Depressed — No internship?

Originally Published: May 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 18, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I am a junior. Lately, I have been depressed because of my failure to find an internship for the summer. I feel that I will be at a disadvantage next year when I apply for jobs. I really want a good job when I graduate. I do not know if I am being paranoid over this internship thing that I keep hearing is so invaluable when you go look for jobs.

I feel that I must explain some of my life story to you so that you will better understand my situation. I come from a traditional Chinese family that values education very much. I am depressed because I fear that I will not find a good job when I graduate, and that everyone I know will ridicule me for spending so much money for my education and not being able to get a job. I am also depressed because my father will look down on me for spending all his money. My failure will bring shame to my father and delusion to myself. I am afraid I will not be able to face the humiliation that is forthcoming. Right now, I am spending a lot of time contemplating my future, and I see a bleak road. I have thought of ending everything right here and right now. I say to myself there has got to be a better life after this. So why go through more misery?

—Deeply depressed

Dear Deeply depressed,

It sounds like you're under enormous pressure, some of which seems to be coming from your family, and some of which may be coming from yourself. First, take a deep breath; internship or not, you'll be able to have a productive summer and final year in school. Many people get jobs without having an internship during college. Many people also work in part-time or work-study jobs, which give important on-the-job experience, even if they aren't labeled "internships." If you are at Columbia, you can work closely with the Center for Career Education to find a position that meets your needs (x4-5497). In fact, if you're around this summer, why not make an appointment to talk with someone now? If you are not at Columbia, your school likely has a similar office; make an appointment with your school's career service to find a position that meets your needs.

Depending on your academic and professional interests, nearly any summer job could give you great experience that you can boast about to a potential employer. Wherever you're suiting up, be it for an internship at a law firm or a summer gig as a lifeguard, consider what you've learned from your position, the responsibilities you've held, and how you'll be able to apply those skills in your post-grad dream job. Someone who works at a your school's career services office can help you identify important skills and experiences you've had to add to your resume.

Regarding the second part of your question, the pressure you're under from your family and yourself to "be successful" is a different issue than finding a job. Ask yourself, before you were in college, did you feel pressure to get into the best university? And before that, did you feel pressure to get the best grades? High expectations can be useful or motivating, however, too many expectations or too much pressure can get to anybody. It might be time to start thinking about the expectations you and your family have, and how to manage them. Learning to manage extremely high expectations, and any anxiety or depression that result, can be difficult; you may find it useful to discuss strategies with a counselor or therapist. If you're at Columbia, you can speak with someone at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) — call x4-2878 to make an appointment. If you haven't been to counseling before it may seem like an uncomfortable undertaking, but it can help you sort out some of the conflicts you're feeling between your family and cultural values. You may benefit from the experience and perspective of others to help bring honor to your family and to yourself.


September 24, 1999


Hi Alice,

This is a response to Depressed — No internship? (actually, I wanted to write the person directly, so if you can forward this to him, I'd be...

Hi Alice,

This is a response to Depressed — No internship? (actually, I wanted to write the person directly, so if you can forward this to him, I'd be grateful). Anyway, I know exactly how he feels because I am/was in the same boat when I first got out of college and had no job. Our history is similar except that even though I did have an internship, I had a hard time finding a job. I feared my parents was disappointed in me and it drove me near ending it all also, but what kept me alive (so to speak) was that, if I did take my life, not only would I have wasted my parents money on college, but for the twenty-two-odd years of life that I had at that point... so until/unless I pay them back in full, I can't possibly end it all.

Compounding my problems, my girlfriend at the time started getting on my case for not having a job fresh out of college also. The pressure was immense and I could not do anything about it because I had done all I could (going to career fairs, sending out my resume, even going to employment agencies... it still took four months until I finally got an interview).

But, there's a silver lining... don't give up and don't despair because you're not alone in this. It turns out, other than the pressure from my girlfriend, my parents were in reality very supportive and that I had overly imagined their disapproval. So, things may not be as bleak as they seem right now. Good luck.