Career Advisor: “There is no “I” in internship”

John Wrenn '16

John Wrenn '16

By John Wrenn, Class of 2016

If you’re still reading, I’ll bet part of the reason is because you know there absolutely IS an “I” in internship and you wanted to see if I really meant what I said, or if Booth had apparently loosened its admissions standards…

One of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe is Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford. Ford’s early career consisted of numerous small roles and credits – nothing major. While he did manage to catch the attention of a Hollywood producer named Fred Roos in the late 1960’s, there wasn’t enough work for him in acting to support his family.  So, Ford took up carpentry to make ends meet, working diligently to learn as much as he could about the craft. He still dabbled in acting, being thoughtful about roles that he accepted while constantly hoping to find the perfect one. In 1976, Roos convinced George Lucas to bring in Ford to read lines in support of auditioning other actors for Star Wars. Ford wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity, but he also wasn’t expecting it to turn into anything. Needless to say, it did.

Interview season is alive at Chicago Booth, and it can be a time of great joy, stress, accomplishment, and frustration, all at once. There are a lot of Harrison Fords wandering around the Harper Center right now, searching for that Han Solo role for the summer.  For some, the process of securing an internship is validation of an academic and professional career to date – the next step in the Grand Plan. For others, it’s an opportunity to shift gears into a role that the “mature” business school-self knows is a better fit than the role that the “immature” undergraduate-self had aspired to. And still for others, it’s a time to evaluate less-than- perfect options. Regardless of where you fall, don’t lose sight of the fact that the internship is an opportunity for discovery and learning.

At the time of this writing, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just shy of earning $900 million at the US box office. As a result of this incredible performance, Harrison Ford has become the highest grossing actor of all time at the US box office, with his movies earning $4.83 billion (a whopping $9.59 billion adjusting for inflation). Unbeknownst to Ford, those first few “imperfect” movie roles opened doors and helped him establish a focus. When a great opportunity was put in front of him, he was ready, and he turned it into an amazing 40-year career.

An internship does not define you – hence, the premise of this article. The internship is merely the first step in your future career, which can go pretty much anywhere. Embrace the experience, even if it feels like you’re just doing some carpentry over the summer. That carpentry will help further develop the skills and capabilities that brought you here to Chicago Booth (and not somewhere else). And always remember, carpentry gave Harrison Ford the chance to shine during his unofficial Star Wars audition, and through his portrayal of Han Solo he was able to inspire millions of people around the world.

Incidentally, you CAN find “shine” and “inspire” in internship…

Fun fact about John Wrenn:  Chris Pratt is currently rumored to take over for Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas actually first reached out to John about the role, but he turned them down, noting that "getting an MBA from Chicago Booth was a once-in-a-lifetime, can't-miss opportunity."