career.
COVER PHOTO: Gwen Snyder