By Derby Chukwudi
We all know that after graduation, it is the hustle and bustle of what our next steps will be and personally, I have learned from others that it is better to start career preparation while in college than after graduation.
Having taken this advice, I began to search for opportunities and programs that would further prepare me for life in the workforce. Despite the fact that I had begun preparations, as a student who attends Berea College, a small liberal arts college, I can testify to the many challenges that exist while pursuing career opportunities just because I attend a small school. It is no one’s fault that small schools exist, but it is necessary to prepare students who come from such schools to be ready for the tough situations they could face just because of the status of their school.
As a rising sophomore, my goal was to obtain an internship in a prestigious organization where I can get the experience and expand my professional network. I was advised by some experienced people to begin small, then eventually apply to such prestigious companies. Although that was excellent advice, my recognition of the challenges a student faces to obtain an unpaid internship made me set big goals and work towards them. Another reason for this goal was the thought that securing a prestigious internship at such an early stage in my career could reduce the amount of struggle I would have to put in during my junior year of internship pursuit. I got prepared like every other student from any college, revised my resume, studied about the industry of my interest, read interview prep tips, and applied for many positions.
For half of the applications I sent, I received no replies, others sent out the automated email about their apologies for rejecting me, while some moved me forward. Unfortunately, one of the excellent opportunities I wanted to apply to was eliminated mainly because the company said my school was not a target college. Hence, I was not eligible. At this point, I realized that the hustle was not only about getting into an internship based on qualification but also school status.
I was disappointed, but at the same time I did not give up. I kept on applying and I found another promising opportunity with one of the Big Fours, but the application instruction read “email your school recruiter.” This phrase will pop up often if you are from a small school looking for significant opportunities. I knew that there was no school recruiter for that company on Berea’s campus.
So I contacted a friend who attended another college, and she provided me with a recruiter’s information. I reached out to the recruiter expressing my interest and sent in all my supporting documents. A week later, I received a reply and was moved on to the further steps in the application. After concluding the application, I realized two things.The first thing was the process I went through was more stressful and challenging than someone who had come from a “big” school would experience. Secondly, this program was available to only a select few, and if your college was not listed as a target school and did not have college recruiters for the company, then you were denied the opportunity to apply for the program.
It is very sad to be in such situation because of one’s school status. Nevertheless, I have come to terms with the realities of being in a small school and would like other students who have not done so already, to do the same. Here are three challenges you will have to face coming from a small school while seeking career opportunities.
You will receive denial emails mainly because your school is not a target school
You will have to travel to recruiting areas to be in contact with such opportunities because these companies will not search for you because your school is not on their list of “Target schools.”
You will have to understand that opportunities may be exclusive to only certain schools that have recruiters and you may want to go the extent of requesting contact information of these recruiters from other people.
Despite the challenges you may face, here are three actions you can take to make sure that you overcome these challenges.
Be proactive with your career pursuits.
Take advantage of networking activities and reach out to other people that are more experienced when you need help.
Never give up. Anticipate a lot of rejection letters, but be optimistic, that acceptance letter will come if you persist.