Last week, the University of Connecticut’s Center for Career Development hosted its yearly Internship and Co-op week. Among the workshops and events and seminars, the Internship and Co-op fair in particular allowed many students to meet representatives of companies they may still try to get an internship with this summer. While applications for internships start popping up in the fall, events like these are a good way to push through the process and try to get some real-world experience over the summer.
Events like these conflict with the traditional, romantic notion of higher education. University feels on some level as though it is supposed to be about the pursuit of knowledge for its intrinsic value. In this way, it should be merit and understanding above all else that matters. But colleges now go out of their way to stress the importance of “networking,” often to the point where it elicits eye-rolls from actual students. Even pushing events like the Internship and Co-op week seem odd at first glance — shouldn’t success at the university be enough?
Unfortunately, we do not live in a meritocracy, and that is never how the world really worked. Who you know — and who will vouch for you — was, is and will continue to be as important as what you know. As a college degree becomes more necessary in the modern world, being able to stand out through networking only gets more important. And when companies automatically screen through hundreds of applications, being able to get to a human in the equation is the first step.
In that way, the CCD is doing a service for UConn students. When college is more job prep above all else, it’s important to be well-prepared. The only issue, then, is not being as clear and far-reaching with these programs as possible.
It feels like many in college try to avoid thinking about the future, or at the very least feel lost when the dream plan does not work out right away. This feeling is only intensified in non-STEM fields, which are often underrepresented or under-discussed at these career-building events. UConn needs to work actively to ensure that their students don’t feel left behind in the soul-crushing process of finding internships and other summer opportunities. If the application process is a rat race by nature, the very least UConn can do is teach everyone how to run in it.
Demystifying the job/internship search process is encouraging. Being honest with statistics and outlooks is helpful. And working hard with students and companies alike to give each group the right assistance in this ugly process is imperative. UConn and the CCD should continue to expand its efforts, both in quantity and breadth of major.
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