The search for summer internships is underway, and I have found myself constantly overwhelmed by the exaggeration of success on the part of fellow college students in career discussion. There seems to be a lot of talk about “where I interned this past summer” as a display of dominance and superiority. We have begun to use internship experience as a way of signaling our standing in the college hierarchy.
The intimidation that ensues from someone making you feel small due to their apparent brilliance contributes to a cycle. We become intimidated, so we intimidate others to make ourselves feel better about our professional prowess. We come to focus more on talking about the magnificence of the companies we intern for than the internships themselves. It seems that it is more important to be arrogant than simply content with an internship experience.
Don’t get me wrong — internships are important and it’s good to feel proud of your accomplishments. But humility is key. The problem begins when we allow the over-glorification of our juvenile accomplishments to overshadow our peers’. The intern’s job is not the epicenter of the company. Yet, in many discussions, we talk about our internships as though we were leading an organization for a summer. It seems that the purpose of talking like this is to make ourselves stand out from the thousands of others who had virtually the same experience as us.
People have a natural survival instinct that makes us do whatever it takes to not be at the bottom of the food chain. By exaggerating about our internships, we exercise power over our peers; though our successes may be artificial, we use them to establish both dominance and distinction. What follows is a never-ending cycle of inferiority — which is entirely unnecessary, as we’re only feeling inferior to those who have exaggerated their own successes.
We begin to define our own successes in comparison to others’, thus diminishing our own achievements. This is what I see and experience as I attempt to build on my own success. It is important that we don’t buy into the hype of talking a big game about our success. Don’t exaggerate your internships merely for the benefit of sounding impressive — your veil of superiority is unnecessary.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 print edition. Email Neil Dittrich at [email protected]