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  • Ariana Lee, Amherst College

What Colleges Don't Teach About the Professional World

I always grew up with this belief that what I did in high school translated perfectly into college and what I did in college would translate perfectly into the professional world. While some of it did align, I now realize what an idealized way of thinking that was. Having done three internships throughout my summers in college, I have come to understand that adapting and succeeding in the professional world is also an individual learning experience – a learning experience that a college textbook or lecture cannot teach you.

Don’t get me wrong. College has still been pivotal in the growth and transformation to become who I am today. Nevertheless, I am now more aware of the limitations of a college education.

Here are the two biggest takeaways from my internship experiences that my college education could have never taught me:

Having Thick Skin

During the summer after my sophomore year of college, I interned at a big Hollywood talent agency. I went into it expecting it to be like a college learning experience, where professors patiently gave instructions and would be there to catch you if you fell. I was so wrong. Agents and executives were tough on their assistants. People had doors closed in their faces and were told “no” multiple times. I had to learn the importance of knowing who I was and what I wanted and willing to pursue that interest despite the obstacles thrown at me. As an ESFJ, I have the flaw of wanting to be a people pleaser at times. I had to learn to not take everything personally and instead focus on my own goals and know how to pick myself back up when everything came crashing down.

Being Proactive

In college a lot of things pretty much fall into my lap. Professors would open their door during office hours, and I could walk in and talk to them about whatever I wanted or needed. Various events were posted all over campus, and companies would come to my campus to actively recruit for students. I just had to show up. I remember during the first few days of my internship experience, I would never talk to my supervisor or other executives unless it was related to the project I was working on. I thought that asking people to coffee to learn about their work was out of line. However, through my internships, I learned that if I did not approach anybody, no one was going to approach me. I realized the importance of being sure of what I wanted and being proactive about reaching out to people to ask for their help and learn about the best ways to achieve my goal. Opportunities weren’t just handed to me on plate. I learned that sometimes I was going to be turned down and rejected despite my efforts, but that did not mean the end of the world. Everything is a learning process and every obstacle only makes me that much stronger.

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