I’ve been involved in The Mirror since the first or second week of my first year at Fairfield. In that time span, I’ve written over 100 articles and have probably read five times that as Vine Editor or Editor-in-Chief. I’d fail a quiz regarding the content of my own articles, not to mention all the ones I’ve had to edit over the years. But, despite this overwhelming blur in my memory, there are a few articles that I’ll always remember.
One that always sticks with me is the article “COSO Causing Commotion in Student Clubs” by Executive Editor Emeritus Katherine Klima ‘20.
The article is largely about how club attendance is down, and the impact of the limited COSO budget. But, it seems like not just club attendance is down. For years, attendance has seemed to be down at Fairfield sporting events, any events the Fairfield University Student Association has tried to throw or other Office of Student Engagement events.
The Mirror used to print 3,500 copies and we’re down to just 800, which even all of those don’t get picked up.
Maybe you could say the clubs aren’t engaging anymore, the sports teams aren’t good, none of the events have been fun and the quality of The Mirror has gone down. But, I see all of this as a thread of apathy amongst the student body.
Further, I think it’s all due to the dreaded internship.
My roommates are both nursing majors. They’ll graduate with me next May, take the National Council Licensure Examination, commonly known as the NCLEX, in June and have full-time jobs nearly immediately after.
I’ll be graduating next spring with a double major in politics and art history. With no immediate passion for graduate school, I’m stuck applying for entry-level jobs at different organizations. But, there’s a tricky thing about these “entry-level jobs”, they just don’t exist anymore. Each company wants “experience” and a lot of it.
LinkedIn, the popular job-posting site, reported that of the entry-level available, 35 percent ask for “prior work experience.”
The Wall Street Journal discussed this phenomenon in their article, “A Wake-Up Call for Grads: Entry-Level Jobs Aren’t So Entry Level Any More” and stated that because of software and automation taking the more rudimentary entry-level job tasks away, those who join the company as “entry-level” are thrown right into demanding skill-based work.
In the article Kurt Rathmann, founder of ScaleFactor, an Austin, Texas-based software maker added, “The employee comes in and they’re doing a job that in the past it might’ve taken three or four years for them to get to.”
I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in the world of internships, but I’m close to master-level. I’ve probably applied for over 500 positions over my college career, I check LinkedIn like my peers check Instagram and have 15 different variations of my resume for different industries and what they find important.
So, I understand that though a student could easily apply for an internship to get the entry-level experience they need post-graduation, I know through my own applications that internships also require experience.
If you’re applying for CNN, you need to have previous journalism experience, audio production or production experience and hopefully are trained on any of the Adobe Creative Cloud software.
Even if you have all the experience to get something like CNN, there’s a whole secret process to getting there. You apply to an unpaid internship freshman or sophomore year. By junior year, maybe you get an interview or internship somewhere slightly cool and maybe with a stipend of some sort. Then hopefully by senior year, you have an internship at a known company that pays hourly with opportunities to remain post-graduation.
But, none of that is guaranteed as the world of internships is polluted with the, “I knew someone at the company who got me the job.” If you don’t know someone you have to put in hours and hours of work to get to know people.
I’m known for my LinkedIn reach-outs. I send a quick message to someone I think has a cool job on LinkedIn, ask if they’d be willing to talk to me and just wait. If someone reaches out, I spend 30 minutes chatting with them about their career, sneakily drop-in that I was thinking about applying to their company and wait for them to mention that they’ll flag my resume.
If you’re given the internship, you sign up for a minimum of 10-15 hours, possibly 20. That on top of 15 hours of classes, plus the homework required for those classes and the desire to spend time with friends and maintain that “typical college experience” leaves no time for non-career-related extracurriculars.
You could, of course, count your internship towards your major, as many of the majors recommend doing, but I could just never wrap my head around paying the University nearly $3,000 for that. This makes even less sense if your internship is unpaid and thus you’re seemingly paying to do work the company should be paying you for. But, it’s a way companies can get around paying interns and many even require you to sign up for course credit.
This is a great thing for the companies as they don’t have to pay students that aren’t working full-time, and they don’t have to spend the time training students if they’re hired into “entry-level” jobs.
Even to add icing on the cake of all of this, I’ve noticed a recent trend of companies posting “internships” and asking students for 40 hours a week. Students will thus need to wait till graduation, graduate with a degree and work at a company that wants “3-year-level” work from a student with loans and bills and a salary of $18 an hour.
So, when apathy is brought up into conversation and questions are asked regarding how to get students engaged again, back to the way my parents or alumni talk about what college used to be, I just can’t help but feel for myself and my fellow students. Stuck on a mad dash of trying to get enough job experience, enough connections, time with friends, good grades, eating, sleeping and all of it just to have a chance at a job that’s not even guaranteed.