The cult of internships

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With summer comes the popular buzz amongst college goers about not just beating the heat and lazing around but also this whole brouhaha over internships. What is funny is that these days, it is not just limited to summer but it conveniently sprawls across almost the entire year. So, is this invasive penchant for internships justified or not?

Let’s delve into the paraphernalia of the positive aspects of this vortex of internships that students find themselves sucked into. It is far cry from the rote learning and a propensity towards exam oriented learning as the prime agenda. It will supplement one with hands on experience and will act as a major stepping stone towards one’s career. It contributes to an enhanced awareness about the kind of job that would be appropriate for one and furnishes one with that much coveted “experience” before the encounter with the actual work later in life. It also contributes to prolifically increasing the intern’s connections and contacts with people from the professional field which is accosted with increased chances at success in the current times. It will also enable you to have an edge over the others who haven’t had the coveted experience you have earned. It boosts your CV which will multiply your chances with future employers and in some cases, if your work is remarkable, they might just offer you the job! Also, certain universities abroad hold internships as a prerequisite for admission .Most US Universities mandate a minimum of two years’ work experience for their MBA courses. The ever invasive furore over internships can be attributed to such tantalizing and luring prospects that internships embody.

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“I am very disappointed with the current education system where everyone is obsessed with marks alone because I think what really matters is the practical knowledge and experience that  the internships I have done have offered me and which I couldn’t garner from the education system here”, says Anamika Raj*, a second year BA student .

But, increasingly there has been this skewed understanding of the significance of internships and its actual objective. There is an ostensible trend of students’ orientation towards their resumes rather than an actual orientation towards gaining exposure. This is manifested by the obsession and cacophony over how selling and marketable their resumes can be made into and how this can possibly be a pivotal factor in landing themselves a lucrative job and this has started to replace the actual objectives behind an internship.

“I actually did not have any interest in doing internships but I only did it when I realized that the placements were around the corner and it wouldn’t look good on my resume if I didn’t cite any experience”, says Anukriti Kumar*, a software engineer.

This has provoked the current cult of interminable internships pursued by an individual which is becoming nothing but a desperate and peremptory race towards the implied success and glory that internships are thought to bring about. This is a paradigm of the parallel vanguard approach in the education system of our country where marks are awarded the vantage position over the overall development and actual erudition of the student. This explains people volunteering with NGOs and other organisations with a social cause not because of an altruistic concern but because it will exude this apparent altruistic and social concern when incorporated in their resumes for wooing prospective employers .Also, if it were with the genuine penchant and thirst for knowledge and experience, then why is it that people get scornfully opposed to the idea of unpaid internships? Well, this cult of internship is heavily saddled with the cult of materialism and all its malevolent effects where the certificate of internship, a letter of recommendation ,a stipend and the prospect of a prolific CV is saddled with a more positive reception than the actual process of learning, experience and exposure that an internship offers. Yes, the cult of internships is fraught with a very opportunistic propensity.

Letsintern, Internshala, Internship.com, Idealist.org, Experience.com, Mediabistro.com are some of the examples of online sources that offer a plethora of options to the public to find the right kind of internships. Their systematic categorization of different kinds of internships, incessant efforts to find an internship for every applicant, the various strategies suggested to enhance your job prospects and their perspicacity at every step catapults the undeniable significance and attention that internships demand in the current framework. In juxtaposing both the optimistic and cynical approaches towards this, the cult of internship is inevitable. Especially in a country like India which is perpetually battling employment issues and increasing competition, can anyone blame us for this opportunistic approach towards internships? I can’t exactly say no without batting an eye. The attitude of all of us would also mostly be ambivalent. But, this deranged and nonsensical seeking of internships for the sake of it and with the sole intention of landing ourselves a job just like studying with the sole purpose of great marks is inimical and problematic. The desired balance between a personal development/experience centered approach and a focus on  one’s career opportunities without an opportunistic and materialistic objective is, I think, fraught with the risk of sounding too idealistic and Utopian.

*Names have been changed on request.

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