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Early pressures

John Cameron | Monday, February 28, 2011

What are you doing this summer? I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, and it’s giving me midterm-level anxiety. Most adults I know — and even some of my professors — don’t see this as a problem. One of my former professors recently suggested I sell Mexican blankets on the side of the road — he was kidding, but it sounded far more appealing than filling out yet another internship application.

But I’m in Mendoza, and it seems like the usual list of Notre Dame conversation starters about your dorm, hometown, major and whether you’re a double, triple or quintuple legacy, has been expanded to include a dreaded question:

“What are your summer plans? ISSLP in Uganda? Goldman analyst? Congressional page? Oh, you’re lifeguarding? I guess we can still be friends.”

From what I’ve heard, it seems like years ago, internships happened the summer before senior year. Now, it seems like high school sophomores are expected to work 90-hour weeks at a hedge fund. What’s changed?

It might just be another consequence of the increasing competitiveness of the academic and business worlds. Or maybe we’re all just spastic.

Either way, somehow our dads managed to avoid chronic unemployment without doing cancer research over their college summers.

I’m a pretty think-in-the-now type of person. Or rather, I like to put off any future-related decisions until, well, the future. Ask anyone who knows me — I submitted my major choice about an hour before the deadline and I accepted admission to Notre Dame with two days to spare. So the concept of finding the time to get an externship for this summer (so I can have a chance at an internship next summer, so I can have a chance at a full-time job the next year) is completely overwhelming.

And let’s be real: What skill set could I, or most sophomores, possibly bring to any bank, law firm or advertising agency? Half of us just learned what a cash flow is. Either there is some serious on-the-job training or students with internship offers can look forward to 10 weeks of coffee-fetching and envelope-stuffing (maybe with some sprinkles of financial modeling).

Don’t get me wrong. I think getting your foot into the metaphorical career door early can’t be a bad thing. I just wonder how much earlier the pressure’s going to start hitting Notre Dame students ten years from now. What I do know is, I’m buying my future children Wall Street Journal subscriptions in-utero. I have to go troll Go Irish. Make sure your tots bring their A-game to pre-K.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact John Cameron at John.W.Cameron.13@nd.edu