By Clara Hudson
Photography by Ryan Lim
The inevitable “how was your summer?” question circulates campus at the start of the fall semester, and forces students to reflect on their productivity. It causes them to objectively look back and think if their internship was worth the time, and if their job was worth the money.
Paid internships are few and far-between, which means that most students have to make a choice between earning money or getting experience during their four months of vacation.
A summer internship is supposed to help mold students and provide them with skills for the real world in a way that college classes cannot. However, sometimes internships are not always worth the Xeroxing and coffee runs. And taking entry-level jobs make you question whether or not they are useful if they don’t relate to your career.
Anisha Nawalrai (SHA ’18) is a Hospitality Administration major, and took a job as a hostess for the summer. For Nawalrai, her job helped her get experience relevant to her major, even though it wasn’t a position she would pursue.
“The reason why I got this job was for the experience, though I really enjoyed the pay as well! I feel like I learned a lot about the restaurant industry and how it operates, but I wasn't very satisfied with just being a hostess.”
Emily Vasilopoulos (SMG ’16) was lucky enough to find a paid internship that benefited her career in accounting, as she left with a job offer for after graduation.
“I did a paid internship at Ernst & Young for the summer,” she said. “Part of what I loved about it was the people. I enjoyed the work I was doing, and this mattered more to me in the long term than the pay.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as Nawalrai and Vasilopoulos and are unable to find a job that benefits their career, while offering good pay. With their bank accounts in mind, many students end up taking on an unpaid internship and a paid job.
Kevin Chen (SMG ’17) worked an unpaid marketing and operations internship for Green Streets Initiative, a local environmental non-profit organization. Chen also worked in retail at Hollister at the same time.
“I worked at my internship mostly for the experience,” said Chen. “I worked at my retail job for the money to make up for the unpaid internship.”
This leads to the question of how students are supposed to manage two jobs. As summer offers the promise of sun, sea and relaxation, it can be a challenge to stay motivated and excited while having all that responsibility.
Jesse Ohrenberger, the Assistant Director of Counseling and Programs at the Boston University Center for Career Development says that jobs taken just for money are “very valuable experiences.”
“[They help you] develop communication skills, teamwork and customer service skills that employers really value, and still look good on a resume. Depending on what direction you want to take, you can market skills from your experience to your employers,” he said.
He further advises students to “think about the way that you market yourself to an employer or grad school as a sum total of all of your experience,” as they are applying for positions next summer. This experience comes from internships, jobs, classroom projects, clubs and volunteer activities.
Working an internship for no money can sometimes give you an invaluable experience that a paid job that has no interest to you will not be able to. Ultimately, deciding how to most effectively use your time in the summer sometimes just means making the decision between money and experience.