Art by Sybil Zhang
I work at the Seaver Career Center editing resumes and cover letters. Every day, my peers come in or email their documents for review even amid the rush of exams or finals. Some students come in because their professor “made” them come in as an assignment, others to apply for on-campus jobs, but usually, their document frenzy is initiated by the hunt for one of the most coveted things on college campuses: an internship.
Internships are seen as working evidence that students are doing something with their lives, and the resume is the proof. Internships, notoriously an unpaid work experience colored by the cliches of hasty coffee runs and printing and filing mishaps, have the public image of serving as a conduit to full-time employment post-grad.
While internships are certainly a good thing and can provide an excellent opportunity for students to learn “in the real world,” they are not the only way to gain valuable experience and their value can be diminished when they simply become a vehicle for resume-building and status showboating.
Students relish the opportunity to talk about how, in addition to taking a full course load, they are also interning at some awe-inspiring places, are editors of the school paper, and are on the boards of four clubs. While some colleges such as Pepperdine may provide the means of finding internships, others may not, and internships can be allocated to those who are well-connected or know how to work the resources provided. It can be a tricky and seemingly unfair process that doesn’t just boil down to hard work.
Unpaid internships in some of the most sought after internship destinations — New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, could cost the intern close to $13,000, according to Abigail Hess’ article, “Here’s what an unpaid internship will cost you” published June 19, 2017, on CNBC. The possibility of an unpaid internship leading to a full-time work opportunity is comparably grim. National Association of Colleges and Employers found that only 37 percent of graduates who had unpaid internships were offered employment, a mere 1.8 points more than students who had never interned.
Some college students seem to be affected by a wave of ambitiousness, an admirable quality when it’s not in excess. It’s certainly not a bad thing for students to search for internships, care about the quality of their resume, or network their way to an internship or career opportunity. These are all good things, but they are not a means to an end.
Genuine interest in knowledge and learning should not be replaced by a lukewarm desire to get ahead by frantically editing and adding to one’s experiences via a mundane business document. Perhaps it is the unglamorous jobs that give us the most character, teach us what we are good at, show us how to field a rude customer, and give us life skills like how to effectively clean coffee off a uniform shirt.
In David Brooks’ article “The Moral Bucket List“ published April 11, 201, by The New York Times he writes about the resume and eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are those brought to the marketplace and the eulogy virtues are those talked about at one’s funeral. “Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character,” Brooks writes. He encourages readers to be stumblers, create from imperfections, and not merely explore passions but something outside of one’s self, perhaps a life beyond a resume or LinkedIn page.
A resume only includes objective skills, quantifying one’s experiences, and reducing one’s self down to a single space one-page business document.
Experiences can be determined by status, wealth, connections, and resources; humility, resilience, humor, kindness, the eagerness in which one learns and devours knowledge cannot be added to one’s skills section of a resume and if they were, I would tell my peers to take it out. But these are the things that truly matter far more than the resume virtues.
Perhaps with a little stumbling, the resume virtues will no longer be the paragon of excellence and the preoccupation with internships will vanish into the ether — or the sad job portal from whence they came.
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