Internship culture: Why getting an internship is possibly detrimental as a learning experience


By Julia Hotz

Dear internship coordinator whose name I painstakingly googled for hours but am still not sure is the the person I should be addressing my cover letter to,

I am writing to express my utter desperation in applying for your Summer 2014 Internship Program, which I learned about not because I am particularly interested in your company, but rather because I was rejected from my dream internship.

I saw that you had an opening and felt the need to fill my resume with a “professional experience” this summer.

As a current student, an aspiring successful person and an eternal fan of whatever it says your company’s mission statement is, I believe I am extremely qualified to “be a team player” and “assist with your office’s administrative needs.”

Of course, we both know that’s just code for making copies and fetching coffee.

Although I’ve written over 500 cover letters exactly like this one, I believe that your company is particularly unique because of your dedication to [reworded mission statement].

In fact, as evidenced by my resume, you may find that I’m pretty unique myself, as I’ve spent my previous summers doing equally unfulfilling internships with flashy names.

You may also notice from my resume that my extracurricular achievements, all of which are extremely exaggerated and altered to make them seem more relevant to [twice-reworded mission statement], complement my professional qualifications.

While I understand that the purpose of a cover letter is to elaborate on these so-called “professional” qualifications, I would like to take a minute to be sincere and confess to you that I’m far from a professional.

I’m just an ambitious and restless 20-year-old who is still trying to learn about who I am, what I love and what profession best accommodates these things.

Up until this point, I’ve thought that internships were the only way to do this.

And sure, while I’ve certainly  gained some practical skills from my past office experiences (I can make a delicious dark roast and have become so adept with copy machines that I can play Jingle Bells out of the sounds that the buttons make), these experiences haven’t given me the damnedest insight into what I want to do.

And though I would love to figure out what I want to do by taking initiative on some of your more substantive work and contributing some of my creative input into your organization, I don’t want to come off as an arrogant a-hole and risk being a non-team-player.

Because, at the end of the day, someone is going to have to brew that coffee, make those copies, answer the phones, send out the mail and re-organize the filing cabinets.

Therefore, while our culture certainly makes it seem like our only option for success is to passively perform these tasks (summer after summer) and accept your unpaid internship in hopes of gaining employment, I think I’m going to opt out this summer.

I plan to pursue some non-professional experience-building. This doesn’t mean I’ll be spending my time kicking back with a carton of Ben and Jerry’s, watching Netflix and forgetting what a year’s worth of education has given me.

But rather, it means I’ll be continuing my education by taking a conscientious step toward discovering my true passions.

It means I’ll be reading books, talking to strangers, attending seminars, learning new languages, enrolling in classes, traveling, philosophizing and taking advantage of every opportunity there is to learn.

I apologize in advance for my arrogance and selfishness, and I do not mean to address this letter to all internships.

I do believe that there are some out there that could truly give me a wonderful learning experience.

But somewhere along the way, our generation came to the consensus that internships, fulfilling or not, were the only path to success.

And so we anxiously check our inboxes and wait for you to respond to our desperate applications (when, half the time, I bet you probably don’t even read them), and feel defeated, embarrassed and hopeless when you tell us that “while [we] have some impressive skills, [your organization] received more applications than it ever has, and so [your organization] is unable to offer us an internship this summer.”

And thus, while I understand that this rejection is a natural part of life, I am requesting that you remind your applicants that they do not need your internship (or any internship) to have a great learning experience this summer.

They they can find opportunities to learn in a non-office setting, too.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my application, and I look forward to your response!


Julia Hotz



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