|  December 23, 2012

Guest post: Looking for an internship? First, relax

Today’s guest post comes from Alex Laughlin.  Alex is a junior at the University of Georgia and she writes the lifestyle blog “Well Begun is Half-Done” (http://www.alexlaughlin.com/) where she documents college life and growing up.

The thrill of the internship search can be exhilarating. For me, the allure is in the range of endless possibilities for me to reinvent myself — an exciting prospect. I allow the search to consume me. I annoy my friends endlessly.  Time and again I willingly forfeit my emotions, my energy, and my self-esteem to the busy HR departments of countless agencies and publications.

While this enthusiasm has to be somewhat helpful, I have to say the level of emotional energy I dedicate to the hunt is hardly healthy. I have witnessed scores of young, ambitious workaholics bursting into tears at the prospect of an unemployed summer (i.e. me), and I’m here to say it’s not worth it. Here’s why you should relax when looking for an internship:

An internship will not markedly redefine your sense of self. You will.

  • I admit I’m guilty of allowing my self-esteem to intertwine a little too closely with my professional life. But there are so many other places to invest your energy that will yield considerable rewards as well.
  • Maybe your friend could use your help launching her new philanthropic organization. Maybe there’s a half marathon coming up in a few months and you’re finally ready to commit to the training. Or maybe it’s time to start that fashion blog you’ve always wanted to write.
  • Succeeding in any of these projects will be a surefire trigger to the warm-and-fuzzies in your brain, and they result in more tangible positive results in your personal life than a hypothetical internship offer would. What’s more, when you’re happier with yourself to begin with, you will be a more attractive candidate for a position 100% of the time.

 You don’t need an internship to be successful.

  • It’s tempting to assume that without a summer internship, you will never have that dream career. Not true.  While internships are important, they are not the ultimate judge of your character and abilities. If you know that you want to do with your life, figure out a way to do it by yourself or with a small campus organization.
  • I think starting a blog is one of the most productive ways to document your learning process as a young adult pursuing any kind of profession. When you write a blog, you have a visual representation of your progress and your readers can keep you accountable. Learn industry lingo, interact with fellow bloggers in the community, and write about your own thoughts on changes in the industry. The more involved in the world you become, the more you can establish yourself as an expert in any given field — this can almost be more valuable than having an internship!
  • My dream job would be curating and creating online content for a lifestyle magazine, so I write a daily blog to give my writing, coding, and design muscles a little workout. Being involved and skilled also happens to be the first step to even being considered for an internship — I actually landed my most recent one as a result of email correspondence for my blog!

 An opportunity may be just around the corner.

  • In the end, you can’t control the future. I got all of my past internships after chance encounters that I never could have planned like unexpected introductions and friendly email threads. Looking back, many of the hours I spent planning and stressing about my future were essentially useless. I don’t include this to encourage you to give up on the hunt, but to remind you to exhale once in a while. Those people in charge of hiring you have lives too. They’ll respond.

If I’ve learned one thing from the internship hunt, it’s that chance truly does favor the prepared mind.

The only thing you can control is what you are doing right now. So when you find yourself dedicating hours and hours to a single endeavor, don’t forget to ask yourself: Are you happy with what you’re doing? Does it feed your soul? Those details will ultimately be the key to your future, internship or not.

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