By Nancy Bowne
When I observed speech therapists at a children’s rehabilitation hospital, the employees thought I was getting my required hours for grad school. “Oh no, I am actually a first-year undergrad student,” I told them. “I just want to gain insight into the field.”
“Well, aren’t you ahead of the game! How impressive.” What I wanted to say was, “No, I want to be prepared and see if I actually like this field.”
Too many students base their perception of a field on what they learn in class, but this does not give you the full picture. You don’t buy a car before you test drive it. You don’t get married until you go on several dates. So why cheat yourself on your career prospects?
LinkedIn, Chegg, Glassdoor and Indeed are just a handful of tabs that have clogged my laptop. Aside from trying to find internships and job opportunities to feel productive, I was way too stressed out about choosing a major.
As a first-year student, I am currently majoring in speech therapy, but I am also interested in journalism and Spanish. Who knows, maybe even a computer science minor. Since I don’t know what I want to do, internships are the best way to explore the real-life application of possible careers. They can help frame my priorities, as well as help me select my future courses.
When college students enter the black hole of job sites, they will notice that many companies hire interns based on age rather than by motivation and knowledge. These companies assume that freshmen lack the experience and maturity to fulfill the position, but these students don’t even have the opportunity to prove companies wrong. If freshmen were more widely considered for internship positions, they could build a foundation of skills and establish a potential long-standing relationship with the company.
Internships are not just the endgame to finding a job— they allow students to gain industry experience and decide if a certain career path is the right fit. If freshmen had more access to these positions, they could also begin to develop transferable skills, like strong interviewing and cover letter writing, at a young age.
In addition to exposure, we should not limit ourselves to one field and try out as many job settings as possible. There are so many ways to make a living, so you might as well do it in a way that challenges and interests you.
All students should have the opportunity to experience the workforce early on in their college career — we can only gain so much insight through textbooks.