Watters: Internship and job search process too mechanized


Arabella Watters, Columnist

Spring Quarter brings a lot of things. Most notable is the advent of a lot of wholeheartedly missed sunlight. However, it also undeniably makes the fact that summer is right around the corner hard to forget.

Summer used to be said with a sigh of whimsy. A glorious three months that lacked any obligations or inklings of the real world. I miss it. This is my second to last summer. That fact is entirely depressing, daunting and exhilarating, but it also brings up the question of how exactly I’m going to spend it.

Here at Northwestern, it would be a straight up lie to say that we aren’t an ambitious bunch. With ambition comes competition, and with that competition comes the question of how to spend your summer — a seeming choice of life and death. The word “internship” strikes fear into the hearts of every undergrad because it opens up a world of possibilities, and yet, those possibilities can seem inherently out of reach. The real question is, what exactly are we reaching for?

I don’t know if it’s because suddenly after I turned 20, the real world suddenly seemed far less on my periphery, but the job world and all of the cut-throat rejection it entails feels as if it’s blindingly, blaringly staring me in the face. I don’t think I’m alone. There’s something about the end of sophomore year that makes my time at Northwestern seem as if its ticking down on one of those horrible animated movie style clocks. My life at college unnervingly seems to parallel Wile E. Coyote and his inevitable brushes with disaster, and that scares me and simultaneously makes the push to get an internship this summer seem all the more paramount.

I want to work just as much as anyone. In fact, the clarity that I’ve recently gained as to what I think I want to spend the rest of my life doing is relieving. Unfortunately, because of the way that our generation seems to want to go, go, go, there isn’t any time to wait or contemplate anymore. We seem to have lost the ability to take a break from the mad, mechanized rush of school, internship, career, and it is exhausting. I can’t wait to work once I graduate from school, but to what end will I push myself, drive myself to the brink of insanity, so to speak, after that?

Success in strict terms could be defined with monetary boundaries, but I don’t think that money really has the ability to bring happiness. It makes me wonder, “Where is the denouement of the giant hamster wheel that my career path seems to be?” Will I be “happy” if I get an internship this summer that eventually gets me a job after graduation? Further, will I feel fulfilled with a high paying job, if I’m running my own company, if I’m the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? A journey to corporate America isn’t exactly the path to nirvana, and I’m quickly realizing faster and faster that it isn’t the place for me.

We get so caught up in the idea of who we should be come that sometimes I think that we forget that the only time is now. The choices we are making now are already shaping who we are as people. The future, for all the planning and meticulous agonizing we put into it, will always be nebulous and uncertain. It doesn’t matter how many internships I get or how stacked my resume is; I’m never really going to know what’s coming next for me, and neither will any of us. The kind of gratification we should seek at the ripe age of 20 should not be quantifiable by hours or dollars.

I don’t want to belabor the idea that college kids are so consumed by the possibilities of giant, blinking dollar signs and the horrific nature of the job market right now that they lose sight of the idea of simple happiness, but I think it’s true. I want an internship this summer like everybody else, but I’m trying to examine my priorities. The possibilities for soul-suckage by this anxiety-provoking thing called employment are entirely too real.

Arabella Watters is a Medill sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].