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Navigating the Summer Internship Struggle: Lessons from One Student's Journey

Nov 03, 2023

When I was a kid, summer was one of the greatest things in the world to me (ignoring the heat and bugs that usually come with it). A whole three or so months without the unbearable slog known as school. Time I could spend to relax, unwind and maybe even take a vacation if my family was in the mood. But summer, like most other things, changes when you get older. In high school, my summer relaxation was occasionally interrupted by thoughts comparing me to friends and peers who were doing internships and other college-preparing stuff while I was lollygagging in my air conditioned room. The summer that followed after my second year of college was much less enjoyable than my previous ones, as I had started to get stressed out while searching for a summer internship.

Around late June, after I had completed my driving knowledge test, I had begun to apply to various internships. A few jobs I applied for were kept out of my grasp on account of me procrastinating the completion of my cover letters. But the jobs I did apply for never got back to me. Weeks of no progress was quite demotivating. I questioned whether or not it was worth the effort and I began to doubt my own capabilities. Have I done nothing to impress employers? Is my very nature unmarketable? Am I doomed to be eternally unemployed? 

One fateful afternoon, I was lucky enough to receive a message on Handshake from a company I applied for. I had a chat with them, clarified my interest in the position they were offering, and scheduled an interview on  Google Meet for the upcoming Wednesday

I was very nervous about the interview. It occupied my thoughts in the day and kept me up at night. My own mind tormented me with thousands of possible (and sometimes impossible) scenarios where I messed up the interview. 

When Wednesday morning came, I began to prepare as best as I was able to. I shaved my unprofessional-looking facial hair, threw on my neatest button-up shirt and rearranged my room so it looked less significantly less disorganized than usual. I began vigorously researching common interview questions and their optimal/most effective answers. I jotted these answers down and would rehearse them as often as I could.

Time flew by quickly, and soon enough I found myself only five minute away from the interview. This was it. I was ready. I had rehearsed countless questions and freshened myself up. This was my moment. Nothing could go wrong!

But then something went wrong.       

My lack of familiarity with Google Meet proved to be my undoing, as the audio on my end of the call was completely cut out and I couldn’t fix it fast enough. The person I was meeting with instructed me to email one of the employees of the company and await further directions. I nodded awkwardly as they ended the meeting, eyes filled with slight irritation.

I sent out an email as instructed, but they never emailed me back. After a week of waiting, I figured that was the end of this job. I spent the following nights wallowing in self-loathing, cursing my incompetence…and Google Meet.

As I sit here, writing about my experiences I can’t help but laugh at how overdramatic I was. I regret not pushing on and applying to other jobs. If I hadn’t let failure deter me, I’d probably have scored a summer internship. Alas, by the time my resolve found itself born anew, my next semester was already nearing and I had already signed up for a job during the school year (the one that made me write this).

You see, applying for a job can be pretty easy. But getting one is often a different story. At some point you’ll forget to complete your cover letter, miss the deadline of an application, flunk an interview or something along those lines. At some point you’ll fail. And what I didn’t realize back then was that failure was natural. Maybe there’s someone out there with a 100% success rate in terms of finding a job/internship, but that person isn’t me and chances are it’s not gonna be you.

So when you hit that wall, when you get knocked down by some nasty bump in the road, don’t let it keep you down for too long. It’s not the end of the world. Get back up, reflect on what you did wrong and go forward determined to make sure your next attempt will be a success. 

This Article was contributed by Joe Tapia, CSEE Ambassador in the office of Career Success and Experiential Education.

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