If you’re one of the thousands of lucky students who has already secured an internship for the coming months, congratulations! Your hard work and determination in begging the country’s most powerful corporations to let you perform (most likely) unpaid labor is a testament to not only your grit and determination, but also to the troubling, obsessive work culture we’ve developed in the United States.
God forbid a 20-year-old spends their summer working a normal job scooping ice cream or lifeguarding. Why go home to enjoy your last, sweet moments of youth with childhood friends and family before graduation thrusts you into the real world? The real world, by the way, is a nicer name for the late-capitalist economy that shows you targeted ads promoting selling your plasma to pay rent after you complain to your roommate about financial troubles. Good and normal.
Anyways, I spent the last five months feverishly applying to over 25 internships, all with separate application processes and cover letters. After about 35-plus hours of work, I’ve locked in my summer internship, and I have a few helpful tips for anyone who wants to give it a go, either now (who are you kidding? It’s May!) or in the future.
1. Get your hopes up
Do you know how many times I found listings for companies I’ve dreamed of working for, poured my entire essence into my page-long application, then happily fantasized about my chances of getting the job?
Far, far too many.
It resulted in a vicious cycle of my preposterously-optimistic self feeling dejected every time a company failed to get back to me within two months. Because that’s how job searches work nowadays. You put hours into writing what is supposed to demonstrate your viability as an employee, yet most employers won’t even bother with an automated rejection email. Is it because they don’t want to be mean? Maybe. But do you know what’s meaner than not hiring someone? Ghosting them!
Read more: Five ways to spend an internship-less summer]
2. Ignore the campus resources
Over the course of my application processes, I slowly and painfully mastered the Art of the Cover Letter, learning through trial and error how best to catch a hiring manager’s attention while embodying myself and my work ethic.
I couldn’t even explain to you how to do it. Part of it is ignoring those god-awful templates available online when you Google how to write one — seriously, they are far too formal, rigid and, at this point, sort of a joke to hiring managers. Part of it is the mania that comes with applying to three different jobs in one sitting, because it’s the only free time you’ll have all week.
Instead of going to the University Career Center, a resource with counselors who can help you perfect your resume and write a proper cover letter, subject yourself to figuring it out on your own as an idiot 20-something who has only ever worked in retail and food service. You get extra points if you only search for opportunities on career websites like LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor instead of reaching out to the internship coordinator in your college. Work harder, not smarter!
[Read more: UMD doesn’t deserve something as good as The Co-op]
3. Remember that this is a reflection of your self-worth
There is something so very draining about presenting yourself in an earnest and upfront way only to receive radio silence. As college students, we are navigating our university careers with, arguably, more challenges than the generations before us — inflated tuition rates, campus shootings and mental health crises. On top of that, we are expected to get a jump-start on our careers by finding baby jobs to occupy our only time away from school.
To repeatedly face rejection while dealing with the mounting pressure and anxiety of watching your peers secure spots for the summer is an awful experience. This more recent cultural shift toward constantly having an internship — and the broader emphasis on endless productivity — makes sense in the type of world we live in now. But it’s still disturbing that having any sort of lapse in your LinkedIn presence is seen as a misstep instead of a well-deserved break.
If you ever feel your worth as a person is tied to a large profit-driven company or organization’s desire to hire you, I want you to know you’re absolutely right. That’s capitalism, and them’s the rules! Finding joy in anything but your marketability as a tool for profit is straight up Generation X bullshit. Happy summer!