Making It Count
A Columbia Career Counselor weighs in on summer internships.
By Michael Colton
Early summer means the beginning of another internship season, and while most public health restrictions are being lifted, this year’s class of interns bears the notable distinction of being the second consecutive group of undergraduate workers to have their experiences drastically impacted by the pandemic. With many jobs still being conducted virtually or in hybrid format, the prospect of forging lasting connections with employers and fellow interns this summer seems fairly elusive. If like me, you’re a rising senior staring down the barrel of another summer of placeless, faceless work, this could spell disaster for your postgrad plans.
Recently, the overwhelming and constant dread that I and many others in my position are feeling inspired me to seek expert counsel. So I reached out to the Columbia Center for Career Education (CCE) on The Blue and White’s behalf and arranged a conversation with one of their resident career advisers, hoping to pick up the inside scoop on how to navigate summer internships with the care of a soon-to-be-successful graduate. Below is a transcript of that conversation.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Blue and White: Thanks for taking the time to chat.
Reed Dawson, CCE Counselor: It’s an absolute pleasure, I’m always happy to talk to an eager student. And I’m a huge fan of your magazine, by the way!
B&W: That’s nice of you to say. Did you read the April issue?
RD, CCEC: Oh, well, you know, it’s been a busy semester—what did you want to talk about today?
B&W: I was hoping to just discuss the importance of the “senior summer” of internships, and any strategies you might have for navigating the challenges ahead for interns like myself. Does that sound alright?
RD, CCEC: That sounds perfect. That’s exactly what I’m here for, to help get you the tools you need in order to reach your goals.
B&W: Let’s get started, then. For those of us with impressive or lucrative summer internships lined up, I think there’s some significant pressure to “make something” of the opportunity and secure a return offer. Do you have any tips for making an impression on your employer?
RD, CCEC: Right, well, I’d say that that’s probably something you can find out online.
B&W: What was that?
RD, CCEC: That’s a great question to research online. If you visit the CCE website, you should be able to get some help. It’s a great site.
B&W: Oh. Well, thank you for the tip. Is there anything you could tell me now, that I can’t find online, about forging those lasting relationships with employers?
RD, CCEC: Right, yeah, so that’s another great question—I think a great place to start would be checking out careereducation.columbia.edu, or any of the other dozen or so columbia.edu sites—they’re really comprehensive. Great sites.
B&W: Great, thank you. And these—websites. They can—?
RD, CCEC: Listen, I’m not a tech guy—
B&W: What are three things you’d tell interns to keep in mind, for their first day on the job?
RD, CCEC: Well, once again, Mikey. Can I call you Mikey?
RD, CCEC: Well, once again, Michael, the best thing to keep in mind, I think, is that the resources are already at your disposal. Columbia offers comprehensive advising and training services, as well as a bevy of websites on which you can find the answers to your questions.
B&W: Well, do you have an answer of your own to the question of things to keep in mind? Anything you tell students that come into your office?
RD, CCEC: Right, well, yeah, I think I just told you that.
B&W: Right, sorry. Well—how about a student that doesn’t have the time to go on these websites or meet with an advisor? What ought they tell themselves before day one on the job?
RD, CCEC: Well, talk about a rock and a hard place! That’s a pickle. Yeah, no, I’m stumped. Nice one.
B&W: So help me out here, are you suggesting that students should rely more on their academic and communal support systems than professional networks, when it comes to taking the next steps in their careers?
RD, CCEC: I’m saying that Columbia’s support system is absolutely off the chain. I mean, without the CCE, I wouldn’t have a job!
B&W: Ha! You’re modest, I’m sure.
RD, CCEC: No, I mean it, they were the only place that got back to me! And let me tell you, they must not have been checking references.
RD, CCEC: I mean, I cannot overstate how much the CCE came in clutch, letting me work here this summer. My parents would’ve been pissed.
B&W: What? How do you mean?
RD, CCEC: I mean, can you imagine that? Senior summer, no internship? Talk about a trainwreck.
B&W: You’re a current undergraduate.
RD, CCEC: Bingo.
B&W: Ah. And—how long have you been working here?
RD, CCEC: Week and a half. Best job ever!
B&W: You ever had a job before?
RD, CCEC: Almost. Dos Toros. Worst job ever.
B&W: And the school is paying you to offer career advice to students?
RD, CCEC: Handsomely. Check the Rolex.
B&W: That’s a nice watch.
RD, CCEC: I know.
B&W: Well, to be honest, this is a turn I wasn’t anticipating.
RD, CCEC: Bro, I know, it’s crazy. But I meant what I said, man. Columbia’s got some top-of-the-line resources when it comes to getting their students paid.
B&W: And, just to clarify, you’re talking about the school’s ability to get you a job—at the CCE.
RD, CCEC: Bingo. But it’s not just me here. We’ve also got the manager of the basketball team, a couple of guys from the Kingsmen, and a couple of rowers. You say the word, and I bet I could hook you up.
B&W: Um, yeah, I’ll, uh, I’ll let you know. I think we’ve got enough for today. Thank you, thanks very much.
RD, CCEC: Hey, your call, my man, I could keep going for hours.
B&W: I think I’m alright. Thanks.
RD, CCEC: And another customer bagged. Cha-ching!