Tag Archives: higher ed

Myths of Residence Life: A Series

I had this idea after housing assignments went out to write about all of the complaints that were coming in from the parents. I listed them down. And then I inadvertently wrote an ENTIRE post about just ONE of those complaints. Oops. So instead, while I am celebrating (and recovering from) my first big girl vacation, you can enjoy the Myths of Residence Life.

If you have any of your own myths that you would like to add, leave them in the comments!

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Why I Didn’t Value a Liberal Arts Education (And Why I Do Now)

I declared my major when I applied to Undergrad U. In fact, I rarely use the word “declared” because it was more like “picked”. I looked at the majors available, picked one I liked, and wrote it on my application. Done.

Because I arrived at school knowing my major, I absolutely hated all of the general education courses I was required to take. I spread them out over my time at Undergrad U, mixing them in with courses required for my major. I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up..why did I need to take all these extra classes that had NOTHING to do with my major?

To be fair, my major didn’t leave a lot of room for experimenting with non-required courses. I took the gen eds required of me – a composition course, a psychology course, some course about scientific literature…ugh. None of those courses appealed to me and I didn’t bother looking to see what else was out there.

What makes this whole situation worse was that I knew the “supposed” benefits of those required general education courses and a liberal arts education in general. As I gave prospective students tours of Undergrad U, I spoke with great enthusiasm about how our course requirements ensures that all the future musicians, scientists, and artists would be well-rounded individuals upon graduation. I just didn’t believe it. Or care about it.

When I arrived at Grad School State, I felt so behind my classmates. Undergrad U had less gen eds than most schools AND I tried my best to get out of as many as I could. Most of my classes had been project-based and I felt I couldn’t keep up with all of the readings and the papers and presentations. But still, I didn’t think it had anything to DO my lack of “well rounded” courses, I just thought it was a side effect of my major.

Now that I work at a college, I frequently hear about courses that are offered at PDFM U as well as other schools. And you know what? They sound INTERESTING. I would LOVE to take some of these courses. I actually LIKE learning about things – so long as I’m not under pressure to write papers and take tests and get good grades. I sometimes wonder that if I had waited to choose my major and had more freedom to select courses that interest me if I would have wound up with a different major. If I would have had learned different skills.

But then I remember that I’m older now and think much differently than I did back then…which means just like I hear my students complain now, I too would be complaining about these random course requirements. Maybe it takes a certain type of student to enjoy a liberal arts college while they are a student.

If somebody came up to you and said, “Hey here’s a ton of money, go get another degree!” what do you think you would study? What type of school would you choose? Of course, this is purely for pleasure, otherwise I’d be going to trade school because plumbers and electricians make a lot more money than live on student affairs professionals…just saying. If I could do it again for pleasure, I think I’d study literature. Maybe. Depending on the courses offered at the school. I miss reading. I used to read for fun constantly, but college bashed that out of me. Some of the readings my students have to do sound so interesting! And I’ve heard of colleges with Harry Potter lit classes…

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What I DIDN’T Do On My Summer Vacation

I cannot believe that summer is over. It seems like just a few weeks ago I was making my summer to do list and thinking of all the time I would have to do things since I wouldn’t have students popping in every few minutes. Boy, was I wrong!

Some student affairs professionals have ten month contracts meaning that they don’t work during the summer. While a two month vacation sounds lovely, I kind of collected student loans like Beanie Babies and I need every cent I can get.

Unfortunately, unlike Beanie Babies, my student loans ARE worth tons of money.

I really thought that I’d have time to get all this stuff done. Most of the things on my to do list were things I wanted to do…I wasn’t taking departmental things into consideration because I had never done any of that stuff before. Next year when I’m planning for summer I will definitely know better!

So what was on my to do list?

To Do: Clean My Office

I really wanted to re-organize EVERYTHING and make my office look brand new by the time the RAs returned for training. I had all of these grand plans. My office was going to look like something off of Pinterest.

What Got Done

I did move old files into a filing cabinet to make room for things from this year. I also went through the mountain of papers on my desk…only for a new mountain to start growing. I’ll take care of it during Christmas Break.

To Do: Update The Website

I wish updating my department’s website was more like this…I could log on whenever and update it myself. But that’s not how it works. I have to send whatever changes I want to make to this IT person and he has to do it. There were some sections of our site that were in DESPERATE need of an update and I decided I would do that this summer.

What Got Done

I passed it off to a new employee. She needs to meet people in a different department, so IT’s a great place to start, right?

To Do: A Bulletin Board In Each Building

I wanted to do a bulletin board in each of my building’s entryways. I thought it would give the RAs a good example and be visually pleasing for all of our lovely summer residents. I saw so many cute bulletin board ideas on Pinterest and in the teacher supply store.

What Got Done:

I bought cute bulletin board supplies…that’s about as far as I got.

 

So what am I going to do next summer? STAY OFF PINTEREST!! Pinterest just gives me wonderful ideas that I don’t have the time or creativity to follow through with. I’m also going to put departmental things on my to do list (like planning RA training and training the new hires) and give those items timelines so I can fit my own tasks in more realistically. Did you do everything you wanted to this summer?

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So You’re In Grad School: September

Clearly, August and September are busy times when you work in Student Affairs. First impressions count, especially for incoming students. Even without taking classes, I’ve had barely any free time the past month or so!

If you’re a first year student…

By now you are anywhere from one to four weeks into your first semester. Depending on what you studied in undergrad, there might have been (or still may be) a rocky adjustment period as you get used to the workload, the way it’s taught, and the course materials. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to have to read anything. Few of my Undergrad U courses actually used the book, and besides, the lecture was basically a presentation about what we just read. It was COMPLETELY different once I was a grad student. We were expected to discuss what we had read. That was class. Discussion. So I swung completely the opposite way and thought I had to read EVERYTHING. That also did not work. I drove myself insane. There were not enough hours in the day. Eventually, I became really good at prioritizing and skimming and bullshitting discussion topics in a pinch.

You also might feel homesick. Or undergrad sick. I’ve said it a thousand times, but grad school is DIFFERENT. One of my friends decided to go to Grad School State and she’s having a rough time with it. She says she doesn’t like it. I know she likes her classes and professors…but she hasn’t really made any friends yet. A big difference is that she’s not studying Student Affairs, her program isn’t cohort based. I definitely need to make time to chat with her soon. It’s hard to make friends as a grown up. My advice? Put yourself out there. Find something to join. Organize an event and invite the people you know and tell them to bring the people they know.

One thing that I didn’t have too much of an issue with was being busy with work. I worked part time (and sometimes more!) my entire way through undergrad. Balancing work and school was completely normal. I had other friends that struggled though. Some never worked while they were in college. Others had non-ResLife assistantships and struggled to get all their hours in each week around our class schedule. One issue was if we were doing group projects, it was hard for ResLifers and non-ResLifers to work together just because our work hours were so different. I had programs to attend at night, I couldn’t be doing homework then. At the same time, they had office hours during the day, so clearly they could not work on homework at that time!

If it’s your second year…

So you (successfully) made it through your first year and you’re probably thinking that you have this grad school thing down. You have a way of studying and doing homework and balancing everything that works for you. Great, share those tips with some of the first year students. They need the help. Also, hey, first years need friends. Go befriend one!

Unfortunately, you can’t plan for everything. In your second year, you’re going to be starting your job search. Your program may require a comprehensive exam or that you do an internship. Your supervisor or other higher ups at your assistantship might decide that you’re getting more responsibility. All of those things could happen at once! So if you’re a second year student reading this, remember to keep calm and carry on breathe.

 

 

I hope you all enjoy September, no matter what year student you are, or even if you’ve graduated (like me!).

 

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Where Are They Now?

One book that I have been meaning to read is Job One. Job One follows a group of SA Grads AFTER graduation. Kind of like this blog does…except. It only follows me. While this book is nearly ten years old, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on where my classmates now are in their careers.

A lot of my classmates are in the same boat as me – they found jobs somewhere around graduation, started, and they are still there. I keep seeing a ton of Facebook statuses about everybody hitting their one year mark. For those individuals not in ResLife, I see a LOT of apartment searching right now. Why? People quickly signed leases since they NEEDED to move and now that they know they are staying longer, they are looking for a nicer place or they are moving in with friends they’ve made.

Two classmates went back to school. Well, one just kept on trucking and started doctoral classes WEEKS after we graduated. The other wound up getting a job at a school with a doctoral program and enrolled after she finished her first year. While another degree isn’t on my agenda anytime soon, I am very proud of these two for continuing.

I have a few classmates that did not hit their one year mark for a variety of reasons. All but one finished out the academic year at their institutions but have recently started at their new jobs. Their reasons for moving included wanting to be closer to significant others and family. One got a job at Grad School State – although in a different department than where she worked while we attended school. And the one who didn’t make it through a school year? He had some MAJOR life changes. Shortly before Thanksgiving, his wife was offered a job on the other side of the country. They could not turn down this offer, she makes a LOT more than he does. His wife moved out before Christmas and he followed in January. He was going to start looking for jobs but then they found out that she’s expecting! He’s decided that he’s going to be a stay at home dad once the little one arrives this fall, so finding a job for just a few months didn’t make sense.

There were some people that didn’t get job offers last summer. One just kept doing temp jobs at Grad School State before getting offered a job at a school a few hours away. Another moved to a pretty remote area of the country with her fiance where there really aren’t a lot of job opportunities. A third wound up with a job offer sometime last fall – but not in Student Affairs. He took it and he enjoys what he’s doing and he definitely applies the things he learned in our program, just to a different set of people.

I really want to get my hands on this book. I’m interested to see how my classmates compare to the students in the book!

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The Uninvolved Student (Almost) One Year Later

Whenever I have an idea for a post, I write it down in a notebook. At this point, it’s this huge list with nearly 200 things. Obviously not all of them have made it to the blog – yet. Recently, I looked at some of the earlier stuff on my list that didn’t make it. A few of them jumped out to me as things that would be easier to write now. Others just need to be scrapped. It wasn’t a great idea then and it’s not a great idea now. Or worse, it’s no longer relevant. This post is a unique one. It’s an update to a post I never made.

Prior to the school year starting, when only RAs and athletes were on campus, my supervisor told me that one of my residents had requested to switch rooms. Let’s call her Cali. Cali was an student athlete and had moved in just a day or two earlier. Her roommate had not yet arrived but Cali knew that she did not want to live with her. Cali had transferred to PDFM U in order to be closer to home – previously she had been at a small school in California (I’m so clever with this nickname business). At her previous school and PDFM U, she had had roommate troubles. I had glanced at her file and it seemed that Cali just never really wanted to stand up for herself. Like many roommate issues, she had been asked if she had addressed the issue with her roommate and she always said no. She was given the chance to have a mediation but she would just shake her head. Cali did not seem to be a confident girl.

It turned out that Cali needed help moving into her new room. We were able to find a single and wanted her to move before the rest of the students returned to campus. Unfortunately this was not convenient for Cali’s mother and she complained that Cali would have to move by herself. I wound up helping with the move, which was not all that difficult. While we carried boxes and tote bags to her new room, I asked Cali about her time at her old school, specifically about her involvement on campus. She mentioned her sports team and then said that she had been in a sorority. Bingo! That’s my area of expertise. It turns out that we had her sorority on campus. I asked if she had thought about getting involved in her sorority here at PDFM U. Her eyes widened. “That’s something I can do?” She was genuinely surprised. Not only was Cali not advocating for herself, but she was not asking questions that she needed to in order to get where she needed to be. I’m honestly surprised that she came to our office to even ask for a room change (although I have a feeling it was her mother who most likely called and asked).

And so I was going to write about what a shame it was that this girl wasn’t involved on campus and could barely speak up and how I was so worried about her development. I’m honestly glad I waited to write this post because this past school year made a world of difference.

At the beginning of the school year, I made a point to meet with each Greek organization’s leadership. I let the women in Cali’s sorority know that Cali was a transfer student in their sorority. Just like Cali had been unaware that she could “join” her own sorority at a new school, the members did not know how the transferring process worked. I told them to contact their advisor and their national office, but in the mean time they should reach out to Cali. A few days later, I saw Cali sitting with some of the sorority members. By the end of the semester, she was a full fledged member!

Cali also got involved with different academic societies and was invited to work this year’s graduation ceremony, a privilege reserved for student who have displayed extraordinary academic and leadership qualities. In the spring, she applied for a position that is similar to an RA only with a smaller group of residents. The administrators had no doubt about hiring her – something that would have been incredibly unlikely only a year before.

One of my favorite parts about working in student affairs is getting to see a student grow. Many times, we don’t get to see it in only a year – you have to wait and watch a student go from freshman year to graduation day. I am glad that I got to see Cali’s transformation this past year and I am excited to see what senior year brings to her.

What remarkable transformations have you seen in your students?

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So You’re In Grad School: August

Here we are. The start of a new school year. This is when I should have started my SYIGS series, you know, so it started with the school year. Oh well. If you’re new to this, SYIGS provides some tips as well as gives information on what to expect in a Student Affairs-esque grad school program. Everything I write is based on MY experience at Grad School State…your program might be somewhat different, but it shouldn’t be TOO drastic.

If you’re a first year student…

You’re probably getting ready to leave for grad school if you haven’t already. I’ve said it time and time again – grad school is VERY different from undergrad. It’s an adjustment and it will take you some time to get used to it. That’s okay. Oh, and you’ll probably also learn a theory that will later explain your behavior during this time period.

My first few weeks at GSS were jam packed with training for my assistantship…why yes, I was in ResLife! Not only did I have training for my position, but I also sat through all of RA training so I could know the campus and the procedures better. It was a big help, especially since GSS and Undergrad U were VERY different institutions.

GSS held a graduate school orientation. The ResLife office made sure to have it on their schedule so us newbies wouldn’t be missing anything important. It wasn’t like the fun-filled orientation that I went through as a student and that I saw GSS freshmen going through. No campus tours, no entertainment, no ice breakers. I was so confused! I went to a resource fair, but instead of showcasing the different departments on campus, I was provided with bank and insurance options. At one point I was told I needed to pick up my student ID, but I didn’t know where to do that! It was at this moment that I realized graduate student services is an area that will probably be on the upswing in the next few years…

Another eye opener was that there were a lot of people in my program OLDER than me. Many of the students had graduated from college and worked “real” jobs before realizing they hated being mindless corporate robots whatever they were doing and making the decision to start a new career. So at the end of the day while I wanted to go to the bar and get to know my new classmates, they had homes and husbands to get home to. Who does that?

I guess all of my previous “points” have been stories about my experiences, my major tip for this month is DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS. I can promise you that there will be somebody in your program or working at your assistantship who thinks they “know everything” and will roll their eyes at your question, but do not let that deter you! Training and orientation are the times to ask questions!

If this is your second year…

You might be a little bored right now. I’m sure there are training things that you are being forced to go to that you feel you don’t need to go to because obviously you learned it all before. Obviously. Yes, you might be bored, but please don’t let this attitude show! It might stop one of the new students from asking a question (see above).

I definitely recommend getting to know the new grad students in your program. Did you have a second year take you under their wing last year? Be that person for someone else! It is great to form a friendship like this now so you can help someone with this whole grad school process.

I had someone take me under their wing and then I took someone under my wing. I am in touch with both of these people. My “older” friend helped me as I was navigating the job search process. I just helped my “younger’ friend with hers and I also talked her through some tough decisions that she had to make during grad school.

No matter what year you are…

August is a crazy month for Student Affairs…students are returning, orientation is happening, training is happening, and of course there is a HUGE programming push during the first few weeks of school. Good luck to all of you out there!!

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So You’re In Grad School: July

I wish I had had the genius idea for this series when I first started this blog. When you’re so used thinking on an academic calendar time frame, it’s really hard to think about something in a January – December way. If I were to start it all over, I would have picked July so I could start with “So You’re GOING To Grad School…”. For those of you that have been reading these posts all along, this is where they start over. Last month, I wrote about the end of a student’s first year and what comes next after graduation. This month, I’ve got something for those of you that are packing up your things and getting ready to move.

If you did graduate earlier this year, I don’t have much to say in this specific post BUT this whole blog chronicles my start in student affairs. I’m not that far ahead of you and I’m sure some of the things I write about will resonate with you. If you have any questions, feel free to send them my way. Starting your first “real” job isn’t that easy and that’s okay.

And now…onto the main part of this post…

For those of you just starting your journey…

You might be moving next week. You might be moving next month. You’re probably really excited and that’s great. I’m not here to try to bring you down, I’m just here to give you some pointers. Unlike your first day of freshman year, you won’t show up the same day as all of your classmates. Your “starting date” most likely depends on what grad assistant position you have. ResLifers will be some of the first to arrive on campus to help with RA training and move in. If you’re doing academic advising, your supervisor might only have you arrive a day or two early. If you don’t know what day you need to be there, now is the time to find out!

There are a lot of differences between grad school and undergrad, even if you chose to stay at the same school! Your office might have limitations in place on how you can interact with students, so you might not be able to go to the same old parties you used to attend. Speaking of friends, the older you get, the harder it is to make friends and that starts with grad school. Think about it. During freshman year, you most likely lived on a floor full of students in a big building full of students. Everybody was new and there were a lot of you. You all had to endure the dining hall together. Now, there are less of you and you might not all even live in the same town. And you’re all super busy. Making (and keeping!) friends gets much harder as you get older.

Academically speaking, there are plenty of differences between undergrad and grad school. Remember in undergrad, the syllabus would tell you to read a chapter or two before coming to class? And nobody did? Well…you’re not going to get away with that anymore. You’ll have PLENTY of reading to do and you’ll be expected to at least kind of know what it was about by the time you get to class. HOWEVER, we had less “homework” (at least it my program). We just had to read and do papers and projects. We didn’t have things that needed to be turned in on a weekly basis.

And for those of you that signed up for one more year…

You’re probably off doing your intern thing. We’ve already chatted about evaluating your internships and trying to get those most out of it…not much else I can tell you there. We also talked about prepping for the upcoming year. Wherever you are, make sure you are still studying every so often! And! If you have some downtime, read up on current events in Higher Ed, like on The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed‘s websites. You don’t want this to be like elementary school when you returned back from summer vacation completely forgetting how to do long division…or was that just me?

Any other grad school graduates have tips for those currently in grad school? Leave them in the comments!

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Sitting On The Other Side Of The Table

You may have noticed that at some point during the spring semester, I stopped updating so frequently. Heck, even for the bit of summer we’ve had so far, my updates have been rather…sporadic. Author, I thought your job barely required a pulse in the summer! You’ve let me down! Well, for starters, my job requires more than just a pulse for the summer months…PDFM U is NOT one of those ten month gigs. Also, since I’m not brand new here, I’ve taken on some pretty large projects and the time to get serious on them is NOW while the students aren’t here. But most importantly, we’ve had some vacancies in the department the past few months, so I’ve been picking up additional responsibilities.

Due to these vacancies, I’ve gotten to see the other side of the process that I went through just last year. While I was excited for new co-workers, the process was not as fun as I had thought it would be. It was also rather lengthy, so now I realize why it took schools so long to get back to me!

The first thing that happens is that a job description has to be created. We were lucky in that these positions have existed here for quite awhile, so the approval process wasn’t that long. If it had been a new position or if we had made major changes, the description (and position itself) would have needed to go through a longer approval process. Part of that is making sure that we have the money for the position. Your position actually costs the institution more than just your salary – you’ve got benefits too – health insurance, retirement, and at PDFM U, we get a meal plan. (I wish everything I just said made me feel better about how little we get paid in Student Affairs…but…it doesn’t.)

The job description then gets posted. It has to be open for X amount of days. On many sites, you will be told to apply by a certain date. When I was job searching, I missed this deadline by HOURS and they would not accept it. Ouch. I believe our postings were up for two months. And here’s the thing, during the time we really don’t look through the materials. So, if you’ve submitted your stuff the day after a posting went up, you might not hear anything other than the standard “we’ve received your materials” email for WEEKS.

After the position had been up for awhile, we had to figure out who was going to help with interviews. We knew we were going to have phone interviews and on campus interviews and wanted to make sure that the departments we worked closely with also had a say in who we were going to hire. After coming up with this extensive list AND figuring out who was going to be a apart of which interviews, we had to find a time that we were all free. As I mentioned before, the past month or so has been very busy, so you could imagine we had a difficult time getting everybody together. Finally, we nailed down some dates and times to pick who we were going to do phone interviews with, when we were going to do phone interviews, and when we were going to do on campus interviews.

In my office, we each reviewed resumes on our own. There were a LOT of them. Some people were overqualified (one person had been a director of his department for FIFTEEN YEARS). Others were under-qualified (including one person who had just finished his first year of college). The hard part is, with the amount of resumes we had, it was impossible to read every single word on every single one. This is why everybody stresses that your resume needs to be good! It’s so important to go through the job description and see what points you should speak to. If we say that a major part of the job description is Z and you don’t mention Z at all, your resume is going to get shoved in the “Do Not Call” pile. Another note on resumes – at first glance it should be visually appealing. I’m not saying you need to be a design major, but simple layout choices can make a resume MUCH easier to read.

Next came the phone interviews…this was my least favorite thing about interviewing for jobs and I definitely did not like being on the other side of it. Seriously, NOBODY likes phone interviews, but with people from all over the country applying for jobs, it’s necessary. Some tips if you are the interviewee? Write down everybody’s name! We were really impressed with the people who remembered our names. Also, if you are using a cell phone, make sure you are in an area that has good service!!

It took us awhile to get to the on campus phase. A lot of the people that were supposed to take part in on campus interviews had vacations planned. I was super excited for on campus interviews!! It is much easier to get a feel for someone in person than over the phone. What are some things that you should expect? You will have multiple interviews that day, some with small groups, others one-on-one. For example, your future co-workers might interview you has a group, but your future supervisor might interview you one-on-one. You will most likely be given a tour of campus. If you are applying for a live-on position, you SHOULD be shown an apartment, however, it might not be the apartment you wind up being assigned to! Some parts of the day will be much more casual than other parts. Everybody tends to freak out about on campus interviews, but I don’t think they’re that bad. Be warned – it is a LONG day.

After we finished all the on campus interviews, we had to meet again as a group to decide who we wanted to hire. By this time, it was nearly three weeks since our first candidate had come to campus! When we made our decisions, I was definitely excited – only to find out that we still had to do background checks and reference checks and notify the person and give them X days to respond. And then they still wouldn’t be here! If someone is currently in another position, they have to give notice first!

While the process was not as fun as I was hoping it would be, I am super excited for the new people to get here in August…if only they could come sooner! Also, seeing the process from the other side gave me a good understanding of WHY things took so long. So, lovely readers, if you are job searching and wondering why you still haven’t heard back, there’s a good chance that somebody who is supposed to be interviewing you decided to go to Cabo instead. But seriously. You’re not the only person being considered and it does take time to sort through all of the information we receive. Hang in there!

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Unpaid Internships: Post Grad Edition

Lately there’s been a lot in the news about the legality of unpaid internships. Many of the articles (and their comments) focus on college students that are required to do internships as part of their degree requirements. I was required to do an internship as part of my degree and my academic department had very strict rules as to what would count. They couldn’t be “coffee and copies” internships. Our supervisor had to be willing to sit down and have one-on-one meetings with us. While my classmates and I weren’t paid, several of us were compensated with meals during working hours or small stipends to cover traveling expenses.

A lot of colleges want their students to do internships. It gives them “real world” work experience. Companies like it because they essentially get to work with someone for a bit of time and train them now and if they like the person, they can hire them in a year or two when they graduate. Some companies are a little greedy and see it as free labor. Maybe more academic programs need to have restrictions for internships like mine did just to protect the students.

But that’s not what I’m hear to talk about today. You know what the good thing about doing an internship while you are in college is? YOU ARE IN COLLEGE. You don’t have to pay back your loans yet, you’re probably still under your parents’ insurance plans, and if you play your cards right and get an internship in the same city that your school is in, you might still get to take advantage of the cushy college lifestyle – dorm rooms and dining halls. Unfortunately, too many industries are now expecting that recent graduates take unpaid (or barely paid) internship positions.

I have a friend, let’s call her Elizabeth, that majored in Art History. Real smart girl, really knew her stuff. I had to take just the basic art history course and wanted to bash my head against my desk throughout each three hour lecture. Not Elizabeth. She was fascinated. While we were in school, she did an internship at a local, but well-known, museum. She had phenomenal grades and I’m sure if Undergrad U published a class rank, she would have been the top of the class. At the end of senior year, Elizabeth started applying for museum jobs. Now, she was well aware that entry level museum jobs were not the most well-paying, but she liked what she was doing, so she didn’t worry about it (sound familiar, student affairs folk?!). Time after time, Elizabeth was turned down. From her internship at the local museum, she had some connections and found out through the grapevine that she was a great candidate and well-liked, but just didn’t have enough experience. She asked her former supervisor and several professors how she could get enough experience to qualify for an ENTRY-LEVEL position and they all told her that she would probably have to do an internship or two AFTER graduation.

Plenty of students in the more creative fields probably hear the same thing every year. I know plenty of people who have gone out there and done it – worked for free for a year or so and then landed some awesome job. How did they support themselves? They didn’t. Their parents gave them money for rent and they worked some small part time job to get some cash for other expenses. Or maybe they were close enough to a large city with a booming industry that they just lived with their parents or other relatives! The point is, it’s hard to be an unpaid intern after graduation if you don’t have the support of others – and I’m not talking emotional support. I’m talking about money. Who’s going to pay your rent or your phone bill? What about when student loan bills start rolling in six months after graduation? The world doesn’t get put on hold because you need to do an internship before you can get a job.

Unfortunately Elizabeth did not have that sort of support. Her parents passed away during her freshman year of college. Elizabeth needed money for rent and other bills. She needed a job that provided benefits – something that a part time job wouldn’t do. She took a full time office assistant position which made finding an internship really hard – many required her to work more hours than she was able to with her full time job. Elizabeth stuck it out for quite a bit, living in the expensive New York City area, hoping to get an internship at one of the many museums in the area, but never got one. She eventually returned to our college town, as the cost of living is MUCH more manageable there.

I’m sure there are tons of people out there reading this post…okay reading articles SIMILAR to this post that are wondering why Elizabeth and many other students would choose to major in something that isn’t guaranteed to lead to a lucrative career path. Clearly Elizabeth knew that she wasn’t going to have financial support after graduation, why go for something that would require an internship? My question is (and this goes beyond the creative industries) when did entry level positions become…well…non-entry level positions? Elizabeth played her cards right – she got good grades, she did an internship in college to gain experience – but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough experience. All of the museums were looking for people that had work experience after graduation. How can these new graduates get work experience when nobody will hire them because they don’t have work experience? It’s something I see happening to a lot of my friends.

More and more lawsuits are being brought against larger companies due to their use of unpaid interns. The Labor Department has guidelines for what can be “intern” work and what needs to be paid work, but I don’t think too many companies are paying attention to those – until now. I am hoping that since these stories are getting pretty widespread coverage, the culture around unpaid internships will change, making it easier for new graduates to get started in their careers.

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