In the fall of 2016 I took on the responsibility of coordinating professional internships for History majors, a task I find rewarding and one that helps our students find meaningful work in the world. There’s no doubt it can be hard for students to find a career path, and this is the case for graduates with many types of degrees, not just history. One of my goals is to show students that there is not only a good deal that they can do, but that they can find work they want to do. I’ve found that serving as internship coordinator has brought back the memories of my own rather clumsy start in the professional world.

I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated with my degree in French and History from BGSU in 1987. Never mind all the talk about the “Go-Go Eighties,” I felt pretty Keep Calmdiscouraged when my applications for all kinds of positions went nowhere. To be honest, I had not taken the time to research job possibilities, to go to job fairs, or even to talk to working people about possible opportunities out there. My job applications were like shots in the dark, we might say. But just when I thought I’d never find anything better than working at the local soda fountain (I served ice cream at Rogers’ Drug Store, now Tubby’s Tavern in downtown BG), I got a call back – from none other than the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS was hiring, and the human resources office in Toledo liked my resume. My meagre savings were dwindling and I figured I didn’t have much to lose; I said “yes” to an interview, and then “yes” to a job in the collections department. I was thrilled at first, because this proved that humanities majors can get jobs, but whether I would like it or not was another matter.

I started by helping people file basic tax returns, and after four months I graduated to a field position, which meant knocking on people’s doors to tell them it was time to pay the Taxman—er, Taxwoman in this case. I was a full-blown tax collector, and considering my interests, it was about as fun as it sounds. I quickly learned that I didn’t like the job and the public certainly didn’t like me, so the lesson was clear: I had a sense of the kind of work I did not want to do. Within a year, I was glad to land a job in a university library where, believe me, I worked all the harder because I realized the importance of giving real thought to my career path. I clearly remember wishing I had had the opportunity to serve as an intern to help me figure out what I wanted, and did not want, as a career. Now, as internship coordinator I’m happy to be in a position to help others do just that.

It’s often said the university environment isn’t the “real world.” This is of course not true; the university is the real world, but just one facet of it. An internship gives students opportunities to apply what they are learning, and to learn even more. In institutions like the Wood County District Public Library, the Hayes Presidential Center, the Wood County Historical Society, or with city government, students put classroom knowledge and skills to work, but in new ways. For instance, classes at BGSU provide broad knowledge of World War I or the Great Depression, while an internship demonstrates how to restore and catalogue valuable artifacts from these eras, how to win grants for education programs, or how to design a museum exhibit. Our students have done all of these things!

What’s particularly important to me is that students are given a placement in an institution that interests them. It’s important to understand that in any organization there will always be mundane work to do, like filing or stuffing envelopes, but I try to ensure that students’ interests fit with an institution’s mission. Each student seeking a placement has an initial consultation with me where we discuss the student’s goals as well as the requirements of the internship program. Internships are best undertaken after a student has achieved junior status, and can be done in the summer or during one’s junior or senior year. Fitting the internship into the student’s schedule is often quite easy.

Come April, don’t ask me to help you with your tax returns, as I’m not so good at it. But if you’re looking for a great internship – that I am willing to do!

Please find information on internships in the History major on our webpage.

Click here for Dr. Mancuso’s profile and contact info.