Summer Internships: What I've learnt

Summer Internships: What I've learnt


When it comes to my future aspirations I tend to fluctuate between two states of being: blissful calm and trust in what will be will be vs heart-stabbing panic about my friends who have the perfect summer internship. Normally, this transition kicks in around the middle of February when all the months of I'll deal with that in the spring come to fruition and I start freaking out. I should know better by now because for the last 5 years I've been repeating this pattern of laissez-faire to extreme anxiety. What is it about summer plans that brings fear to mind? 

Here's a play-by-play of what usually happens in February:

- Frantic applications before March 1st to corporate jobs I think I should be applying for

- Existential crisis about what I want to do with the rest of my life

- Interviews and assessment centres all suited and booted putting my best foot forward

- Lowering my expectations and looking for any possible internship that could benefit my future

- Deciding to keep it simple and work at the restaurant/bar again

- Guilt about the blank spot on my CV

- Desperately seeking volunteering opportunities

- Deciding I might as well move back in home and spend the rest of the summer feeling guilty about being a blood-sucking leech on my parents before running away to summer where in Europe living in a hostel 

“It’s like being on a bragging hamster wheel and I’m left wondering do I bother even trying to get on?”

Don't get me wrong, this routine is not that fun. Mainly because it ruins 5-6 months of my life with unnecessary pressure. In fact, the best summer's I've had have been working for a month in a small team followed by a few weeks travelling with friends. Let's be honest this is what I'll most likely end up doing anyway, so why resist it? One word: comparison. Now, I've spoken about the struggle I've had in the past with comparing. But, there's something about being at university in February when everyone's heading off to London for assessment centres and the same people seem to be getting multiple opportunities to choose between and then those people continue getting better opportunities because they got the opportunities the year before. It's like being on a bragging hamster wheel and I'm left wondering do I bother even trying to get on?

I know I'm not alone in feeling this onslaught of pressure, have you ever found yourself applying to a placement because you recognised the name only to call it quits in the section that asks "Why ... ?". If you're one of these people who feels like everyone is figuring out their life's plan and you're being left behind I've got good news for you. Competitive universities, breed competitive people and that's not always a bad thing. But, I've realised two key reasons why this time of year unnecessarily freaks me out. Firstly, the people who think they've got their life together are normally the most vocal about how they've got their life together. You know who I'm talking about, they're probably President of the Finance society have secured an internship after flowing through the Spring insight week and can't wait to start their graduate placement next year with a starting salary of £1 million (I'm exaggerating - sort of). I promise you that 99% of people at your university are in a similar boat to you or they're blissfully unaware and so are probably less advantaged than you.

“Quality versus quantity is key. Spend the time to really research and feel excited about jobs you want to intern at.”

Secondly, beyond the bubble of a university like Durham, most students aren't even looking for these kinds of jobs until they graduate. Being abroad in Belgium it's only the Business, Law or Finance students that aren't planning on waitressing over the summer. Not to mention, most Europeans who want to be competitive in the workplace are going to have to do a Masters and are a year behind. Taking this further, their trial-and-error process is a few years behind the UK and so I've found the same internships I'm doing are being filled by 26 year olds in Belgium.

All this to say, try to release self-judgment about not carving the perfect life. One of the most important things a returning graduate said to me last year (which I didn't quite believe at the time) is not to apply for jobs you don't want. It's simple but so true. Not only will your application look uninspired. Quality versus quantity is key. Spend the time to really research and feel excited about jobs you want to intern at. You'll find you're more likely to get them and you'll be happier when you start. We all move at our own pace and sometimes taking a step back and not moving with everyone else can give you the space to evaluate what you really want. Another thing to consider is how lucky you are to be time rich at the moment. Take this time to scrape together funds to go travelling, continue to let your parents pay for quality time together and whatever you do don't stress yourself out during the summer. 

Let's take all the pressure off and here are my three goals for Summer of 2018:

- Travel somewhere new (this year it's Cinque Terra in Italy)

- Remind your family how much you love them

- Try to break even, either by living with family or picking up a part-time job

The powers that be want you to feel rushed and think that if you don't squeeze your summer into the cookie cutter mould put down for you by big corporations you're a failure. Perspective is everything. All of this comes down to one basic premise self love and acceptance. Love yourself enough not to torture yourself with unrealistic expectations and accept that your life isn't perfect (and doesn't have to be!)

I'm sure you've found this rant helpful and hopefully you'll start being more conscious about how lucky you are to have breathing room. If you want to keep updated when articles launch make sure to like Samantha's Wonderland on Facebook and join our newsletter (down below). As ever, I love to start a conversation with you, so let me know if you agree or disagree or if you want more tips - I can talk about this issue for days.

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All my love, Sam

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