Marolt: Live now, the rest of your life is a summer internship
I remember when internships were just for doctors. Now they’re for college kids with any kind of major you can think of. Even high school kids are doing them; and they don’t even have majors yet, at least not most of them.
I’m not sure all that much has changed since I was in college. …Well, actually I know a lot has changed about college, just not about the whole working thing. Most likely the internship is the new summer job, a lot like the consultant is the new unemployed.
I’m not knocking internships. But, I don’t like they way they have become almost mandatory for college kids. My parents made me work a summer job when I came home, but they didn’t care what it was. It was all about the money. I had complete freedom to choose from amongst the best-paying opportunities I could find. In this regard, my parents and I were completely copasetic.
I think the modern summer internship is supposed to offer kids a lot more than the old-fashioned summer job. I believe this because most of them certainly pay a whole lot less, so it makes sense that they would give you a whole lot more of something else. Many of them pay nothing at all and seem to be the ones everyone wants. The rewards, they teach the kids in business school, are intrinsic — you can’t measure them. I say, at least that type of remuneration is not subject to tax withholding.
My summer jobs mostly were construction-related. I worked at the lumber yard. I worked on a concrete crew. I worked for a general contractor. It was all grunt work, as they called everything nobody else who worked year-round on the job wanted to do. It was sweaty, dirty, hard work that once in a while entailed having to things that were plain gross. (I bet you never knew that 100-year old fecal matter dries into a fine white powder inside of a long-ago abandoned sewer line, did you?) I did a little landscaping work after that, too.
The thing a lot of people don’t realize, mostly because I don’t think they think too much about it, is that those kinds of obviously unglamorous summer jobs can lead to really great, well-paying, satisfying careers. I have a few friends who have prospered in this beautiful little hick town by starting their own concrete, construction and landscaping companies. I’d say, generally speaking, they are at least as happy as some of the other kids I grew up with who are managing hedge funds in New York. No Shinola!
For many, the summertime college or high school job, as opposed to the internship, which is designed to be the first step in their planned lifetime career, is the only opportunity they will ever have to be exposed to many kinds of work they would otherwise never consider. I might say that is one heck of a great opportunity missed, if not to find a career, to experience something completely new and different. That’s the texture of life.
Lot’s of people say kids have to have summer internships to eventually get “real” jobs after they graduate; the first and foremost reason being that everyone else is doing them and it’s a competitive employment world out there. Is the implication that, if you don’t do a summer internship your sophomore year in college, you will never find a suitable job in the next five or six decades of your working life? I don’t buy that. I think well-educated, hard-working, honest people end up doing work they are suited for and enjoy, no matter how they spent the summer of their 21st year.
Besides, if every college kid is doing an internship, that becomes an invisible line on a resume. It’s like a semester abroad. Unless you worked with a French physicist and moved a decimal point in a formula that resulted in a breakthrough in quantum theory, you might as well scribble “boondoggle” on your application.
On top of everything else, I believe the whole big city internship discussion changes for a kid from here. Lots of kids are dying to get out of their hometowns for the summer and the prospect of an internship is a golden ticket. But, here? Who’s dying to get out of Snowmass Village or Aspen for the summer? Man, I could live here for a hundred years and never get enough of our sunshiny days and cool nights between the equinoxes. And, do you know what else? The summers I spent here during the years I came home from college are the ones I cherish most.
Roger Marolt has no regrets about not having done a summer internship. roger@maroltllp
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