A student of mine alerted me to a job posting for an internship. It reads like this:
General Description: To assist with the preparation of reports, analyses, and modeling.
Responsibilities of this position include:
- Analyze the system design and modifications.
- Develop studies of limited scope and prepare data for cost estimations and analyses.
- Run equipment, performance tests and install and inspect new equipment.
- Assist in maintaining, updating and improving the accuracy of <the company’s> electrical distribution computer model.
Requirements for this position include:
- Junior standing or higher in Engineering or a related field at an accredited university.
- Ability to interact favorably with project and work teams.
- Communication and interpersonal skills involving the ability to work cross-functionally to understand requirements, present alternatives, and recommendations.
- Proficient with the use of personal computers and automated tools.
I don’t get it. A position that specifies its primary functions are to assist with reports, analysis and modeling insists that the qualified candidate comes from Engineering? Because they hold exclusive rights to reporting, analysis and modeling? Don’t get me wrong. I love engineering students and professionals. I’ve been working with them for the past 30 years. They’re extraordinary problem-solvers, sometimes incredibly creative, good under pressure, competitive, smart.
But I have news for the hiring manager for this position (and for others that sound just like it): There are other academic disciplines equally, if not better, prepared for exactly what you’ve described here. Do you think a humanities major can’t write reports and perform in-depth analysis? Think again. Do you think a student of the social sciences can’t model (or at least quickly learn to model) a function, process or operation? Do you really think that engineering students come out-of-the-box ready to perform the responsibliities on your list? Or do you think some ramp-up will be required? I have news for you: It’s likely no more ramp-up would be required in this job for a liberal arts student than for an engineering student. And the “reports” you’d get from the liberal arts student would be readable, probably even interesting.
So to all you English majors, if you see a job posting like this, apply anyway. Add a cover letter that points out your exceptional report-preparing credentials (“developing organized documentation that speeds understanding and accelerates project timelines”), your analytical experience (“synthesizing direction from details,”) and your exceptional ability to learn on-the-job–“OJT,” in business parlance.
Meanwhile, to risk-averse, short-sighted hiring managers who stick to the customary at all costs, consider that you may be missing the hiring opportunity of a lifetime for positions like this one and all that sound just like them. You want an educated thinker who can analyze, write well, learn, perform conscientiously. Much as I love engineers, I promise you they don’t corner this market.