The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

79° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Building your resume, interning won’t define your life

    Internship deadlines are approaching, and everyone wants to know why you’re the best candidate for this job. Describe a challenge you have overcome. What is the most significant, life-shaping experience have you ever had?

    And the underlying question behind every personal essay prompt: What about the hundreds or thousands of other applicants you are competing against?

    Please answer in 500 words or less.

    The pressure only grows when it occurs to you that your future rests on this. Internships will provide you with invaluable professional experience, with networking contacts, with a way to get your foot past the door.

    Conversely, without an internship, your future will be a bleak black hole into which you disappear as all your friends go on to live wholly successful and radiant lives.

    What a lie.

    Seriously, forget about it. Fill out your applications, request your letters of recommendation and write your 500-word personal essays. Then seal them in their envelopes and send them away with enough good sense to recognize your future will not be defined by 500 words about the biggest little tragedy you’ve ever faced.

    People get caught up in imagining their lives following a certain line. Most college students went to post-secondary school believing it was the next logical step in a linear pattern of steps that includes an internship (or several) and a job after graduation.

    But you would be a better internship/job/grad school candidate if you’d affirm your own self-worth every now and then. You’ll be better at life for it.

    From a collection of essays published in 1968 by author Joan Didion comes, “On Self-Respect,” in which Didion writes that: “The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.”
    But without self-respect, “one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.”

    You will not find yourself in the internships that reject or accept you. The opportunities you pursue, successfully or not, won’t define you.

    Have experiences, and know that not every experience demands that you write a personal essay before it or about it.

    You should intern somewhere, of course. No one is so naive as to think that you should abandon all logic and run away to the beach every summer, then expect to land anywhere else when the summer is over. You do have to work a little to teach people to respect you as much as you respect yourself.

    Being rejected from one internship or accepting a different one matters, but only in the sense that you need to fill your resume. In the end, your worth isn’t measured by what’s put on paper.
    The trick is not to bank on one opportunity at the expense of another. Don’t shut doors with the belief that doing so will keep another one open.

    Life isn’t built along a line. Instead, it’s a great unfolding before you, the combined result of all your effort and luck and coincidence.

    Stop thinking so hard about where you went wrong or where you could go next, and just let it unfold.

    — Kristina Bui is the editor-in-chief of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at or on Twitter via @kbui1 .

    More to Discover
    Activate Search