Moving homes is one of my least favorite activities. Don’t get me wrong, my inner neuroticism fights with me every year because moving means positively placating the neurosis: cleaning out old clothes and giving away those articles that somehow manage to no longer see the light of day from the depths of my closet. It’s just that in college we have to do it too often, moving out in May and moving back in during the last week of August. For most of us, this means the same suitcases being stuffed with the same sweats, Michigan shirts, winter boots and going-out clothes (what else do we wear in Ann Arbor, anyway?). But the end of this summer brought a particularly heinous twinge to my packing ritual as I packed not for Ann Arbor, but for Washington, D.C. Business suits and heels took up the space that is usually occupied by leggings and gym shoes.
Like several other political science students this semester, I will be participating in Michigan in Washington, interning for the government and crying every Saturday because I’m not in town for football season. My academic internship will find me at the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, and my adventuresome spirit will find me wandering around after work, seeing every museum possible and taking more pictures than my phone can hold.
Applying to work at the DOJ was quite the ordeal. Security background checks to work for the federal government are extensive. Let’s just say answering the questions about every place I’d ever lived was the easiest part in a litany of brain-scratching — but that got me excited for what is to come. As an intern my duties will require me to view hearings on the Hill about environmental issues and report back to my office, along with other legal research chores. This internship matches what I want to do as a career in the future.
Getting to the background check stage wasn’t possible without a long and rigorous application and interview phase, however, and before my introductory classes for Michigan in Washington last winter, I was frightened to start this process. After all, I knew nothing at all about applying for a government internship or how to interview well. While I had plenty of classroom experience, my job-seeking and interview skills were lacking. To my surprise, there are quite a few helpful hints that are known by members of the Career Counseling team and others with experience.
These hints on how to successfully get a job, internship or apply to graduate school should not be confined just to those who ask. Instead of having to take a class for distribution on campus at the University that is completely unrelated to our majors, such as the quantitative reasoning requirement for social science majors, I propose that students should be required to take a class that is meaningful and applicable to our lives. This class would prepare us for graduate school, internships or jobs in our specific fields by teaching us necessary interview and application skills, and therefore would be much more beneficial than wasting our precious tuition dollars on classes we don’t even want to take (like calculus as an Anthropology major).
My suggestion does not come as a total shot in the dark. Historically, apprenticeships were the only way that people learned a profession and were thus prepared to enter the job market. Granted, I am not asking that we return to the 1700s. Rather, I am suggesting that students who have decided their field of interest be asked to look at all the possibilities for employment or further schooling with others in their major in a classroom setting. With the skills garnered in a class like this, all of the guesswork would be taken out of how to properly apply for a competitive job and how to interview well, depending on your field.
Others may say that eliminating a distribution requirement would make a less well-rounded student, but these people would forget that certain undergraduates are already allowed to bypass distribution requirements. An example of this is the College of Engineering kids who aren’t required to take a language unless they want to. Based on this logic, why should those people studying the social sciences be required to take quantitative reasoning? A class giving us tools to advance our careers and look at all possibilities would be more worthwhile than an unrelated distribution requirement, and would give us the skills to succeed and compete in an ever-changing job market.
Maura Levine can be reached at email@example.com