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." In fact, if you're around this summer, why not make an appointment to talk with someone now? Consider making 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 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.


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