Small talk: sophomore year, internships, and new projects
I'm back from college, and of course one of the first things I had to do was get my hands on some French macarons! I have a bucket list of all of the things I want to do (mainly eat) now that I've returned to civilization. It's pretty dire out at Dartmouth. Our nearest "town", Hanover, is like four blocks long. In that small space, there are THREE Thai restaurants alone out of maybe ten restaurants and only a J. Crew and overpriced boutiques to shop in. When I tell you we are out in the woods, I mean it. But it's like a weird, expensive, privileged woods.
Anyway, I finished my first term of Sophomore year. This term was an entirely new kind of stressful for me. I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to do better and capitalize on what Dartmouth can offer me. I was happy to do the work knowing that I was investing in my future. But it. was. still. so. hard.
"I can't complain that I have too much food on my plate when my goal was to eat." -story of my life
Term In Review: Accomplishments/Involvement
- Became an editor in chief and launched a publication on campus– Black Praxis
- Worked 2 jobs: Writing tutor and sales associate at school convenience store
- Took intro to Calculus; and didn't fail (not a fan of math and I'd also been out of it for a year so I expected it to be a struggle. I finished with a B though!)
- I finished my language requirement in French and can confidently say, je parle Français!
- Got involved with Women in Business and the Afro-American Society
- Attended several networking and career events (e.g. the Black Ivy League Business Conference)
- Applied to 9 internships (finding the ideal companies, writing unique cover letters, and adjusting resumes for every job application is a lot more time-consuming than I expected)
- Minded my damn business and put into action what I had learned from last year
Overall, I'm really proud of what I've done this term. I now know what it looks like to really engage and trust in "the process". Even if you can't measure the progress you're making at each moment, once it all comes together at the end you realize how far you've truly come, and it's a great feeling.
I decided to take Winter term off (January through March) to take a break from school and do an internship. The internship search process has made me realize a lot of things.
Internships are not as accessible as colleges make them out to be. They seem like a given when you enter college–not a matter of "if" but "when and where". They've become a necessary bullet point on your resume. Without them, it looks like you've done nothing valuable in your college career. Despite the expectation to do one at some point, internships are actually out of reach for many college students.
Don't get me started on how cheap and downright insulting businesses are when it comes to interns. In my school's job database, there was one business development internship position that offered $50 per month for a 3 month internship. You can make more money off one sponsored blog post than that entire internship! Most college students can't afford to work for pennies much less do an unpaid internship especially when the job is outside of their state. For someone like me, who can't find local businesses that satisfy my educational and career interests, I have to look outside of my city. If it's an unpaid internship, who's going to fund my living costs? It becomes unrealistic to rack up extra debt for the "experience" when you could be making solid money working full-time at the mall over breaks. Even more, the standards for interns are insanely high, but they still don't want to pay us for the real work we're doing. Internships are no longer an opportunity to learn and gain experience, businesses are looking for highly skilled students to exploit so they don't have to hire full-time adults.
It's all an illusion...
A lot goes on "behind closed doors", especially within the Ivy League. There's a huge emphasis on capitalizing on your "network" to get to certain internships and jobs. In the Ivy League, if you can't find an opportunity, it's just because you aren't tapping into the network you somehow suddenly have of CEOs and recruitment managers. Many students who attend Dartmouth are, of course, wealthy and come with a network inherited from their parents. I remember attending a discussion panel of upperclassmen women about the previous internships they had in business. Almost all of them got their internships because one of their parents made a call or knew a friend of a friend. They know people who work at incredible companies who can slide your resume right over the rest of applicants' and to the right person. But what if you didn't grow up in a family with extensive connections to people in high places?
It's highly disappointing to realize that you've worked extremely hard to get to somewhere like Dartmouth, but there are still opportunities that are closed off to you because you aren't rich. Now, I'm prepared to bust my ass to overcome that gap because I'll be damned if I lay down and let someone take those opportunities from me. But that shouldn't be an expectation. If internships are set up to be solely for people who are economically or socially privileged, let's stop making it a standard for all students to have completed prestigious internships by the time they get out of college.
Excuse my rant. I feel passionately about stuff like this. Long story short: NO I HAVE NOT FOUND AN INTERNSHIP YET. I'm still waiting to hear back. But, I also have a plan B. Which is my next topic.
opportunities are still endless...if you create them
Despite all my complaints, the application process for internships was rewarding in a very specific way–I discovered that there are like an infinite amount of pathways I can take with my life and career that I would be happy with. I found a lot of joy in discovering new companies I had no idea about. It actually helped me narrow down what exactly I was interested in and all the different ways my passions could manifest in the form of a career. Where I started my internship search is very different from what I'm looking at now. I also found spaces for Cognitive Science majors that I didn't know existed. As I kept finding more and more companies, slipping deeper into that LinkedIn search hole, I realized that options can truly be endless with the right mindset. I've started to think outside of the box as far as finding ways to develop my skills and then showcase them. Internships aren't the only way to use your college education to have valuable experiences.
My plan b
So, I'm a Cognitive Science major with a focus in Human-Centered Design. I don't exactly know what I'm going to do with it, I just know I enjoy designing and improving things and I'm very visually-oriented. I could go into marketing and advertising or work at a ridiculously cool design company like IDEO. As I was looking at what skills would be necessary to work at places like these after college, I realized I could develop them on my own. If I don't get an internship, I will use my time at home to gain expertise in UI/UX design, Photoshop/Illustrator, Branding, Marketing, and more. I may even start a non-profit business or project to help local businesses improve their digital presence and design better marketing strategies for free. I can basically create my own internship with actual hands-on experience.
Try not to get discouraged by a closed door. I used to feel like every decision I made in life would limit my future permanently and narrow it down until there was one option left. It's really quite the opposite. There are so many spaces you can find to thrive in. And if you can't find it, create the space. A closed door simply makes it easier to see the truly open ones.