I Turned Down My $6,000 Summer Internship

“The true college will ever have but one goal - not to earn [money], but to know the end and aim of that life which [money] nourishes.” – W.E.B. Du Bois

It may be politically incorrect to disclose the dollar amount associated with a job, but it was far more imperative to me that I relay, seriously and sincerely, that money should not be your only motive. People often say money doesn’t drive them, however, when Franklins are dangled in front of them, like carrots in front of a horse, that assertion means little: they jump at the sight of dollar signs. Ironically, one could say I put my money where my mouth is: I said no to the internship because my core told me saying yes meant I was going against what I stand and strive for. My aspirations and values supremely trumped my potential salary. Yes, I said no to a $6,000 summer internship, and I couldn’t be happier about it, and I’ll explain why.

           To give some background, the internship was an offer to return to my employer from last summer. I was a sales and marketing intern doing real work. Among other things, I put together and hosted a full day informational seminar for sales professionals, and I was allowed to sit in and give input on executive meetings. Once I proved I was capable, I was treated with the same dignity and respect as any full-time employee. The skills I learned in that professional setting really are invaluable! The relationships I made with my supervisors, whom I still email, Facebook, and connected with on LinkedIn were genuine (college students, we have to build a professional network too!). Here’s my real problem: I was working with cybersecurity and Internet offerings at a technology company, and though the experience was great, I learned with certainty that I don’t want to pursue a career in that field.

           Before last summer, I knew nearly nothing about technology products. Now, I can rattle off some of the latest offerings, and at least summarize how they work. But none of that stuff excites me. Why return to a job that will not substantially further my career and professional development? Why place money over my ultimate pursuit of happiness? Similar to how people rack their brains for the perfect lyrics to serve as their Instagram caption, I thought deeply about a line that could help me justify my decision to say no to the offer. Drake answered my plea for help and said, “know yourself, know your worth, [brother]”. Taking the job would have meant I settled, and I’m far too young to do that. I took the same opportunity last summer. I learned a great deal, but it’s also important to know when to move on. I refuse to let money define my worth or let fear of failure hold me captive from pursuing my dreams and other intriguing opportunities.

           My career goal is to be a NBA sports agent or legal counsel for one of the NBA teams, NBA league office, or NBA Player’s Association. Yes, I love basketball. If I’m not doing one of those things, I will be doing some kind of work with education reform, probably working with Black boys. Notice I didn’t mentioned cybersecurity or technology as long-term interests.  Returning to the Du Bois quote, it’s one that continues to motivate me through my college journey, and undoubtedly factored into my decision to turn down the offer. There’s a reason it’s etched into my memory: it reminds me to use my time in college to discover exactly who I am, what impact I want to make on this world, and to never let money trap me.

If all I end up with is an unpaid internship this summer that provides me with experiences and connections that will bring me a step closer to my ambitions, please believe I will fully dedicate myself to that job and absorb all I can, while babysitting, being a waiter, or performing some other legal activity to keep enough money in my pocket to eat and chill. So now, Go forth and grind, but do so for what you truly believe are the right reasons. Always grind for happiness and success, but never sacrifice your integrity to attain either.