The Experienced Intern and Other Oxymorons
As you wouldn’t know, I was laid off from my job about six months ago. After my mental hysteria and visions of tent- living subsided, I decided to increase my credit load at school from full time to really full time (adding an extra class). One more class sounds nominal, but my program runs in ten week sessions so the pace and volume of work is nothing to eye-roll me about.
Anyhow, I applied for a grant and I got it, so with help from the grant, savings and unemployment I have been diligently working at my studies and bumped up my graduation to spring of this year.
This all sounds fine and dandy until I have to explain to the unemployment office that currently I am almost qualified for a real job in the field that I am going to school for, but I cannot land said real job until I get very close to or have graduated (and then how long to find one in my field?). So I decide an internship (hopefully with some sort of pitiful pay) will keep the unemployment folks happy, allow me to finish school on time, and learn something of value with real hands on experience. Wow, tell me more?! For 19.99 you can have it all…er…sorry…okay, where was I…ah yes my beautiful compromise.
I begin searching the internet (or cloud if you’re fancy) for internships. I wrap that up at hour five or so and I feel a bit disheartened. For some odd ball crazy reason I thought internships were for college students who wanted to learn the ropes or tie bootstraps- you know what I mean. For people who have not exactly accomplished amazing feats just yet. Well, I may have been mistaken.
I cannot even remember how many times I read listings that wanted interns with publishing experience, international travel(!) and/or several clips to offer up. I am a broke unemployed college student who is 100% responsible for making sure I have a place to sleep and food to eat. How am I traveling internationally? Do tell.
Oh that’s right, college students have endless time, access to funds, no commitments < look it’s me over there in [insert chic international travel locale] meandering off the beaten path with my tattered world map, Jesus sandals and trusted old travel pack, yep just me and my bucket list!> Okay, so the travel thing may be a bit elevated, but clips and publishing experience are pretty normal right? Well, yes and no. Here’s the thing—I go to a great school, and I will plug it here . No really, it is. I have learned all the things someone working in communications would need to know to get started. I’ve got ethics, editing & proofreading, statistics, crisis communication strategies, marketing strategies, social media knowledge, feature writing exercises, and this semester I am learning more than I ever knew existed about HTML, web editing/design and metrics.
But my school does not have a school paper or student run website/radio station/something I need to get an internship in communications. I do not have clips, I do not have 3 to 5 letters of recommendation ( I have one, and it’s jazzy!), I do not have the funds to move to New York City for 3-6 months and not be paid (and even If I did, I hardly see being able to afford to live in anything other than a refrigerator box there). I do not have experience with all the savvy publishing industry tools yet, but I have been told there is this ancient practice called on the job training. And I must admit I was completely naive to the elitist attitude that seems to ooze from some areas of the communications industry. Had I known that seeking a degree from an online program– and a school that does not have a school paper– would have such an ick factor for potential employers perhaps I would have just kept my head down and continued to be a good little secretary and put my passions and hopes for a career based in writing on the same back shelf as home ownership and health insurance. I was also naive or misinformed about what entry- level means. In this economy I suppose it means having a degree and several years of experience, whoops my bad! My program is designed for working adults-you know, people who rely on a paycheck to survive, not just to pay rent to mom and dad or for car insurance. This was one of the reasons I chose this program, because at the time I was a working adult who wanted/needed to complete my bachelor’s degree online while I worked. Here is something to chew on:
The Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) reports that students who are over 25 make up 47 percent of the new and returning student population on many of today’s college campuses. Obtained from: http://www.back2college.com/library/faq.htm
Considering that non-traditional students now make up almost HALF of student populations—shouldn’t employers consider the different circumstances (read: bills, jobs, families, career changes) that accompany those students? In fact, I wouldn’t even be able to consider an internship (which puts me at a disadvantage) if I had not been laid off from my full time job.
I don’t need to visit Tibet (not that I wouldn’t love to) or produce clips on the local college happenings to contribute quality ideas and solid work to an editorial team or to any entry-level job in communications. I am sorry that I haven’t logged 900 hours of volunteer time. I regret that I have not built up my network <wink wink>. I also apologize that I choose to wear contact lenses and forgo the nerd chic eye-wear and/or funky leggings that every intern in EVERY (okay well not all of them) my-life- as- an- intern-at- super- cool- place video seems to wear. But I do have real business world experience, and I am eager to learn the industry and really absorb an opportunity such as an internship. I am not just looking for a blip for my resume. So how about us non-traditionals?