“What’re you doing this summer?” is a question that gets thrown around a lot this time of year. For the past two years, I have answered this with “working at Dunkin’ Donuts” or “working at Happy Dog Daycare.” These answers are usually greeted with amusement (which is fair) but, in a lot of cases, they are also greeted with a sense that I am filling my summers with trivial jobs with no long-term pertinence (which is unfair).
This question is asked amongst sophomores here at BC to determine whether you have an internship lined up in your chosen career field or not. If you don’t have an internship lined up, the general sense is that this is your last “fun” summer, before you have to get practical.
This pressure is pervasive on campus, with the general consensus seeming to be that the more impressive your sophomore summer internship, the more likely you are to succeed down the road. When you phrase it like this, it sounds pretty ridiculous—and it is.
This pressure is not only silly, but it serves to push people into taking jobs they aren’t excited about because of some vague path that may lead from that job to a future career. In doing this, people forego more interesting, and, in the long run, rewarding opportunities.
There is an assumption that taking a less impressive job puts you at a disadvantage going forward. According to Tom Clarkson (‘18), this is false. “The sense here is that an internship or a GPA is viewed as a determinant of future success, which, at least in the minds of every professional I have talked to, is faulty. It’s about your mind and your personality more than any specific internship.”
I would tend toward agreeing with this statement, and would likewise contend that there is more value to be found in a job you enjoy than in one that seems impressive. The skills that result from being fully invested in a job that you are passionate about will endure longer than any minutia pertaining to a particular career path.
Learning to develop interpersonal relationships with coworkers and gaining general people skills that are learned through customer interaction, which can be cultivated at almost any job, translates into any potential future career, therefore serving as a valuable skill set to acquire.
I understand the appeal of a prestigious internship, and if that’s something you’re interested in, there is no reason to discourage it. What I take issue with is the opinion that, if you can’t obtain an upper tier internship that really interests you, subjecting yourself to a position you dislike at a similar company is the best alternative.
There exists an aversion to taking a “fun” job, and, even if you do, the general sense is that it constitutes blowing off your future to focus on one final “fun” summer. Sure, I took jobs at a doggy daycare and Dunkin’ Donuts because I thought they would be fun (and they were—any job where part of the hourly wage is a free donut is fine with me), but that doesn’t in any way diminish the fact that both jobs gave me a solid basis of skills, including customer service and coworker interaction, that will undoubtedly be useful to me down the road, even if that career doesn’t involve sorting donuts or picking up dog poop.
My advice to my fellow sophomores is as follows: don’t sweat this summer. Don’t worry about the fact that your CSOM roommate just secured an internship at Goldman Sachs; that doesn’t diminish any job you end up with. Don’t worry about this being your last “fun” summer—just enjoy it. If you go in with the mindset that having fun in a job is a finite concept that ends after your sophomore summer, your career is going to be a huge bummer. So frost some donuts, walk some dogs, or be a lifeguard. Do whatever, but make sure to enjoy it.