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Unpopular Opinion: Internships Are Overrated

What if you built a point of view instead of a resume?

01.12.17
the-case-for-not-interning-man-repeller_1

From what I’ve gathered, interning is an iconic rite of passage for New York hopefuls, particularly in the media world. I wouldn’t know firsthand because I never did it. Not five times, not once. That’s why the first time I received an email seeking advice on how to break into the biz-with-a-z, I almost fell over. I have no idea, I thought, I don’t even know how I did! But I’ve marinated on this like a good little chicken and I might actually have a few ideas. Although my advice on how to get here or anywhere you want to go is less formulaic than many would find satisfactory, I do have one good bit of news: it doesn’t have a single fucking thing to do with interning.

As a kid, I hated to read and loved to draw and act and sing. As a teenager, I was a dedicated year-round athlete who liked math and science and English and art. I went to school for International Business and minored in Spanish and Latin American Studies. In college, I worked as a computer lab technician and a copy editor for the school paper. I spent a lot of free time doing DIY projects with my roommate, drawing doodles for my Tumblr blog and teaching myself about typography. I served on the board of my coed professional business fraternity and made most of my friends there. After graduation, I worked as an office manager at tech startups for two years and then as an HR strategist for a design company for three years. On nights and weekends I’d write for my blog, take dance classes, do freelance graphic design and help my friend with her retail business.

If you’re dizzy from reading that, I know. I promise it was even more chaotic to live. By the end of it I was 25 and lost. A sentient pressure cooker of vague desires. I either had too much direction or no direction, I wasn’t quite sure. I oscillated between content and miserable, which was irritating in that it didn’t help me paint a clear emotional picture of what I wanted. But shit, I’ve talked about this before, haven’t I?

I didn’t get my dream writing job because I’m an obsessive journaler, because I was a copy editor in college, because I wrote to an audience of seven for years, because I emailed Leandra until she responded (sorry Leandra). I did those things, sure, and I know it sounds good, but saying so would be a lie. Because between those tidy steps I committed to going to art school, becoming a program manager, succeeding in human resources, becoming a graphic designer, becoming a retail buyer, pursuing psychology…I could go on. If I trace my steps back from now to the eye of my confusing storm, the only thing I can safely say got me here was running like hell from apathy.

The biggest misconception I had through all of it was that I was supposed to know my narrative arc. That there even was one. But narrative arcs are built only in hindsight. Not everyone’s path is linear. And if you’re really fucking confused about what you want, I don’t say any of this as consolation, I say this as congratulations. For me, not knowing what I wanted was the most effective fuel imaginable. I cared for a long time about a whole bunch of stuff and the result was breadth I hadn’t sought and happenstance I couldn’t have predicted.

It’s too easy for me to say I always wanted to be a writer. That the piles of journals and external hard drives of documents are proof that I could never have been anything else. But I know better than to construct such a linear narrative. Most of us don’t get the linear narrative.  There is no magic number of internships that can guarantee you’ll become a compelling person with a point of view and something to add, damn it. No number of checked boxes will make you more interesting than simply staying interested.

The bad news is there is no recipe. The good news is there is no recipe. All you have to do is keep giving a shit.

Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; follow her on Instagram @heysuperstar.

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  • Stephanie

    I like to refer to this as taking the scenic route to your career. I also took the scenic route (not quite as scenic as yours but scenic nonetheless). It’s definitely not the fast track to the top but I think I’m a happier person for it.

    • Haley Nahman

      Love that

  • Laura Doan

    I have to say that I really needed this article. It gave me the deep chicken-noodle-soup-like comfort that only comes when you read sentiments that make you feel less alone. As a sophomore in college I feel like I am totally lost every time I hear: What do you want to do? I vacillate on any given day between wanting to be a teacher, actor, writer and thinking that I should forget passion and just take an LSAT. (Not to mention on the odd day I think: “Hmmm. WWE wrestling. What’s that like?”). So this was a much needed encouragement for me to stop trying to craft myself a singular goal and just keep trying all the things that make me excited. Thanks!

    • Haley Nahman

      YAY

    • Helen Diamond

      Speaking as a mature student, I spent almost all of my 20’s beating myself up for not know what I wanted to ‘be’. By the end of that decade I had given up out of sheer exhaustion and just decided to follow the things that made me happy. Now I’m back at uni doing a degree I absolutely love! No, I still don’t know what I want to ‘be”, because such a thing is impossible I think, for many of us. It is better to follow your interests and try different things. You’re are not alone, and when you get that daft question “what do you want to do?” know it is asked with good intentions, but you don’t have to provide a pre-packaged answer. Be honest, to those who ask and most importantly, to yourself 🙂

      edit: should say I’m a Brit, we don’t have the ‘majors’ system! Our degrees are subject specific.

  • Cay

    I agree. There are no guarantees with internships, which is something that people forget. When I graduated from a NYC college in 2011, the gold star graduates all had glossy internships at the big fashion books – Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire. I had a friend who turned down an internship at a small random site called Refinery29 for an internship at Lucky and everyone was like “That’s a really smart choice.” The step-by-step narrative arc of internship to career in that field is a myth. There are no guarantees and, in many fields, no stability.

    For what it’s worth, I couldn’t intern in college because I had to work (financial aid kid). Many people at my very prestigious school looked down on that – you were expected to collect internships like a kid with Pokemon cards. But I will tell everyone I know that the best leadership training I ever received was at my summer job at a camp, and that that laid the groundwork for what (so far) as been pretty successful early career.

    • Alexis Thomolaris

      Can relate 100% to the struggle of trying to accumulate internships and experience but knowing you realistically need a job that pays. That has been my entire college life! Lucky to have had a few of both, but the balance has been a tough one.

    • Adrianna

      It baffles me that unpaid internships aren’t completely illegal. I attended NYU 2007-2011. I watched paid internships disappear during the recession. My friends’ advisors insisted that they should complete internships for college credit. (How about that for exploitative – pay the second most expensive private university in America to work for free at another company.)

      I worked in the university bookstore all through college. Like you, I feel that I developed some of my strongest skills by dealing with a range of people and problems on a daily basis.

      I have since worked with people who have only ever interned, and boy can they be awkward. I’m generalizing to make a joke, but I can generally guess if someone’s ever worked in retail or in food service based on their ability to talk to strangers.

      • nohemie mawaka

        PREACH IT SISTER!!! It is so sad that so many institutions have so much capita going into the pockets of senior-level management, yet won’t give a penny to entry-level interns doing the dirty work, its so sad!

      • Meg S

        I want to say I hope we pay our intern, but I’m not sure (both paid and unpaid internships are offered) and I’m not comfortable asking that question.

        • Adrianna

          I’ve worked at my company long enough where I felt comfortable asking and sharing my opinion on unpaid internships. Luckily, they are paid.

      • Injie Anis

        Why should internships be paid anyways? Their purpose is to gain experience and learn whether you made a good choice career-wise.

        • Adrianna

          “Experience” doesn’t pay the rent. Free labor is exploitative, and completely shuts the door on people who aren’t privileged enough to do free internships.

          Also, I’m 28. It sounds like I’ve had more professional experience than you. I’ve been mid-level in two industries – one offered unpaid, the other paid internships. (Guess which industry pays higher salaries.) Industries that start at unpaid internships offer incredibly low entry-level salaries. I watched paid internships and entry-level positions turn into unpaid internships during the recession. I feel bad that you feel unpaid internships are “golden tickets,” and it’s a great shame that you are devaluing your chosen career.

          • Injie Anis

            You’re right. Professionally, I have only begun. I’m currently doing my third internship. That’s not much, especially when it compares to you’re experience. Also, I come from a culture where a university student’s bills are still paid by parents and that business and commerce sector are just now standing on their own feet. Hence they really can’t be that exploitive as they need new hires desperately. But even if I were in the States or in any other Western country, I would still choose an unpaid internship if I can’t find a paid one. I’m saying this not because I’m privileged, but that, for me at least, I’d be better able to pay my rent in the long run. I need proof to show myself and to the places I want to work for that I have what it takes. I can’t always have my cake and eat it, too. Not in everything, anyhow.
            On the other hand, I am lucky that all of my internships, even my current one, have never exploited me In any way. They gave me insight and guidance that the internet couldn’t quite give. And the benefits they have given me are as good as getting paid. In fact, I’m actually more confident about my chosen field as well. I want to pursue it more than ever!
            But I am against those companies that exploit interns in any way. They ought to be dealt with harshly. Especially to those who need internships badly, paid or unpaid.

  • Mercedes Ayala

    “If I trace my steps back from now to the eye of my confusing storm, the
    only thing I can safely say got me here was running like hell from
    apathy.” Haley, stop it. Stop it but also never stop it.
    As always, reading any of your writing is like some sort of weird insight into myself. The similarities continue and I am no longer keeping track in my mind, but that fucking sentence. I think that sentence describes my soul (if that’s a thing). All I ever do is out of passion; what I fear most is apathy. When my depression thrusts me into apathy, my passion pushes me into any extreme that will make it stop. Running away from apathy and towards passion is all I ever want. I’d rather jump into the fire than feel nothing at all.

    • Haley Nahman

      Go Mercedes go

  • kelleylynn

    Aw shit I needed this today.

    Something folks need to remember is that with internships still being largely unpaid or under-paid (though not all are, I realize), they’re simply not an option for soooo maaaaany peeeeeople. The ability to take one or SEVERAL unpaid internships comes from a place of great privilege, and while I don’t think anyone should feel bad about being able to take these sorts of opportunities, it should come with the awareness that not everyone can do it. I was not able to intern while I was in school, and I am not able to do so now that I’ve graduated…because, you know, I have to make money to keep myself alive. The hours and hard work I put in behind various espresso machines while putting myself through college might not count for much in the eyes of future employers, or the people asking me about why I haven’t done any internships, but I learned a lot about how to talk to people, how to connect with my community, how to remain exceedingly cool under pressure/under the watchful eye of undercaffeinated customers, how to work well with a team, how to make a killer latte, etc. etc. I met some amazing weirdos at these jobs who have become friends and mentors and I am super proud of the work I did/do, even if no one else is. I always gave a shit, and I still do, no matter what I’m doing…even if it’s not glamorous (which approximately 0% of my life has been). I have had the most unlinear narrative of all time, and it’s frustrating as hell and I never really know what’s going to come next, but I’m hoping I can look back at the end of all of it and be like “yeah, that was pretty cool.”

  • Alexis Thomolaris

    Via the comments section and your piece about finally being content, we’ve talked about the fear of committing to a particular career path for various reasons, in my case, most importantly being the fear of failure 🙁 Would you say an internship in hopes of being offered a job at its conclusion is a smart career move?! Especially if you plan to graduate in May (meeeep) and your future seems slightly blurry… Idk this piece turned my views of internships on its head hahaha and I’m seeking your guidance ❤

    • Haley Nahman

      If it’s a job that interests you I’d say absolutely!!! Feel free to give me more deets, happy to talk it through.

      • Alexis Thomolaris

        DMed you!

  • haley your meandering path gives me hope for my own ty for that.

    also this line: “No number of checked boxes will make you more interesting than simply staying interested.”

  • Julissa

    I agree… and yet, it always seems that it’s people who were able to score amazing internships who are now doing really well. esp. in media. So I think they count for something? Unpaid/low-paying internships in NYC/LA were not really an option for me, though. And now as an adult seven-ish years into some semblance of a career, I still have a pretty hard time defining what success looks like for me.

    • kelleylynn

      Agreed. Though I agree with Haley on a personal level that internships are overrated (maybe I’m just jealous, idk), it does seem pretty clear that they are actually fairly valuable, especially for those trying to work in media. And, this is unfortunate, because as you point out, they’re not really an option for a lot of people. And yet, “get an internship!” is still the #1 piece of advice I’m given as a recent college grad trying to do the media thing, and I just wanna be like…y’all…stop…I can’t. So I, like Haley once did, write for no money for my blog that no one reads and hope that work will someday pay off. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ ¯_(ツ)_/¯¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • Sloane

    I’m a junior in high school and this was really refreshing to hear during a time when everyone is saying to “do more! do more! be more! be more!”. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and making me feel much more relaxed. (-:

  • Tenna

    Thank you for this post! I’m as confused as you must have been, as I currently have only a vague idea what I want to do in life (I’m graduating this year and have started to panic a bit). However, I have used internships to test certain industries only realising that e.g PR is definitely not for me. That way I think internships are useful.
    In addition, I do feel somewhat sorry for people who know what they want to do in life, but find it difficult to succeed. In a way it is kind of relief to not know what you want to do, thereby taking a more laissez faire approach to life – at least that is what I tell myself!

    • Haley Nahman

      HA never thought of that. Love it.

    • This is maybe a comment on how the quality of an internship is probably the most important thing to look for, but I used to think, and still do to a degree, the same thing – that internships are really useful because they’re sort of like a get out of jail free card (idk what the jail part of the analogy is here but I think it works!) where we can try to work out for ourselves what industries suit us without any real pressure. But the reason that I’m more and more personally sceptical of this view is just the very limited range of things that an intern actually gets to do.

      Again, this is a question of quality, but when I was a PR intern, there was such a huge disconnect between what the interns were able to participate in and the actual work that the publicists/account executives seemed to do. I knew so many of my fellow interns completely hated what they were doing (sending out and returning samples day in day out) but felt they had to keep at it just to get the reference or be able to include the internship on their CV. I completely understand that an intern is restricted in what they can reasonably undertake over a pretty short period of time + privacy concerns etc etc, but to be able to see that the people who had the jobs that they wanted in the future never do any of the things they had to do, nor be able to comfortably speak to the actual account executives/directors etc to ask questions and learn more about the industry seemed to be a pretty inadequate way of testing the waters. Like (just to continue this water analogy/break with the jail analogy), if you were learning how to swim, you wouldn’t have a wade in the shallow pool and declare yourself competent in all four strokes, nor would any good instructor tell you that to learn how to swim you first had to wade. So it just seems confusing to me that so many interns, from personal experience at least, take on uninspired internships only to leave demoralised and feel like that isn’t the industry for them. (This also isn’t me attacking your view, I’m sorry if it comes across that way!! This is just me reflecting on what you said in a somewhat convoluted and ramble-y fashion)

  • Deborah Osbourn

    While I agree that there are no guarantees with interships, I don’t necessarily think they are overrated. Not all interships are created equal. As a recruiter, the thing that matters most is experience. The second paragraph in this post created a resume that looks great for an entry level candidate and shows a lot of initiative and that you, stayed interested. Not everyone is going to have that. So, if you have to work and you aren’t lucky enough to grab one of those shiny internships, you created a great path.

  • Lindsey

    Haley! Yes! This is so well written, and so wise. As someone who is very linear-oriented, it took me a long time to see how the web of my interests created something that wouldn’t have happened if I had just followed a straight path. It definitely reminds me of that talk that Liz Gilbert did on “following your curiosity”, “like hummingbirds.” You flit from thing to thing, and soon enough you’ve pollenated a bunch of different flowers and created a beautiful maze that only you could have created. Here’s the video, if you haven’t seen it. I highly recommend! http://www.supersoul.tv/supersoul-sessions/elizabeth-gilbert-flight-hummingbird-curiosity

    • Haley Nahman

      Will watch!

  • i would love to see a counterpoint article from someone who felt their internships were really beneficial. Not all internships are getting coffee, ya know? i personally love my internship and hope it will turn into something, but even if it doesn’t, the experience gained is invaluable. i think it’s always important to show both sides, as internships generally get a lot of hate nowadays 🙂

    • Haley Nahman

      I think they can be so valuable! I think loads of people can speak to that

    • Emily Ziller

      I completely agree. I must live in a different world but I now work as a graphic designer in southern Ohio and when I was in school a couple years ago every agency in town offered paid internships. Even my friends in other fields were able to score paid internships in their field at large international companies. I hardly know any people who seriously worked unpaid internships. Maybe NYC can just take advantage of interns more but if I was having this problem I would try to find the most valuable experience in a less well known city and work your way up to that “dream job,” whatever it may be. I believe that every experience teaches you something and that holds value. But not trying to have those experiences at all? I understand that people want to feel fulfilled but also sometimes great things take time. there are so many people I went to college with that didn’t intern at all and they cant comprehend why their college degree didn’t immediately give them their dream job in their field. I know it is a complicated issue but I feel like in some cases people are not trul exploring all of their options fully.

  • Erica

    Ah!!!!! I had a gut feeling Haley wrote this as soon as I saw the headline. As someone who’s currently trying to figure out “what next” this is exactly what I needed/wanted to hear. I feel oddly inspired and a little warm and fuzzy – like when you order your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant and surrounded by great company and laughs. Life is filled with unlimited possibilities and everything will be okay!!! All the experiences no matter how big or small are merely chapters/episodes leading up to the next best thang(s).

    Thank you Haley 🙂

    • Haley Nahman

      Now I’m warm and fuzzy

  • KK

    Totally agree with the “stay busy and curious and active” sentiment of this
    BUT
    totally disagree that internships are overrated. My major required 2 semesters of internships, which I had to find/acquire myself while also juggling classes and a waitressing job. Aside from building a small portfolio and getting the job experience so many entry-level positions required, those internships taught me how to hustle.

  • Car

    Totally agree with the idea that it’s more important to stay involved with what you care about than force whatever path you’re told is the one to your ~dream job or whatever. I think about this often. I didn’t have a clear path or specific career goal throughout college, but looking at the past five years I know I did a good job of following my interests and staying committed to those things. I did have to juggle the unpaid internship/paid job/work study/commuting to school thing (my major required an internship) but always resented the whole unpaid internship success narrative.
    Last year I was asked to speak on a panel for current students in my major about what my experience was like after college and was just told to be prepared to talk about how I found my first job, what I struggled with, etc. Everyone else on the panel was like oh I applied for a few jobs related to my major and then I got one and it was great!!!!!!! And I was like…??? Then explained my cobbled-together life which drew literal laughter from the audience. Pretty sure everyone else on the panel likely had similar experiences to mine, but we’re constantly told “do this and this for this result” and they just assumed that’s what the sudents wanted to hear.

    • Haley Nahman

      Such a good anecdote!!

  • tmm16

    From someone who has a total of 5 internships on her resume (ugh) from college, I see your point and also question just how important they are. I still had to fight to get a job despite all of my “experience.” I think they are nice decorators for a resume and obvs show you have acquired some job experience, which is nice, but overall, it’s how committed and passionate you are about the job(s) you’re applying for.

    I question if we should call them something like, “learnerships” instead of internships. The point of them to is learn what you want and don’t want. Simple. And I don’t think employers should require that you need them too, because they aren’t accessible to everyone.

  • Jackie Homan

    I definitely agree that staying interested and trying out lots of things are crucial to success, but I think that internships can be amazing as well. As someone who has had a few awesome ones (*cough* Man Repeller *cough*), I think they can be really educational, inspiring, and valuable. Since I’m still in the intern phase of life, it’s TBD whether any of my internships will actually lead to a job after graduation, but I feel like the internships I’ve had have taught me so much that they would be valuable to me no matter what. Either way, it was interesting to hear this perspective since I know so many people’s career paths are totally not linear, and it’s good to know that they don’t need to be linear to work out in the end.

    • Haley Nahman

      Totally with you!

  • Liz Romero

    Eek! I’m 29 and for the last two years I’ve been writing, a lot, personally and somewhat professionally. I used to hate writing because I associated it with college entrance essays, stupid history lessons and making sure my indents were 1 inches! Damn, that got old quick! Until I was finished with college I realized, hey, I want to start a blog, because why not? Well I fucking love it! I feel like my personality really shines with writing and it feels so good because in social situations I am always the quiet/shy/people-probably-think-I’m-a-bitch-but-I-promise-I’m not…person. The funny thing is, my job isn’t to write, it’s to manage kids and make sure they’re doing their homework and not wasting away sending dog filtered selfies to their ‘boyfriends’ (this is junior high after all). It all takes time. My current job is fulfilling enough, but my hopes are to write, create and someday find a way to make it a full time job. Thank you for this article! I realized I am not the only millenial trying to figure what to do with life, just figure out where the best almond latte is!!

  • AbsintheWithoutLeave

    I worked for years at a major magazine. The annual arrival of interns was met with utter dread. Usually they were relatives/neighbors/friends of important people (if you are never getting internships when you apply, this is likely why) Without fail they thought they should automatically be given assignments that staffers worked for years to get. Usually they could barely form complete sentences. I know they padded their resumes with all the stuff they did but trust me: they didn’t do shit. When I finally rose to a position of power, I begged off using interns at all. And when hiring, I’d count serial internships against an applicant (one is fine, any more than two is iffy). Haley is correct. Go out and get your life. Don’t be an intern.

    • CDC

      I see your point, but for some of us (I was an international student) the luxury of going out and finding a job is nearly impossible. My only way of meeting anyone in the industry was interning, in the hopes that maybe one of those green juices would make me memorable enough to be worthy of a job come graduation.

      What would you suggest then? I’m genuinely curious, because I am mid-Master’s now and about to go down the same road again once I graduate…

      • AbsintheWithoutLeave

        I only know about the magazine industry, and specifically the one where I worked, but very few interns were ever hired there, and certainly not for good jobs. Admin stuff, maybe. My magazine chewed young people ( women) up to do shit jobs for shit pay and spit them out in a few years when they never were able to advance in their careers.The people in charge had zero interest in the interns, so while you may have “met” them as an intern, they were never, ever going to mentor you in any meaningful way. They don’t care about who brings them juice.They wouldn’t even remember your name an hour after you were introduced. BUT the good news is that you don’t need them. I used to tell young writers to blog and I still think that’s a good idea even though blogs are kind of over. Blogs show your point of view and ability (unedited, which is huge) and that is what I was always looking for in a hire.

  • nohemie mawaka

    I LOVE THIS!! I just graduated from my masters and struggling to find a job. I have done countless amounts of internships, and yet struggling to find my path that will lead to me to my end goal. This is so great, I had to retweet it!

  • CDC

    I have mixed feelings about this. I was an international student at a US university, and thus couldn’t work outside campus. Almost all campus jobs went to students with financial aid, so while I was fortunate enough that my parents were paying for me, I didn’t have the opportunity to have a paying job. Technically I wasn’t even allowed to intern until my senior year, but seeing people gaining experience left and right I said fuck it and did it anyway.

    I’ve been a serial intern not because I wanted to, but because finding a job as an international graduate (especially a first-time job with only a Bachelor’s) is impossible. No one wants to sponsor a visa for a first-time employer, but without the visa I can’t gain any experience, so I intern. Again and again. I’m getting my Master’s now–not because I want to, but because my options are go back to my country where my career doesn’t exist, or work somewhere unfulfilling until the end of time.

    I am fully aware it is an incredible thing that I can further my education, but where will I end up after graduation? I don’t want to think in the same place, but realistically speaking… What are your suggestions MR audience: keep interning and hope to strike gold, or know when to pack my bags and go home?

    • Anni

      I’m gonna be honest – what (broadly) is your field? I was also a international student at a US university – I got my B.F.A (fashion design) and transitioned into a product design role at a big company following, guess what(?), a internship. My company and a lot of big companies do not take on graduate interns for creative work (they do have a MBA intern program) and they typically don’t hire graduates for entry level roles as they have a steady stream of undergrads rolling in through their intern program and a fresh graduate without significant long term experience isn’t qualified for non-graduate roles that typically require x years of experience, not to mention they would have to pay you more. I think if I was in your position, in my field I would potentially reconsider unless I had a lot of financial independence to keep interning until I hit gold.

      I would get some solid advice from someone in your industry who has been in your shoes honestly – there are some industries where having those qualifications might trump experience, or where it gets easier to be hired following that graduate industry but I can firmly say that my particular industry is not that one.

      • CDC

        Thank you, really. I have been asking this question to everyone, and I think you have been the first true response.

        My BA is in Merchandising & Buying, and back home we don’t have designers/companies big enough to need a merchandising department (plus I have found there isn’t even a translation for the term in Spanish…). One of the companies I interned for told me to come back in 2-3 years with experience and they would sponsor me, but how do I get the experience? I don’t really have that much financial independence; it’ll run out once I finish my Master’s.

        It seems a bit sad to say after Haley’s uplifting message, but should I just grow up and find something else?

        • Anni

          There are a couple of things you can do – one is that while you are in school (because you are financially secure) you can “volunteer” work at a smaller area. Large companies (Barneys / Macy’s) will obviously not let you work/volunteer for free but try to make connections at smaller boutiques. Ask them if you can come by 3/7 days a week for a few hours and help them with their merchandising / buying – if you go home or overseas to visit family during the summer leverage your connections to see if you can work for a local designer / furniture store / boutique. Sure they might not have a merchandising department, but maybe you could help them with aligning their supply chain / advertising. Having more tricks under your belt, even if they are not directly what you hope to work under is always a plus.

          When I interned as a undergrad I had a few friends who were US citizens who underwent the training program at various department stores post graduation. I don’t remember what the program was called but basically it was a year of paid training at Nordstroms or a similar huge retailer as a merchandiser / buyer, etc and then you would transition to a official full-time position. See if you are still can intern as a graduate student.

          As a note, were you ever told you could take internships as “classes / electives” as a undergrad? As a undergrad student, after freshman year I had enough credits to take internships as classes so basically every summer I forked out $3000 (approx one class – I went to a very expensive school unfortunately) to intern for credit, with the exception of the final paid internship that got me hired. It seems odd for me that they restricted you to their final year as I know many people who got hired by interning at the same place twice.

          • CDC

            Thank you SO MUCH. You literally brought tears to my eyes. I cannot tell you how long I’ve been searching for these answers. I’m going to try everything you recommended! Honestly, you renewed my hope for 2017.

  • Meg

    My only internship was at a boutique PR agency in London, at the time their focus was health & natural beauty (2010 so the options for “natural” beauty products were kind of meh.) It was a cool experience and helped with bulk up some skills, but the benefit has been minimal post-grad. Part of me wishes that since it was part of a semester abroad and on Thurs+Fri that I didn’t do an internship and had bonus travel days. Also, my visa picture looks like shit.

  • YES.

    I think that the other problem which feeds into an ‘internships are necessary (sometimes regardless of whether or not you can actually afford to have one or five)’ mentality is the kind of criteria that covetable jobs in media supposedly demand. And then the necessity of internships becomes a self fulfilling prophecy because the very, very, VERY large majority of people – especially women – who are totally killing it in the industry, and who college students (and beyond) aspire to be and look to for career guidance or modelling, seem to have done them so it seems like the best path to pursue.

    But I think this was a really important timely reminder that not all paths to success, or happiness, or whatever it is we’re after, are so clearly defined – nor do they need to be.

  • Carrie Asby

    YES! Love it. Currently going through a career change and a little scared. My path has been a zig, a zag and a loop-de-loo. Thank you for reminding me that my path has been just fine. Much appreciated.

  • Maren Douglas

    Were you in AKPsi??

  • I suggest slightly-less-impractical but no less miserable Americorps instead. You’ll get paid (barely) and there are some other assorted benefits like an educational reward.

  • Pa La

    This is me right now.
    I went reading your other articles on Man Repeller and, Haley, you’re giving a voice to my thoughts. Thanks

  • jiaqi

    Well said!! loved this piece

  • Ashley Kordik

    Fuck. This resonates so much with me. (I’M EVEN WORKING, AT 25, AS AN OFFICE MANAGER FOR A START UP, WITH A BLOG, TAKING DANCE CLASSES ON THE WEEKEND). Thank you so much. This is some sweet relief.

  • Kate Miskuly

    I really needed to read this right now. Thank you for writing it. I’m going off to college in the fall and know that I love all kinds of things and don’t know how to choose one thing. My favorite line, “No number of checked boxes will make you more interesting than simply staying interested.” Thank you again!