Thursday, February 9, 2023

Stress, money and LinkedIn subtle-bragging: MSU students talk internship application season

March 30, 2022

Supply chain management junior Grace Clark applied for six internships this semester —  all of them offered her a position.  Despite clear success, she still didn’t feel like she was on the right track compared to her peers in MSU’s Broad College of Business. 

“At the beginning of this process, opening my LinkedIn was very scary,” Clark said. “I felt pretty behind accepting an offer in the spring semester when all of my friends in Broad and my peers have been accepting offers since September.”

Clark will complete a demand planning internship at Hershey in fall 2022, and she said she’s happy with where she ended up in spite of the stress it caused her along the way. Her experience of applying and interviewing for several internships at a time is standard for many MSU students who attend hiring fairs or other job placement opportunities on campus. The anxiety and self-comparison which accompanies the experience is also a common trend. 

This isn’t an issue isolated to students in one area of study. According to MSU’s Career Services Network, 75% of undergraduate students will complete internships before graduation. Several programs at MSU require completion of an internship, or ‘field experience,’ in order to graduate. 

While some students begin the internship application process as early as November or December of the year prior to the actual job window, spring semester is recognized by many as “internship season.”

Clark said the added stress of internship applications on top of her course load led her to fall behind in her schoolwork. 

“It's also pretty time intensive — I had a bunch of rounds of interviews, and to balance that during school is pretty difficult,” Clark said. “I did not focus as much on schoolwork as I should have during that time period. I secured the internship that I wanted, so it did pay off, I'm just playing a little bit of catch up in school now.”

International relations sophomore Kyle Korte echoed these sentiments. 

“I had two different appointments with a JMC career consultant, and those are all half-hour appointments,” Korte said. “That plus the time I put in outside of that working on cover letters, resume, writing samples that I submitted. It probably took five or six hours over the course of a week. So it definitely was very stressful trying to get all that in and meet the deadline for the application.”

After submitting several applications and being reassured by a career consultant that he was a competitive applicant, Korte said he hasn’t heard back from any of the places he applied. 

“I feel a lot of pressure to have an internship because I do see a lot of people, even just my friends, casually talking about themselves applying and their processes,” Korte said. “And when they do get internships, it definitely makes me feel like I'm a little bit behind.”

The rise in the usage of apps like LinkedIn encourages students to post about their professional achievements, leading to an influx of social media posts in the spring months announcing summer plans for exciting job opportunities at sought-after companies or organizations. 

Political theory and constitutional democracy junior Rachel Vinarcik said she often experienced feelings of inadequacy when looking at her peers’ LinkedIn posts announcing their summer plans. 

“I feel like I can't go on LinkedIn without seeing ‘I just accepted this position for spring or this one for summer, ... or I work on this, this and this,’” Vinarcik said. “And I feel like people are pretty supportive about trying to find a job because we all kind of get that it's tough, but at the same time, there's definitely an underachiever complex.”

Adding to the stress of finding an internship itself is the fact that many of the jobs offer little or no pay. According to a database of American undergraduate jobs compiled by Chegg Internships,  around 60% of internships offered to undergraduates are paid, and only 59% of internship employers offer any sort of housing assistance for students who relocate for their summer jobs. 

The prevalence of unpaid internships often makes them exclusionary to low-income or first-generation students who may not have the financial means to relocate for a job that pays less than many retail or food service positions. Vinarcik said her job search was constrained by unpaid openings, and the corporate government affairs internship she accepted for the summer wasn’t exactly what she was hoping for. 

“There were a bunch of jobs that I like ‘Oh my gosh, this is like my dream internship,’ and then I clicked on it and it’s unpaid,” she said. “It's like, well, can I afford moving somewhere? Can I afford living and all these expenses if I'm not being paid?”

In the midst of job-hunting many students find themselves stressed, but don’t provide as much attention to their mental health as they would academics or student life. 

“If I would have had someone being like, ‘Here, it’s going to be okay. Just don't stress. Don't worry, we'll figure something out,’ that would have been really helpful,” Vinarcik said. 

This story was in our March 29 print edition. Read the full issue here.

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