Peter Vogt: Monster College Career Coatch
August 31, 2009
If you’re in an off-the-beaten-path major — like musicology, or global or medieval studies — you may think only college students in common majors like accounting, business administration or computer science find decent internships.
You can find a great internship that fits your unique interests, whatever your major, if you’re open to doing a bit of digging.
Take Johanna Smith, for example, now an assistant professor of theatre education at California State University at San Bernardino. About 10 years ago, she was an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio studying interdisciplinary studies, a program that allowed her to essentially develop her own major.
“Being an unusual student, I thrived in the program,” Smith says. “Plus, I was able to combine my interests in zoology and theatre arts.”
She soon found herself wanting to do an internship. But could she find one that blended her two almost opposite passions?
“I found the best possible internship: I interned for three summers at the Philadelphia Zoo’s Treehouse, a sort of playhouse of the environment,” she says. "They have larger-than-life habitats made out of fiberglass, such as a giant beehive and a giant rainforest. They surround children with the sights, sounds and even the smells of these habitats so the children can pretend to be the animals from their perspective.
“I led songs and creative drama sessions and did live animal shows where I also served as a zookeeper for the show animals.”
How did she land such a perfect opportunity? By making a phone call to the zoo after a friend saw an announcement about the internship in a packet from the Miami University career center.
Tim Kane had a similar internship experience, though in a much different setting and under far more difficult circumstances. Kane, who graduated in 2002 with a geography degree from Salisbury University in Maryland, landed an internship for the summer of 2001 with the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in New York City. He spent his time doing digital mapping in preparation for various potential emergency situations, like power outages and heat waves as well as special events.
Then September 11 happened, and Kane was asked to return to New York to help in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“When I returned on September 13, my work didn’t concern mapping as much as logistics,” he says. “A mapping center had been set up, and when there was time, I returned to the computer to help with that. But I spent most of my time figuring out where, when and how all of the supplies were going to be shipped and stored at Ground Zero.”
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Kane visited Ground Zero practically every night for two weeks, putting in about 200 hours of work in that time and grabbing a few hours of sleep whenever he could. His performance under those incredibly taxing circumstances is part of the reason he now works full-time for the OEM in New York.
He found the internship by spending his 2001 spring break with his older brother in New York City, and becoming a research fixture at the New York Public Library. “I went from agency to agency looking for ones that might be able to use my skills,” Kane says. “I applied to about five of them, and OEM responded and hired me.”
Good internship possibilities await you no matter what your major, as Smith, Kane and thousands of others learn firsthand each year. You may not always see them listed on MonsterCollege, posted at your campus career center or highlighted in a printed internship guide, but they are out there if you’re willing to go looking for them.
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