Which summer internship should I choose?
January 27, 2011 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Please help me assess two possible summer internship opportunities - NYC private equity or more interesting stuff abroad?

Hello there Hivemind :D I am looking for a little advice, as always. I have two summer internship opportunities and I'm not sure which of the two I should take - can you please offer some insight?

The first is an internship with a private equity firm in NYC. I think the job would be relatively laid back and in a nice environment, and that I would learn much about the field while profiting from some valuable work experience. I would be able to live in NYC with some of my best friends, also remaining close to home. I am fairly certain that I do not want to work in private equity after graduation, but I think this would be a good opportunity to educate myself in the field of finance, something I think will be useful in the future. The caveat is that a) I'm note terribly interested in working in finance, and b) the company doesn't really (at all) align with my personal beliefs / objectives. This aside, I think the internship would be a good learning / work experience opportunity, especially as I approach college graduation. Additionally, I think that the summer would be the optimal time to gain this knowledge and experience without committing myself to an actual job in the field.

The second offer is with an international environmental organization based in the Netherlands. This opportunity more closely aligns with my major, my independent work, and my interests. I would love to be abroad and think that traveling always broadens my perspective for the better. This internship would certainly be more intellectually stimulating, simply because the subject matter and the work being done are more interesting to me. However, I am not necessarily sure that the opportunity will best benefit myself post-college. I have never really had a serious summer internship, and I feel that I may not be gaining much practical experience and knowledge from the opportunity. I predict that the work may be similar to an internship I previously had with a charity, and that while it will be an incredible summer, it may make more sense to have an incredible summer in NYC but additionally gain some practical work experience and financial knowledge.

My future career plans are ambiguous, but I aspire to start my own business in an environmental based field. For this reason, it seems to me that gaining the private equity perspective may prove to be more useful, especially if I see myself on the other end of the equation in coming years. I don't doubt that I would have a great and educational summer if I took the NYC internship, but I see a chance that I would dread going to work every day if I didn't find it interesting and if I didn't believe in the work that the company was doing.

Also, it's quite possible that my dad's opinion has had an effect on me, seeing as he wants me to take the NYC internship.

Can you please offer me some insight?

Thanks, and much love!
posted by masters2010 to Education (14 answers total)
Take the opportunity to go to the Netherlands. It seems to me like the NYC one has LESS chance of giving you a benefit and practical experience for post-college, as it's not in something you want to do, and GO TO THE NETHERLANDS you're in college and you should take whatever chance you have now to move to the Netherlands for a couple months before that gets hard. netherlands. Go.
posted by brainmouse at 4:52 PM on January 27, 2011

Definitely agree with heading to the Netherlands. IMO it would make you a far more intriguing candidate when you begin applying for jobs.
posted by Anima Mundi at 5:02 PM on January 27, 2011

You have two great choices -- no matter what you pick, you'll be getting valuable experiences and learning a lot that will help you in the future. I would say the Netherlands, because (1) you're more likely to make contacts that will be valuable to you in your future career, (2) I find that if you're in a field that's popular because it sounds cool and altruistic, people (including grad schools and potential employers) look to your past activities to see if you're seriously interested or just going into the field because it's trendy, and (3) if you're interested in the work, it will show, and if you're not you're less likely to impress people and they will be less valuable as contacts/references in the future.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:21 PM on January 27, 2011

Reading your question I feel like you already know what you want to do. You just want to be told that going to the Netherlands is the right decision.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:23 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Take my advice with a bucket of salt, as I have not had a flourishing career nor started a business.

I'd vote for the NYC job if you have plans to start a business at some point as the money contacts you make may come in handy (assuming you're good at making contacts.) I've read a lot about entrepreneurship and I think knowing your way around money and having contacts who either might invest in a business or can help you find others who might would be very useful. It sounds as though the Netherlands job would be working in a world with which you are already quite familiar and in which you have developed some contacts. If you do move into the environmental field later it seems to me that the private equity knowledge might also bring some background that others in that field are lacking and which they will appreciate.
posted by bumpcat at 5:24 PM on January 27, 2011

b) the company doesn't really (at all) align with my personal beliefs / objectives

It sounds like your desires for your Dad's validation via class status (woo woo PRIVATE EQUITY!) are in conflict with what you actually want to do, and is better for you long-term.

Your Dad is probably well-meaning and wants you to have a stable financial future. The unfortunate truth though is that many times parents have no idea what a good career is NOW, so they fall back on things that were true 30 years ago (doctor, lawyer, finance). Sometimes parents just want to be able to brag about things that are class signifiers even if they make no sense (a GP can make less than a good computer security consultant, but you don't hear too many mothers bragging about their daughter the H@X0r.)

If you're already in/near NYC you have a support network nearby. Going to the Netherlands will give you access to another network of contacts that very few people have, and if you are going to get into environmental consulting, Europe is light years ahead of the US in terms of standards.

I would be able to live in NYC with some of my best friends

This seems like a plus to you now, but it may stunt you later. The best educational component of the Netherlands trip may be that you will have to be able to create a new support network, talk to complete strangers, and navigate a new culture without being afraid of failure. You can learn the finance later even if you have a wife and kids.
posted by benzenedream at 5:31 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Based on your description, I think you should do the Netherlands thing, and I don't think it's even that close of a call.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:46 PM on January 27, 2011

My future career plans are ambiguous, but I aspire to start my own business in an environmental based field. For this reason, it seems to me that gaining the private equity perspective may prove to be more useful, especially if I see myself on the other end of the equation in coming years.

This doesn't really make sense to me... can you explain why you would think the private equity internship would be more useful for your future than the environmental one? At first glance, it seems like the opposite should be true.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:54 PM on January 27, 2011

What EmilyClimbs said. While I do think it reflects well on you that you acknowledge a need for business skills even in the nonprofit/environmental world, I think what you need is more along the lines of basic accounting and entrepreneurship. Private equity is a highly specialized field.
posted by rkent at 5:59 PM on January 27, 2011

Does money enter into it?
posted by Jahaza at 6:20 PM on January 27, 2011

I assume that you're still an undergrad? If so, I'd speculate that the Private Equity position probably won't teach you all that much. I'm in a similar field, and our undergrad summer interns weren't exactly challenged by their work here. There were plenty of emails that went around to the permanent staff along the lines of "hey, anyone have something for the undergrads to do?"

Maybe the place you'd be interning at would be different, but I think you'd probably gain more, and be able to contribute more, if you're interning in a field you're actually interested in.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 6:28 PM on January 27, 2011

I'm a dual Dutch-American national, and I live in NYC. I'm not involved in FS....anymore or directly, but I do sort of live in that world.

Networking in Holland takes far, far longer than NYC; the people just aren't built for it. Or, rather, they are; it just starts in grade school in a far, far smaller pond than ours.

I say run with PE in NYC. No matter what you want to do in life, you can never have enough "friends," and you absolutely will not make those friends in one summer in A'dam the way you will in NYC.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:15 PM on January 27, 2011

I vote for the Netherlands. I think it is much easier to spend time abroad when you are a student than it is when you are older and have more commitments at home - these opportunities may not come up as easily in the future. Additionally, if you plan on working in some international capacity in the future, your first long-ish-term experience abroad is something of a rite of passage that may be expected of you. I'm a grad student in international relations (which I realize may be very different that what you're pursuing, so take this with a grain of salt) with no international work on my resume, and the advice I've overwhelmingly been given for picking a summer internship is that working abroad, even for a less prestigious organization, will give me credibility that working for a more name-brand organization in NYC or DC won't.
posted by naoko at 8:08 PM on January 27, 2011

Thank you everyone for the helpful responses thus far.

In response to a couple of you:

Chickenmagazine - good point, thanks.

Jahaza - money does not really enter into it because I have the fortune of not having to make money this summer. The PE internship would net me around 5K though, while the other would simply cover my expenses. However, it is possible I still could make 3K or so in the Netherlands if I am able to get some money from my (very wealthy) department.

Guernsey Halleck - I think you're likely right, though I'm not quite sure what my responsibilities will be at either place. I think it is probable that I would be more involved in the work that is actually being done in the Netherlands, though it is possible the opposite could be true seeing as they are a much, much larger organization.

Naoko - I agree, and this has been a reason for especially considering going abroad. I was, however, abroad last summer, teaching music in Bolivia. Consequently it would be nice to be closer to home this year and spend a summer in NYC, a place that I would like to experience but not necessarily live long term. Oppositely, I have my whole life to do this, and I have always been particularly interested in living in the Netherlands.

Digitalprimate - also a good point...ahh, conflict!

I think all of you raise good points, and it seems like (or rather, the truth is that) the consensus leans towards Netherlands - I tend to agree. I think both would be beneficial, and I can't really go wrong, but the Netherlands seems like a more interesting opportunity that I would more thoroughly enjoy. I can't really make the decision right now, seeing as I am in the final stage of the application process for the Netherlands internship, but it looks like I will (hopefully, fingers crossed) get the spot. I'll try to keep the other on the back-burner until I hear definitively, but I think you are all correct.

Thanks, and keep any input / responses coming!
posted by masters2010 at 1:23 AM on January 28, 2011

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