Diversify your summers: take advantage while you can

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Most underclassmen at DePauw University spend spring semester furiously searching for an internship to occupy their summer months. I understand the draw to a traditional internship. They look good on resumes, help you prepare for the 'real-world' and help you figure out whether you might be interested want a career in that profession.
As a senior, I cannot help but sit back, enjoy my last few months of hazy memories and late nights and try to remind each and every younger student that life is not a rat-race to get ahead of the kid next to you. Internships are not the missing ingredient to your future success.
I have never once had a 'traditional' nine-to-five internship. It is not because I have perpetually failed to secure an internship, but rather because I have never really sought internships out. My parents told me during the summer preceding my first year at DePauw that they would not be giving me any spending money in college, a decision that I respect and appreciate to this day. It taught me how to budget my money for the memories I wanted to make while in college.
Their decision also meant that I had to work a lot to pay for what I wanted to do while at DePauw. I have had some odd jobs over the summers: the head cook at a summer camp, a butcher, a fork-lift operator, and most recently, on a construction crew. I do not regret a single one of these positions even if they do not look particularly impressive on a LinkdIn profile. They have taught me about who I am and have instilled a work-ethic in me that I might not have had if I had a monotonous internship over my summers.
DePauw students always worry about what will help set them apart from their peers. The 'real-world' seems to pressure us into believing that internships and experience working at a desk job is what will set us apart. In my humble opinion, this could not be further from the truth.
I have sat through a fair share of interviews, both legitimate and mock, during my life, and I have never been asked is, "why haven't you ever had an internship?" Instead, most start out asking about the oddities of my work experience. They comment on how interesting it is that someone from my generation got into the bizarre job of butchering or ask how much I grew-up from the responsibilities associated with being responsible for feeding two-hundred plus mouths three times a day.
In my opinion, setting yourself apart is what matters: making sure that when you leave an interview, the interviewers remember you for something.
At the end of the day, it is not all about how many internships you held. Instead, you should focus on how you plan to sell yourself to a future employer. In my case, I know that I can sell my work ethic and ability to learn quickly on the job.
Before applying for that tenth internship, consider what it will really do for you in the greater scheme of your life plans. Companies and graduate programs are not only concerned with whom you worked for. They want to know that you got something from that experience.
You are only young once. Do not sacrifice every summer to a desk job because society tells you to.

-Small is a senior history and political science double major from Zionsville, Ind.