When a prospective student recently asked me if most Northwestern students get summer internships, I almost started laughing. If she could only hear the panicked conversations of Northwestern students who haven’t received internship offers. If she could only see what brain-dead NU students look like when they complete several grueling rounds of interviews to land consulting internships. If she could only experience sending out tens of resumes and internship applications during winter and spring breaks.
Northwestern’s pre-professional reputation attracts many future doctors, lawyers, and businesspeople. I remember reading in the Fiske Guide to Colleges that Northwestern is much like Duke and the Ivies, known for its pre-professional programs and atmosphere. I knew that, coming into Northwestern, I would be set on a path for career success after graduation.
Yet during my junior year, when students look for key internships to ensure future job prospects, the internship obsession started to annoy my friends and me. Weekend dinners and social events were disrupted by bragging about how many consulting interviews one had received. Students became cold to each other once they realized they were applying to the same internships. Some that accepted prestigious internships boasted about their starting salaries to others who hadn’t finalized their summer plans yet, causing bitterness and jealousy.
Behavior like this divides our class and can tarnish valuable relationships. All of this destructive behavior has made me wonder if NU’s internship obsession is helping us get an advantage in our future careers, or if it is tearing us apart.
Of course, internships are worth striving for, as they are crucial to employment after college. As they have gotten increasingly competitive, college students across the country have ramped up their efforts to acquire internships. And at Northwestern, where tons of students clamor to work for prestigious consulting firms and Fortune 500 companies, the competition is expected.
But one can be competitive without being rude and disrespectful. Students should follow a few internship “ground rules.” They can take extra measures to make sure that they are not offending others, such as not boasting about internship offers on Facebook. They can congratulate others who have managed internships. They can agree not to discuss salaries or specific perks.
I believe that NU’s internship obsession helps most students by preparing us for what the real world job search is actually like – insanely competitive. And with all the University’s efforts, such as career fairs and resume reviews from University Career Services (UCS), students should be prepared to land a top internship and excel in their career field of choice. But we should be careful to not let the internship obsession take over and wreck the sense of unity that we work so hard to develop at Northwestern.