Landing a summer internship is a central part of the MBA experience.
But does this high-pressure process lead us closer to or further from Enlightenment?
Inner Peace and The MBA Internship Search are two concepts that are highly unlikely to appear within the same sentence and even less likely to coexist in the practical life of an MBA student.
And it doesn’t take a 750 GMAT to grasp the paradox. When done correctly, we’re told, the ideal MBA internship search is a well-choreographed, sometimes even Machiavellian quest for the “perfect situation”, which, if chosen wisely, will serve as a magical springboard to that bright vision for which we, as MBA students, have essentially mortgaged our entire futures.
No PRESSURE, or anything!
With stakes this high, its clear why the internship search seems so antithetical to mental health. From the moment we step foot on campus, the pressure begins to build. First we need to make a plan – and quick! But choosing the right path is tricky. We all arrive on campus with an idea of what we want to do: some want to climb the ladder, some want to create a new or innovative product, while others want to save the world. But what does that plan actually look like and how does it translate into a summer job? There are no easy answers and the clock is ticking.
Then the competition begins. Once you’ve got a plan, you’ve got to outperform and outmaneuver dozens, if not hundreds of bright, well-qualified applicants. So, you begin to judge yourself compulsively against the merits and faults of others. You learn to network, to “package” yourself, and to sell your strengths. You draft multiple resumes and practice answering interview questions. Before long, the confidence you arrived with can turn to doubt and, unless you’re one of the few people who truly enjoy playing “the game”, it’s likely that nothing about the internship search feels natural. Clearly, inner peace is going to have to wait until after graduation, right?
One of the most frequently cited spiritual and psychological fallacies is the “I’ll be happy when….” complex. People, especially high-achievers, often operate under the false belief that happiness and inner peace are not possible now but will surely come with the achievement of a particular goal. I’ll be happy when I win that internship; I’ll be happy when I get that relationship; I’ll be happy when I get out of that relationship; I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds or I get out of debt; and on and on it goes. The problem is that happiness never comes because, as soon as one goal is achieved, it is almost immediately replaced by a new goal or desire. What begins as a healthy exercise in delayed gratification becomes a lifelong habit of never quite being satisfied and always chasing the illusion that contentment is just around the next corner……but never right now and with what we already have.
The goal of many spiritual practices, then, is to break the mind’s attachment to the idea that inner harmony depends on outer circumstances. This theme is present throughout traditions as diverse as Buddhism, Christianity, and even Western Psychology. And, according to this philosophy, all of life is an opportunity to practice inner peace. It simply requires that one participate fully in the world while keeping a healthy detachment from outcomes and results. In this way, even something as insane as an internship search can become part of the path to enlightenment.
Think about it this way: You’ve made the decision to see the MBA process through until the end, which means you must survive the internship search. Therefore, you have two choices. Choice One: You can spend the next five months trying to force your outer experience to match an idealized version of what you think your life should be like and, consequently, probably end up frustrated, tired, or anxious, as you are tossed around by the ups and downs of successes and failures. OR, Choice Two: You can play the internship search game to the best of your ability with a sense of adventure and an openness to many possible outcomes, some of which you may not have even considered, and resolve to be content no matter what comes your way. Your choice will define your experience, for good or ill.
Choosing the path of detachment does not mean that you quit trying or working hard – it only means that you maintain sovereignty over your inner life. What an empowered place from which to conduct your job search!
So yes, apply for that dream internship. And rewrite your resume for the 18th time. And participate in the networking game. But keep your focus not on the outcome but on the process; enjoy it, if you can. Relax and breathe. And, most of all, don’t base your sense of sanity on the results of your job search. Inner peace is a choice you can make and it starts the moment you decide to own your own experience.
1st Year Student from Orlando, Fl
Concentrating in Consulting and Business Leadership
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