Am I Ready for the "Real World"?
Internship Advisor Doug Wiemer shares his experience with internships and having doubts about career readinessApr 24, 2023
“I don’t know what to do.” “I have never worked in this field, so who would want to hire me?” “I don’t have any ‘real’ professional experience.” “The job posting says I need 1-3 years of experience, but I have only been a student.”
Not everyone has these thoughts, but many have questioned their competency. When beginning the process of transitioning from student to a career-ready employee, it is common to have doubts of readiness. So, what makes any of us ready for an internship? Curiosity and the understanding that we all start new somewhere. And with that…
Hi, my name is Doug, and I am new to CU Denver. I started working here this past December as an internship advisor. I have never worked in higher education, “professionally,” although, I guess I was an assistant soccer coach at a community college while trying to earn an associate degree. And as a freshman, I did do work-study as a student security guard (but mostly wandered through parking lots). Oh, I was also a lifeguard, and often did schoolwork between the occasional person swimming laps. So, I suppose if I really look at some of my past experiences, I have had several professional work experiences in higher ed!
As a requirement for my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Education I completed an internship hoping that it would lead to a successful career in that field. It didn’t. I did, however, build a network of friends and colleges, many of whom I still connect with today. After graduating, I was hired through someone I met during my internship to help develop children’s programming at a resort. It was a great job, but it was a series of seasonal positions and not full time. Through that same network, I was later hired to work at a local alternative school. Originally hired as a behavioral interventionist, I was later hired as a teaching assistant, then a behavioral specialist, and ultimately a clinical therapist. I loved those jobs too, but along the way, I often wondered if I was ready for the next role. During that time, I returned to school to earn a master’s degree in counseling. I also attended additional trainings when available. So why is it that I often seemed to doubt my “readiness?”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' news release published in August 2021, most adults will have more than 12 jobs throughout their lifetime. That also means more than 12 new interviews, 12 new supervisors, and at least 12 times we might wonder if we are ready. Yet, almost all jobs that we may have tend to need skills that are not necessarily learned in school. Transferrable skills are often learned in those other jobs we sometimes believe are non-career positions: waitressing, bartending, hotel front desk, etc. However, the skills of working in these typically fast-paced environments and dealing with complex customer situations can apply in other areas. Communicating with customers, mitigating angry or upset consumers, working in short-staffed settings, solving problems with limited resources: these are skills that will continue to be beneficial throughout all careers.
Making the choice to earn a college degree tends to lead us to the belief that when we graduate, we will have the job we want, the career we want, and that we will know exactly what we are doing, and perhaps even make six figures right out the door. While this certainly can happen, the data shows us that we are more likely to follow our early interests. We often explore careers that we find fascinating, in areas that will generate the lifestyles we want to afford.
Internships are the building blocks to that success. When employers are looking to hire interns, they are doing so knowing they are training and teaching students to become career-ready. The expectation is not that students know everything in that role, but instead that interns are open to learning what a career in that field can look like. Internships create professional networks and help to gain the experience and knowledge to continue in that field. Internships can also be a great way to discover what type of environment we want to work in, whether it be a large corporation, small business, startup, etc. The more experiences we have the more we can discover where we want to be. I am fortunate to have found myself where I want to be. It certainly has not been a straight path for me, but one full of amazing stops along the way. I look forward to supporting you with your career journey.
If you need support writing a cover letter or resume, searching for an internship or job, or wondering the next steps to meet your experiential learning requirement, please come find us over at LynxConnect. Regardless of where you are in your internship process, we welcome the opportunity to be a support for you. The final challenge is to see if you can find us. LynxConnect is hidden in the courtyard behind the Tivoli Brewery. Please stop by and ask questions, be curious, and talk to one of several amazing CU Denver employees who also are ready to support you in your success.