It’s getting to be prom season.  That time of year when high school kids buy gowns, skinny suits, trashy shoes and bow ties; head to some resort; eat expensive catered food and listen to a DJ working from a MacBook and $10,000 worth of sound equipment.  All this for a measly $100 prom ticket!  Back in the day, we’d rent ugly tuxes, some committee would hang streamers in the VFW hall and our music came from a band that included classmates.  Food?  7Up punch with chips and dip from the IGA.  Tickets might cost $5-10.  But one thing was the same then as it is now…anxiety!

For students already dating someone, things were and are easy.  You went with your boyfriend/girlfriend, took your mom’s big Oldsmobile, went to dinner, tried not to look like a doofus when you ordered wine, groped each other on the dancefloor, and then went and made out at the end of some street after the dance.  But, for those students not in a relationship, things are much, much harder.  Who will ask me?  Who will I ask?  What will they say?  What will we do?  Will we go in a group?  Will we go alone?  What do I wear?  Do I eat shrimp with my fingers?  Lots and lots of questions.  Lots and lots of worrying about things you can’t control.  Thus, lots and lots of anxiety.

It’s also decision time for summer internships.  Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to almost a dozen students weighing options and offers from different employers.  One guy was in his Career Coach’s office with a list of 6 potential suitors!  The application process, started back in the Fall and interview process (end of Fall or early Spring) are over.  Most major employers follow this schedule.  This includes the highly desired internships discussed this week in the OBJ story (

What I notice this time of year is that the offers causing the most anxiety are the one’s yet to be received.  Students like the one I mentioned above who applied for a mix of marque internships and local opportunities will get offers in a spotty, staggered fashion.  These students applied for a variety of opportunities like Disney’s Professional Internship (a full time opportunity lasting six months where they essentially want you to stop going to school), to an 8 week, full time, project-based internship, to something with a start up that pays nothing but sounded really really cool even though it has almost no structure.

And just like with prom, I see internship applicants “chasing the hottie.”  Remember?  The really really popular person (guy or girl) who took your breath away in the hall.  Students are convinced that this marque opportunity with a brand they really like will be the end all be all internship.  That’s the one they HAVE to have.  Or maybe they are overwhelmed with “what could be’s.”  One company made an offer but now there are all these other potential suitors that haven’t said anything yet?  What if I get a better offer?  I can’t say yes, yet?  The problem is these are emotional decisions.  In most cases, you’re chasing the hottie.

But you didn’t know anything.  All you knew was the picture of perfection in your head.  Guess what, your fantasy date had flaws too.  His breath stunk.  Her laugh was annoying.  He just talked about his friends.  She doesn’t like to dance.  He eats like a 6 year old.  Did she just fart in your car?

So how do you decide?  How can you take the emotion out of finding and selecting an internship?

What do you want to DO?

I can’t say this enough.  Knowing what you want to do after graduation will help you apply to the right internships, and ask the right questions should you get an interview.  Same as knowing what kind of experience you want to have at prom will make you select the offer from the dangerous looking loner who drives a jacked up Camaro or the nice looking guy driving his mom’s Nissan.

Does this offer teach you something you need to know to do this?

Before applying for an internship, take time to go through the job description.  Research what others have said about the internship.  If you can’t do this because the internship isn’t online or isn’t being marketed at a job fair, then ask lots of questions about what you’ll be doing. Be curious and probe.

Does this offer connect you to people who do this?

Do your research on the people who work there.  The people who run the place.  Look for UCF alumni.  Look for people from your home town.  Look for people working in jobs that you would like to have someday.  Look for people working elsewhere that did this internship before.  Will the internship put you in contact with these people?  Will the internship make it easier to meet them?  LinkedIn can help you immensely with this!

Does this offer add anything to your story?

How will doing this internship give you something compelling to tell employers and relate to the job you want to have?  It’s one thing to say, last summer I did a financial internship for ABC company.  It’s another thing to say, last summer in my marketing internship, I put together a digital marketing strategy that leveraged Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I looked at your company’s social presence and would love the opportunity to streamline your account activity the way I did for ABC Company.

And maybe, take a chance…

When Blake Mycoskie launched TOMS Shoes in 2006, he did it over a summer from his apartment in Los Angeles.  To get help, he advertised for a handful of “interns” on Craigslist.  Eight people took the opportunity to work for no pay in a small apartment for some guy who was taking time off from a tech and media start-up.  And they did it to sell shoes.  Why?  They liked his idea.  Giving away a pair of shoes for each pair sold.  They probably also liked the opportunity it offered.  No rules, make stuff up, be in at the creation.  And they probably liked Blake.  He’s a really nice guy.  At the end of the summer, some walked away and some stayed with him.  They became the foundation of one of the hottest shoe brands of the past 10 years.

You can’t predict the future.  You never know where an opportunity will take you.  Just don’t let something cool pass you by because you’re still waiting to hear from the hottie!