Finally, we -- the Class of 2010 -- have come to a point of no return. Our youth is gone, our goals set and corporate recruiting has gotten away with it. Yes, many of us have placed ourselves into the intense competition of corporate recruiting, but many of us will also rebel.
Whether it means avoiding recruiting or working for a non-profit one last time before we have to make real money, it will be our last chance. Perhaps it even means taking a paid internship and partying away the money we earn. No matter what we do, our off term this upcoming year may have a profound impact on our professional lives and our future.
This summer, for many of us, will be our first foray into the professional realm that is known as real life. We will be making our first impressions and laying the foundations for our professional reputations.
So few things are as arbitrary and yet so consequential as a reputation. Your reputation is built off of many things that you don't really think about.
Even belonging in one fraternity or sorority versus another affects the way people view us. In a work environment, showing up late to a couple meetings will create a reputation that you are not punctual. Or, having to work through a hangover that kills your productivity may cause people to believe you don't care enough about the job.
Likewise, those who entered corporate recruiting clearly want to land a well-respected internship so that they can build up their experience and reputation as a good worker.
It is important to note two things as we push forward into this age of a pristine reputation. First, this may be your last opportunity to start with a clean slate. Second, reputations are much more easily soiled than built up.
We will enter internships and off-term jobs with a similar background: we were all highly motivated high schoolers who got into this fine Ivy League institution and have all done well enough to keep our heads above water in this demanding academic environment.
Now we embark upon a time when we will begin to differentiate ourselves. When else will you have this opportunity? If you omit an unsuccessful internship from your resume, your interviewer will surely ask why you didn't have one.
And if you submit a less than pristine referral, problems will arise from that too.
It is imperative that we all do our best with this opportunity and start off on the right foot with by creating a solid reputation. Think about how hard it is to right a negative one. If you're a jerk just once in a fraternity basement and those who witness it take that impression to heart, your reputation will suffer. Merely insisting otherwise will not rehabilitate it. It will require many repeated demonstrations of who you truly are for your reputation to recover.
If you mess up your first time out, the quality of your references will reflect that. Even worse, you may lose out on a job opportunity in the company you interned (read: slaved) for. The interviews many of us are about to take part in are very important, and your success depends on your level of preparedness and sincere effort.
It would be a dangerous thing to sign up for lots of interviews that you don't really care about, only to blow them off or take them less than seriously. Many bridges can be burned that way.
But all of this is not to say be scared. As I said, we have a wonderful opportunity to begin creating a professional reputation that will be completely unlinked to high school or your social life here. Take advantage of it. Take your upcoming interviews and internships seriously. Build a solid reputation for yourself. Maybe even party a little less to ensure you do a good job.
You don't want to mess this one up. Good luck!