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I Survived the Seemingly Endless Summer Internship Search, & You Will Too

From the beginning of my college career, I knew I wanted to eventually have a summer internship. I viewed a summer internship as a way to jumpstart my future career, whatever that would be. I envisioned spending my summer in a fast-paced environment, learning crucial skills and exploring a new city. The thought of going to an office every day—and even just getting to tell people that I had a summer internship—felt incredibly grown-up, and every year as summer approached, I began to search for my perfect summer internship.

Turns out that the perfect search I envisioned falling into place was way, way harder than I thought. 

After my first year, I was simply too young. When summer applications started rolling out I had barely declared a major, and I knew that companies wanted older, more experienced candidates with more impressive resumes than mine. So I resigned myself to a summer as a camp counselor, saved up some money, and told myself that I would try again the next year.

But when it came time to apply again after my sophomore year, I still felt as inexperienced and unqualified.

Sure, I had some new accomplishments to brag about. I had gotten more involved on campus and started writing for Her Campus, certainly becoming a better writer after another year of undergrad. Still, I thought that companies were going to be looking for someone older, more mature and more experienced. I submitted a couple of applications and even had a couple of interviews and wasn’t surprised that year two of my search had not yielded any results. But I felt the next summer would be my prime time for a summer internship.  

This time, during my junior year, I got to work early. In previous years, I was pretty all over the place with my applications, applying to anything I found slightly interesting. By the end of my sophomore year, I had decided that I wanted something in the communications media field, in New York City. And after spending a day in the summer shadowing an alum of my university who worked in the publishing industry at Penguin Random House, I knew that I would spend the next year prepping to apply for a publishing internship, which had been a dream of mine since I was a child. 

Meghan Shaffer
Original photo by Meghan Shaffer
Though applications and recruitment for publishing internships don’t happen until the spring, I made sure that I was doing all the work I could early in the year to ensure that I would be the ideal candidate for whatever company I decided was best for me. I worked with the career center at my school to perfect my resume and fixed my cover letters. I applied for funding that my college provides for unpaid internships. I networked with alumni who worked in publishing, or in marketing, or even just in New York so that I would have some contact. I made sure that I knew when applications for positions I was interested in were due. I was ready to find the internship of my dreams.

Turns out that landing your dream job is harder than it seems. 

After what felt like years (in reality, it was a couple of months) of applying to jobs and not hearing anything back, I still didn’t have an internship. I had sent in countless applications and even had some phone interviews that I felt went well. After sending in applications in the publishing field I broadened my spectrum a little, focusing on anything in the media field that I felt was qualified for. There were jobs I was excited about and jobs I wasn’t really thrilled about, but applied to anyway. My friends were getting job offers and interviews with companies that I wanted to work for, and I was hearing nothing.

Suddenly it was the beginning of April, and I didn’t have an internship. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, and I was starting to panic. Time was running out, and I was determined that I would not spend another summer working at a summer camp. Despite that determination, I was getting exhausted. I was incredibly passionate and excited about many of the internships I had applied too, and getting a rejection or no response at all felt personal. What if I wasn’t qualified to work in the field that I had always pictured myself in? What if I had set out on the wrong path, the wrong major, the wrong future career?

What was I doing wrong? Turns out, probably nothing. 

I went to the career center at my college and talked to one of the counselors there, convinced she would point out everything wrong with my applications and set me on the right course. Unfortunately, she told me, I was doing everything right. There was no magic change I could make to my resume that would immediately grant me access to my dream job. Summer internships are so competitive, and sometimes the only way to get one is to keep trying till something sticks.

I still haven’t gotten a job offer yet. And yes, there are some days where that fact really stresses me out, some days where I’m convinced that it’s hopeless and I should just give up. But it’s not, and I shouldn’t. I’ll keep looking, keep applying to companies that I am passionate about and have a lot to learn from. Spending an hour every day applying to jobs can be time-consuming and draining, but I have to trust that putting the effort in will reap benefits. I’ll take advantage of the resources I have, continue to improve my skills, and hope for the best. It’s all I can do.

I will survive the summer internship search, and you will too! 

Meghan is the Life Editor and a National Features Writer for Her Campus. A senior at the College of the Holy Cross studying English and History, she hopes to one day write a novel (or at least edit one) and is constantly in search of a good book to read, her next cup of coffee, and a dog to pet.