“No, no I still don’t have an internship….”

My name is Sophia W and I am a junior pursuing a Marketing degree at Michigan State University. I joined the co-ed Professional Business Fraternity Phi Chi Theta the fall of my freshman year which has given me the opportunity to not only develop my own unique brand but also learn from a brilliant group of leaders. Beginning my sophomore year, I started working on-campus for the undergraduate student government, ASMSU, in their marketing department. This past summer, I studied abroad and checked nine different countries off my travel bucket list in the time span of four weeks. Shortly after returning, I interned with an amazing company in the financial services industry. I strive to be accepted into the master of science market research program offered through MSU and attain a full-time position that allows me to gain more experience with how those lessons connect to the ways in which companies develop and execute their marketing strategies.

“What are your plans for the summer?” It used to be the best question to be asked growing up. Now, those same words mean something completely different to me. With the end of the school year quickly approaching, the need to figure out my plans for the summer seem more pressing and the frantic late night calls to my mom more frequent. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing my friends accept internships and express their excitement but there is also a part of me that is trying to hide my feelings of uneasiness as I know that I have not secured one for myself. With the job search being as complex as it is, navigating through the possibilities to find one that feels like a good fit can be half of the challenge.  

I’d be lying if I said that I don’t worry about the possibility that my current internship leads will not pan out. Missing out on these opportunities to further build on my past experiences could completely change the direction of my professional career. All around me I hear people emphasizing the importance of having work experience with an established company after junior year. I continually find myself getting caught up with the notion that not having an internship will consequently result in a more difficult or almost impossible full time job search come the fall. 

Last year, I had the opportunity to be a part of a marketing internship program in the financial services industry. As this was my first time officially being a part of Corporate America, I absorbed and learned even more than I anticipated. Whether it was figuring out how to find a meeting room, understanding the importance of being prepared to present in all situations, or even understanding my nine-to-five work style, the takeaways ultimately helped better myself personally and professionally. Without the investment from those I met and worked closely with combined with the overall supportive company culture, I would not have gained the knowledge and unique perspectives I did. I will forever be grateful to have had that opportunity, which also made the decision not to go return for another internship even more challenging. Many of my peers were confused as I tried to explain why. I had an amazing time and connection with the company… so why was I turning away a secured internship with company I had a good relationship with? It is absolutely not that I don’t value the importance of job assurance, but at the end of the day, I realized my role there did not align with my future aspirations. One of the important things that I learned during my time was that my motivation is fueled from my passion about the work itself. Although figuring out the nooks and crannies of a corporate environment satisfied my curiosity for the summer, the talk of banking and credit cards did not excite me enough to feel like I would want to get out of bed every morning in the future. As I spent many hours rethinking whether or not to return, this feeling continued.  Finally, I concluded that if this is not something I see myself doing in the long term, it ultimately did not seem beneficial spending my time there rather than exploring opportunities that better matched my interests.  At the end of the day, we are college students and young professionals, which means it is ok to not have it all figured and to still explore the never-ending opportunities that are out there

So, with this mindset I set off on my application and interviewing process. Now if people didn’t already think I was crazy, they were even more amazed by my decision to not accept a couple offers stemming from the recruiting process in the fall! Again, it wasn’t that I did not appreciate the value that companies could provide to me but I had promised myself that the work that I devoted my time to this summer would have be to an opportunity that ignites my eagerness to learn! 

So, where does that leave me now? Stressed out? Definitely! But more than anything I am interested in investigating the different ways through which I can develop and learn this summer. Does this mean that I will return to Corporate America? Honestly, I’m not sure yet. Upon reflecting on my interests and what I hope for in the future, my perspective on acquiring an internship has somewhat shifted. Although I think I would love to experience a different industry and style of work, I want to make sure that the specific responsibilities of the position align with my overall goals. I think people get so focused on completing the expectation of doing an internship that they forget the underlying purpose behind doing so. In my opinion, the whole reason companies look for candidates with past experience is so they can select individuals with the applicable skills and knowledge that enables them help them succeed. But does that mean that there is only one way to obtain these? I don’t think so. There are so many ways through which one can develop, but to do so means there has to be a fundamental consciousness and desire to absorb the information available. Whether this involves surrounding yourself with different types of people, different structures of companies, or different cultures from around the world, there are so many unique ways to learn. 

At the end of the day, what is the point in going through the motions without being present in the moment? Do you gain the experience that future employers are hoping you have? Will it actually help you to succeed in your future endeavors? My hope is that this summer I find an experience that triggers my enthusiasm and prompts me to discover and learn more. Whether or not it ends up being something I continue to pursue, I am confident that my experience this summer will help shape my future career path by bringing me one step closer to finding out what would excite me to go work on Monday mornings. Some might think this mindset is not sensible, but I believe that it is a good kind of madness because, ultimately, I want to spend my time doing work that makes be genuinely happy and inspires others to do so too.