Not everybody wants the same thing once they’re out of college. Some want to keep studying — get a masters, maybe even a Ph.D. Others might decide to take a break and explore the world before they enter into their field of choice. However, with the unyielding pressure of student loans and everybody around you invested in the recruiting rigamarole, most students look for a job. Computer science and engineering majors are no different. So, when tech giant Meta announced that they would not be offering any of their summer interns the coveted return offers that most of their predecessors had received, it left not just them, but the entirety of the computer engineering and computer science student body stunned.
I remember the day so clearly. We were well into summer break, and I was far removed from everything college related until my roommate sent an article into our group chat about how companies like Twitter had done the same, and that there was a chance they would not extend full time offers for the following summer at all.
While the initial shock presumably left current interns scrambling and aspiring interns like myself worrying, once the dust settled, it was easy to see why this was happening. With rising inflation, the war in Eastern Europe and the economic effects of the pandemic lingering, sacrifices had to be made. However, such a decision by these firms reeks of short-termism and cuts down a usually guaranteed supply of future talent required for keeping the work space fresh and hungry. This suggests that while it may have been the easiest option to cut off the interns, it wasn’t necessarily the smartest.
Nevertheless, jobs at Meta and other big tech firms provide financial stability, and, to college students, that is priceless. When an already grueling fight for limited seats is dealt such a decisive blow, it begs the question: What other options are even there? Is it simply more hours of Leetcode grinding and trying to stand out in the crowd of applicants in any way you can? Potentially. But that isn’t, and hasn’t been for quite some time, the only option. The other is to create — to innovate.
It is easier said than done, I know, but in a world where converting your brainchild into something real has never been as easy as it is today, we need to take more advantage of it. Startups and organically grown businesses offer students of any ilk the chance to evade the ever-increasing barriers of entry into the industry they have always wanted to join. They allow students to create jobs as opposed to searching for them. Most of all, they give students the opportunity to leave their mark on the world. And that’s just the beginning.
Entrepreneurship is vastly different from what it was at the turn of the century. As startups grew in popularity, being the first to create and execute an idea was crucial to their success. Today, with new startups being set up every day, being first, while still important, isn’t as vital as the quality of the product. Moreover, their success depends on factors that go deeper than simply what they sell. Society is becoming more sensitive about social and environmental issues, and a startup from the 2020s will surely reflect that. Tech giants will be quick to relax any efforts towards creating a more diverse work environment the moment things get tough, and the same can be said for their responsibility towards the environment. Startups led by students of our generation, however, are unlikely to be as ignorant and would go a long way towards reversing some of the damage done to the tech industry by the larger firms.
Most startups don’t make it. Yes, I know the statistics, and I understand that a longshot is not an adequate replacement for a job that offers a stable salary, but something has to change. Too many students enter the recruitment cycle, get chewed up and spit out and find themselves lost after college, and it seems like it’s only getting worse. The change has to come at the educational level. After spending years in the computer science program at this university, it has become glaringly obvious to me that the curriculum prepares students for a job far more than it does for creativity. Even if a startup is more likely to fail than succeed, I believe we would see a lot more students trying to go down that route if their classes gave them the confidence and ability to innovate, which is a skill that can be taught and needs to be cultivated.
Most college students will be able to tell you what their dream job is, but I’m willing to bet they also have a dream idea, or even just a dream. Let’s inspire students to dream of a life that they want to live, not just a company that they can work for.
Rushabh Shah is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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