Back in September, I wrote a column about my inability to choose a major and proud acceptance of my indecision (Majorly undecided, 09/24/2010). So as I sit here six months later and presumably six months wiser, I would like to update you on my progress — or rather lack thereof. Now, not only have I failed to declare a major (though I have a few in mind), but I also have no direction in which to gear my summer job search. I am now not only majorly undecided, but also majorly screwed — so much for asserting my uncertainty with pride.
Don’t get me wrong: I am by no means worried about declaring a major (I promise, it will happen eventually). But what’s an undecided girl to do when in search of what should be meaningful summer employment? Long gone are the carefree summer days filled with boardwalk fries, waitressing shifts at the local diner and pool-side lounging — here to stay are the prestigious internships with 40-hour-plus work weeks intended to serve as stepping stones to full-time employment after graduation. But I wonder how often these internships turn into real jobs and how often the endless time put in is actually time well spent. With this in mind, I urge students to consider all the pros and cons of summer jobs and internships before committing to watching their summer go by from the confinement of an office cubicle for little or no pay.
I’ll admit that for students with a clear direction, attractive internships might be a good route, as they could lead to potential employment in a desired field — well, lucky for them. But undecided students like me, and any other wandering souls out there, should consider other summer employment options before searching long and hard for an unpaid and potentially boring internship in a field we may never pursue.
I feel incredible pressure from my peers to do something with my summer that’s a bit more mentally stimulating than dog-walking or babysitting, but I also feel incredible pressure from my parents to do something compensable with my time. Many internships might seem attractive for résumé building, but do these benefits really outweigh the lure of cold hard cash? I think not.
When I think of how my parents and grandparents spent their summers — taking a well-deserved break from academics while earning spending money and still having time to enjoy chocolate-dipped Carvel cones on the boardwalk — I can’t help but long for a similar summer experience. Sure, they worked, but they didn’t necessarily work the way many of us overachieving Wolverines do. Many students pursue a detailed four-year plan, with perfect summer internships putting the cherry on top of their already perfect resumes. Gag me. Yes, admittedly I’m a bit jealous of these students, but I think I resent them more than I envy them. Why should I feel guilty for wanting to spend my last few chances to enjoy summer doing something I actually do enjoy? The answer my friends — I shouldn’t.
But what I, and everyone else, should do is get creative. If I can’t get my act together enough to choose a major or find an internship that could help secure me a job in my chosen field, I might as well do something that admittedly may not drop jaws nor raise eyebrows, will put money in my pocket and maybe even be enjoyable. It’s certainly hard to compete in the current economic environment where even people with advanced degrees are working entry-level jobs. And the sad truth is that if you don’t have a connection somewhere, there are likely dozens of other college students who do.
So what better things do young minds have to offer than fresh, new ideas? Some success stories I’ve heard include family van turned ice-cream truck and law student turned doorman. Neither job seems especially desirable for the well-educated young adult, but what have we got to lose? Students should remember this while spending hours on job search websites seeking the perfect job to embellish their resume.
Upperclassmen might look down on my naïvety, but even for those of you about to enter the real work world, I still believe there is a balance to be found between kowtowing to an unappreciative summer boss for no money in hopes of future employment and enjoyment of summer’s diversions with a couple of spare dollars in your pocket. So come September, I may still be majorly undecided, but I most certainly will not be majorly screwed. Looks like once again I’ll be asserting my uncertainty with pride (in the form of dollar bills).
Leah Potkin can be reached at email@example.com.