Consensus Opinion: Career pressures at the Institute

With the semesterly career fair next week and recruiting season under full swing, we at the Technique wish to discuss an issue that has notably plagued much of the Tech student body: pressure. At a school as prestigious as the Institute, it is no surprise that students feel pressure in their careers and success. However, we wish to discuss the implications of such expectations, as well as how pressure can impact students, their achievements and their mental states. 

Whether it comes from oneself or external sources such as family or peers, Tech’s internship culture tends to perpetuate the idea that only big-name companies and corporate jobs are valid or worthy of praise. Internships are supposed to enrich students and expand upon their knowledge gained in classes, while also padding that knowledge with real-world experience. However, that goal of enrichment has become warped into a competition, belittling certain opportunities and glorifying others.

With peers receiving offers, securing internships and exploring other opportunities, the stress of “measuring up” can imbue in students a sense of inferiority or dread regarding their career or future. 

This is sometimes even the case with students of differing fields of study. Every type of internship is on a different timeline and yet, seeing students, regardless of their field, having secured internships can be extremely stressful even if one’s own field is simply on a later schedule. 

The issue is also furthered by the innate proclivity of humans to compare themselves to others. Students find themselves asking their friends, “how many internships did you apply to?” In reality, everyone’s circumstances are different, and comparing in this manner only serves to hurt oneself. Further, it takes away from the individualistic aspect of pursuing one’s own goals and interests and replaces it with homogeneity and unnecessary rivalry. 

This “hustle culture” where students are expected to never take a break or even a breath from all their responsibilities can be deeply detrimental to student morale and mental health; it also contributes greatly to burnout. After nine long months of bustling from class to class to extracurriculars, all while being bombarded with homework, papers and exams, it is completely valid for students to want to take a summer off. 

However, the culture on campus surrounding work-life balance, as well as taking time for yourself, is broken. Taking time to recharge or work on one’s mental health is not a sign of laziness or lack of drive. This perceived lack of drive is also propagated by the feeling that at Tech, no matter how hard one works, there will always be someone who works harder; every student is simply one of many. 

Tech as an institution perpetuates the idea that  students who achieve internships and jobs at top corporations, and generally the biggest ones, such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, are more worthy of praise; these are the students often highlighted in Daily Digest articles and Institute-curated Instagram posts, but these students are by no means the majority. 

On the other hand, this all begs the question of whether a little competition can be healthy and cultivate an environment in which students can strive to be the best that they can be. However, here at the Institute, many feel this is not the case; there exists competition even between peers within a major or in the same classes. Students often complain that people are sometimes unwilling to work together on assignments and create a toxic environment for learning. 

Students at Tech are very driven and intrinsically motivated, but the standards that are held for Jackets can not be so high and unattainable. It would be far more helpful for the Institute to encourage collaboration, as well as the pursuit of bettering ourselves while also bettering the world. 

It should encourage alternative options to the big, name-brand corporations that shrug off work-life balance. By building students as holistic individuals, rather than burntout prospects, students can cultivate better lives for themselves and realize that in the corporate world, work should never be everything.