Prepare students for the unglamorous sides of career-building
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Published for The Berkeley Beacon October 3 2019 Issue
Last year, I opened my laptop and showed Kate Privert, the assistant director of the Career Development Center, my papers in my first cover letter and resume review appointment. Privert gave helpful recommendations like adding more detail to my work experience. By the end of the 15-minute appointment, I asked her if I stood a chance to get a good journalism internship in my junior year.
She said I did.
I left the office feeling confident and professionally ready to earn a prestigious internship. I did not know that conversation foreshadowed a whole year of seemingly endless rejections, career pressure, and questions of self-doubt and motivation. The Career Development Center prepares students well on paper, but not for the psychological struggle that comes with entering the internship world.
Emerson’s Career Development Center ranks as the fifth best college career center on BestColleges in 2019 and the 15th on the Princeton Review. The office conducts 15-minute resume reviews and one-on-one mock interviews with students. They also aid students’ job searches, organize internship fairs, provide credit for internships, and offer online resources. While the center’s extensive services are appreciated, I believe the office falls short on addressing students’ psychological preparedness when pursuing their career goals.
According to a study by the University of Wisconsin, research on career services tends to focus on students’ utilization and satisfaction with the resources. But it rarely highlights how these services enhance psychological preparedness and career adaptability.
Career adaptability is measured by a student’s concern about preparing for the future, ability to take responsible action, motivation to explore, and confidence to overcome obstacles. I felt like I had to figure these out alone, without the Career Development Center’s help.
There are some skills students can learn from instructors and advisors, like how to write a good cover letter. However, in the competitive world of internships, resilience needs to be taught too.
I spent the rest of my junior year constantly applying for internships and never hearing back, only to scroll on Facebook to see another student earn that Boston Globe Co-Op position or any of the other internships for which I applied. I felt like every student around me had an amazing internship, and that increased the pressure for me to get one even more. But it was difficult to take control of my career when I constantly lost my motivation and confidence.
These psychological pressures didn’t end once I secured an internship the day before the application deadline for a for-credit internship. The date is almost two weeks before classes start and earlier than when most companies select their interns, according to Intern Queen. To apply for a for-credit internship, students also have to submit a proposal. This means students have to secure an internship, register for the internship course, and submit an Experience Proposal in record time. During my job interview, I embarrassingly had to ask when I would hear back from them just so I could meet the deadline.
I luckily made the deadline, but it got me thinking—what about other students who were focused on their summer job or internship who couldn’t make it?
I thought I could finally relax after going through these steps. I thought I would not have to deal with any more pressure, competition, lack of self-confidence, or impending deadlines. But I realized I was wrong after my first week of the online internship class.
The online journalism internship class aims to help students develop a sense of professionalism and news media companies awareness through written assignments and readings, as well as self evaluation and weekly discussion threads. The first discussion thread requires students to post about themselves, their internship, and campus activities they are involved in. I thought this was fun until I read other students’ posts.
Students posted about the internships I knew I got rejected from and about some companies where they previously interned. I read posts from students who not only had internships and classes, but were also heads of student organizations, active news directors, reporters, and some even had their own show. Because students are required to respond to at least two other posts, I was pushed to feel subpar and pressured as I compared myself to other students.
While the internship class focuses on teaching students to be professionally prepared and aware of their intern rights, the discussion threads and mandated student interactions add stress and competition. The internship class should be a healthy environment for students to solely focus on their internship and develop professionalism.
If it truly is the Career Development Center’s mission to empower students to realize their potential, they should collaborate with Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services to educate students on career adaptability. By then, I hope students never have to spend a whole year alone mentally struggling to find an internship like I did.