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    Eat, Sleep, Internships

    By Tabitha Parent–

    Right now, as I write this column, my screen is split between my Google doc, where I’ve managed to write one singular introductory sentence over the course of three hours, and Handshake—the college student-oriented platform designed to help students find jobs and internships and the reason why I’ve been putting off writing this column.

    We’re weeks into January, yet here I am, trying to compile a skeleton of what my summer will look like, a whopping four months in advance. But don’t let that fool you. I had been scouting internships since the middle of November last year. For most students, the biggest hurdle isn’t being vastly unqualified for a position you’ve been accepted for (fact: we all lie on our résumés) or sorting through piles of Urban Outfitters going out tops to find something suitable to wear in the office. No, the real trouble is acquiring the internship itself.

    I can hardly walk through the dining hall or student center on campus without hearing a conversation about whether or not The New York Times is taking first-year students this summer (they never do) or if it’s worth it to send a résumé over to Mark Zuckerberg himself (at this point, might as well try). Students are so relieved when they finally do secure that elusive internship that they hardly care where they’re working, let alone whom they’re working with. If Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada were my summer internship boss, I’d wear some waterproof mascara to hide my tears and thank the Handshake gods that I had any internship at all to go to. Like lions guarding a fresh kill on the savannah, students cling to internships as if their lives depend on them. Hakuna Matata means nothing when you’re looking for an internship.

    Anything for the résumé bullet point, am I right?

    But while some students are firing off summer internship applications willy-nilly, other students have to be much more intentional about just which company’s office cubicle they end up in this summer. Not caring about the workplace environment is a luxury that LGBTQ+-identifying students don’t have.

    According to a survey by The Trevor Project, more than one in three (33%) employed LGBTQ+ youth experienced some form of workplace discrimination. Among those who experienced workplace discrimination, 81% reported experiencing it from coworkers, 50% from supervisors, and 39% reported experiencing it during the hiring process. But, experiencing discrimination is not just a matter of feeling distressed during the moment of harassment. The ramifications are life-changing. According to the survey, workplace discrimination was associated with at least twice the odds of a suicide attempt within the same year.

    As students my age prepare to enter the workforce, it is crucial to remember that not everyone can afford to be careless with the companies and organizations they choose to work for. The day is coming when school will no longer be our whole lives (shocker, I know). Those internships that we spent every summer chasing will become regular nine-to-fives. The companies and organizations we choose to align with will reflect on us for years to come. According to the survey by The Trevor Project, the majority of LGBTQ+ youth (58%) said that either companies or brands that voiced support for LGBTQ+ people helped them feel better about identifying as LGBTQ+.

    When searching for an internship in these cutthroat few months before summer, I’d encourage my peers to slow down, to think about those around them and what message that the firms and workplaces that they are pursuing sends to others. You won’t cease to exist if McKinsey or The Washington Post turns you down. It’s far more important to align yourself with companies that promote acceptance and inclusion, than to flaunt a well-known name as a line-item on your résumé.

    Tabitha Parent was born and raised in San Francisco and is currently a sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Having spent time in three major international cities this year, Parent has observed how different regions of the country welcome LGBTQ+ individuals. In her free time, Parent spends time looking out over Lake Michigan (the view rivals that of the Bay). 

    Published on January 26, 2023