Dear Student Sam

Dear Sam the Student:

I'm a junior at an Ivy League college, and freaking out about internships. It seems like all my friends have one and I'm worried about not getting one, but I just don't know how I can manage it. I don't come from a rich family, I took out loans to pay for school, and I have a part-time job on the side. How am I supposed to balance all that and find the time to work an internship, especially if it's unpaid?

Signed, Stressed and Hopeless

Dear Stressed and Hopeless:

You didn't say what you're majoring in, if you're planning on going to grad school, or what kind of career you want after, so I'm going to assume that all three are at least partly on your mind—but let's focus on the internship for now.

While it's true that internships boost your hiring potential—63% of paid internships report getting at least one job offer, while 36% of unpaid interns say the same—it's not the end of the world if you don't get one. Your financial situation tells me that you should be looking at paid options, especially if you don't have a support network that'll fund you completely while you complete your internship, or even scrapping the internship option altogether. And before you tell me, "Sam, an internship is pretty vital to my future job prospects!", read over your first line: you're an Ivy League student. That alone already puts you ahead of a huge portion of the student population and secures your future a little bit.

But if you're really stuck on getting an internship, you're going to have to examine your life closely and figure out exactly what you can handle. And before you think you can do it all, ask yourself how much you're willing to sacrifice (sleep, food, fun with your friends) to do an internship that doesn't guarantee a job, and how much effort you'll actually be able to give it.

Dear Sam the Student:

I'm a senior getting ready to graduate this year and I've been sending out job applications since Christmas. I've got good grades, am president of the debating society, swim on the varsity team, and volunteer on the weekends. The only problem is, everything I read about getting a job seems to involve networking…and I'm really shy. Help!

 

Signed, Can't Get a Word Out.

Dear Can't Get a Word Out:

The first thing to realize is there are a lot more people in your shoes than you realize! Not everyone is naturally chatty and has to work hard at it, and if they can do it, then it's definitely within your reach.

Start small. If you Google "small talk topics", you'll get hundreds of millions of results to practice on with your family and friends. Once you feel comfortable, go out to events solo—but arrive early or on time (remember how busy parties get once they're in full swing and everyone's already talking to each other?) Don't approach groups, but instead seek out other wallflowers. They're in the same boat as you are and will welcome being talked to.

Oh, and don't constantly look at your phone!

 

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