Advice for Awkward People

Dear Ruth,

Well, there goes another semester. There’s only one thing standing between me and a relaxing summer — finals week. Well, that and the fact that I didn’t manage to snag an internship this summer. I’m not really sure what to say to my family when they inevitably ask me why I’m not working. It’s not like I didn’t try — I’ve been applying to jobs since October! It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess, but I’m not sure my parents see it that way. What do I do?

All the best,

I Need a D*** Internship, ASAP


To your parents, and honestly, to yourself — it’s okay to not have an internship this summer. It’s okay to not have an internship any summer. Your personal worth is in no way based off of the number of internships you’ve held, the amount of money you’ve made, or the awards you’ve won. You are still worthy of existence even if your grand total in all of those areas is zero. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise — be it your family, your friends, or the uber-capitalist hell-scape we live in — then they’re wrong. Your purpose in life is not to make money, or a name for yourself, or whatever. Your purpose is to be whatever kind of person you want to be. (And, if that kind of person is like me, and prefers a spiteful reason to reject the value placed on constant work, well, buying into that idea is ascribing to the Machiavellian, patriarchal myth of liberal individualism. Fight the man.)

But, alright, most of us cannot survive on ideals alone — will you actually be okay if you can’t get an internship? Won’t it ruin your job prospects? Will you be passed over for job after job in favor of someone who had an internship this summer?

Honestly? Probably not. Technically the idea behind the whole internship concept is that the intern benefits by learning skills to work in a profession they’re interested in, and the company benefits by helping to cultivate a pool of people with the skills to do that same kind of job. We all know that’s bull, though. Unless you’re lucky and you land one of the really good (or really paid) internships, you’re mostly a source of free labor. Sorry. Usually, the most you get out of an internship is a line to put on your resume and a possible reference for future applications — neither of which are the be-all and end-all of getting a job after graduation.

Honestly, a lot of college students spend their summers without internships. It really shouldn’t be a surprise, too. There is no company on earth that has more internship positions than positions for actual real jobs. (Nike actually told a friend of mine to apply for a real job because it was less competitive than their internships.) If you’re worried about being bored? Set yourself a personal project. Write a book, draw a comic strip, or get a summer job to pay for that tuition hike. Maybe volunteer somewhere. Take some time for yourself and chill out... until you have to come back for yet another year.

H. A. G. S.,