This will be my last year at Miami University. While it’s been a unique college experience through COVID-19, I want to share some career exploration experiences from my junior year.
We all know the internship and job market is competitive and ever-changing. Scouring LinkedIn job postings, taking advantage of job fairs and talking with peers about companies they know that have open positions can feel time-consuming to busy college students with a full schedule of classes and other priorities.
Unfortunately, this method didn’t land me an internship this summer. But I’ve talked with some current students and graduates who’ve been through the same struggles, and I think their stories can offer insight into navigating this confusing process.
Hannah Sroka is a 2023 graduate with a double major in professional writing and creative writing and a triple minor in English literature, English education and digital marketing. She is currently unemployed and actively seeking a position in publishing.
Kate Reed is a rising senior with a double major in English literature and strategic communications and a minor in general business. She currently volunteers and is seeking a corporate public relations position post-graduation.
Katie Capka is a 2023 graduate with a major in marketing and double minor in human capital management and social justice. She is currently on hold with a position that has been postponed indefinitely while also searching for other opportunities in marketing.
Each student said something similar about the current career market — it’s complicated.
While Capka holds nothing against the company that put her digital marketing job on hold, adjusting her plans to move from Cleveland to Chicago was challenging.
“I'm taking it one at a time,” Capka said. “I was about two days from moving to Chicago, so that was probably the hardest part, having to buy out our lease and not be able to make the move to a new city because it just wasn't the financially smart decision.”
Since Capka is searching for new opportunities, she said she’s felt extremely supported by her network from Miami. The Career Center, the Farmer School of Business and professional connections in her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, helped her to find internship opportunities and ways to advance her career skills.
Similar to Capka’s proactive habits, Kate Reed also spent most of her spring semester prepping for a summer internship by writing résumés and cover letters and applying to positions where she felt qualified for the role.
“What was very frustrating for me was many of those emails back to me said, although you had an impressive résumé, we decided to go with another candidate, and that really killed me because I knew that I had the experience,” Reed said.
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This happened with at least 10 roles she applied for out of 50 or more applications.
I feel like there’s a gap between what companies are looking for and what experience college students can gain when they’re not in a full-time professional role. Internships especially should focus on teaching emerging professionals the skills of their desired industry beyond the classroom environment.
We need time to explore, fail and repeat the process to see how real-world jobs function. But it’s hard to get that experience when companies and organizations expect college students to already have that practical experience in the workforce.
In Sroka’s situation, she said she barely had time to complete her coursework, work part-time at her campus job and write her honors thesis with her departmental instructor. The focus was on getting to graduation — Do you have the credits you need? Have you applied for graduation? Did you order your cap and gown? — rather than planning for post-graduation career goals.
“I feel like everyone is asking a lot of you your senior year because for most of us, it's our last year on campus, and so I don't want to spend my last year drowning in work and not able to appreciate the fact that it's my last year here, and I'm moving on,” Sroka said.
So what’s the answer to complicated life situations that cause frustration and doubt in college students’ hopes for postgraduate career plans? I wish I could give you a simple one, but I think these career-seekers have some great advice.
One of the best pieces of advice on writing résumés that Reed received through the Miami Prime program was to never, and I mean never, use a template you’ve found on Google. Start with a blank Word or Google document, then make the formatting as boring as possible. Creating your own résumé shows employers you took time to make a polished résumé rather than a quick template thousands of other people have used.
You should also visit the Howe Writing Center for Business for additional résumé writing help. I should know because I work there.
Sroka studied abroad multiple times through Miami-run programs and did internships during those trips. Those trips helped her build résumé experience and make connections with people she would have never met otherwise.
“I would say take advantage of everything you can during college, make good connections, work on campus to gain experience,” Sroka said. “It will help you in the end.”
And Capka mentioned something I wish I would have heard during my first year, and that’s to focus your interest into a few organizations or opportunities on campus instead of trying to do everything all at once.
“You'll look back at your senior year and be so happy to see how much that organization helped you grow or foster your growth,” Capka said.
After speaking to these amazing students about their experiences, I want current students to know that the best way to get ahead on their career goals is to just start doing it, and start doing it early.
Trust me, it sounds too simple. But once you start applying to internships, making connections with people in the industry and gaining experience to put on your résumé, employers and recruiters will notice.
Best of luck Miami students; you’ve got this.