A recent blog in the New York Times discusses the trade-off between a college student spending the summer as a camp counselor versus getting an internship. I discuss that trade-off with many of my students frequently. There is no one-size-fits-all response. As a student progresses through college, an internship or a summer job with responsibility, skill development and career exploration is a better choice. Being a camp counselor is okay the summer after freshman year but in most cases, not okay the summer between junior and senior year. In the case of camp counselors, students who want to work with children gain more from the experience than those want to work for a large corporation or become a lawyer.
While a camp counselor position provides an opportunity for students to develop many of the 10 skill sets, working in government, non-profit or business internships or jobs usually provide more opportunities to develop the skill sets “gathering information” and “using quantitative tools.” These two skill sets are in short supply among many college graduates even if they take a heavy research and quantitative course load in college. Internships and summer jobs are about skill development and career exploration in preparing for a good job after college. The most important question is whether the choice is about living in the present and having fun or making a commitment to the future. That is a choice we all have to make every day.