Thoughts about (almost) nothing.
I got inspired to write this after reading a post from an Austrian blogger that got quite some attention around here. It’s called „Thanks for (almost) nothing“ and it’s dealing with a subject that many students in Austria (and I guess pretty much anywhere in the world) struggle with: Internships. Shitty work, shitty pay, shitty big asshole companies taking advantage of poor students… It’s just one of those fuck-the-system kind of posts. And while I did (and still do) agree with most of its content, I felt the need to write a counter-statement. So here it is:
In my opinion, people who think that their bachelor’s degree qualifies them to lead any given company have as much of a clue about life as those who think that the world’s waiting for them after graduating high school: None whatsoever.
You simply don’t move on to the executive chair right after leaving the lecture hall – and that’s actually a good thing. There’s just more to it than a sheet of paper stating that you’re capable of shoving in tons of theoretical facts and chucking them up again on the due date. And unfortunately, at many universities that’s all you need to do. It’s not the evil, exploitative corporations’ fault that a degree doesn’t say anything about one’s actual abilities and qualifications for a job. There’s just something terribly wrong within our education system. To be honest: I also wouldn’t pay someone for maybe at some point temporarily have known something. And how much of an idea do we actually have after completing some sort of education? How useful is all the information we get, study and forget again, really?
Of course, any profession requires some basic knowledge in the relevant field. The question is, however, if academic studies are a reasonable way to acquire it. I firmly believe that apprenticeships are the best way to be prepared for a job and that their image definitely needs to be polished up. But I still do not want to condemn universities altogether or make generalizations. Studying is undoubtedly a great thing and I personally feel extremely privileged to have the possibility to look into and learn about subjects I am interested in day by day. However, it goes without saying that an academic education – as true-to-life and excellent it may be – can never convey all the skills and proficiencies that will be needed in a future career. There are simply things that are best learned by practice and an internship offers the opportunity to do so.
Speaking of opportunity: No-one is forcing you to sell your outstanding performance below value. Except for obligatory internships – which are simply part of the curriculum just as any other course (but exceedingly more useful) – nobody has to work as an intern if they don’t want to.
I myself have already made the experience of working too much for too little money at the sweet age of 17 and have recently completed a completely unpaid internship. But I have to say that in both cases I got to learn an awful lot – not only professionally, but also personally. And every time I think about it, I realize: I would do it again. Simply because within the protected environment of an internship you gain insight into sectors you are seemingly interested in without even knowing them. You can find out what you enjoy doing without having to take responsibility or make commitments.
In conclusion, I have to admit that I am probably the last person that wants so start small in any way. But over the years, I did discover that in some ways it simply makes sense and is justified. Because in fact, no master has fallen from the sky yet.
With that being said: