Grad Student Spotlight: Alyssa Cook

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With graduation almost T-minus two months away, I, like the rest of the graduating M.A. students, have been haunted by the specter of impending unemployment more often than usual lately. But, even though the job-finding process is intimidating, K-State has given me everything that I need to pursue a meaningful career, in part through the internship that I completed with AHA Manhattan.

At first, I was enthusiastic about the internship opportunity because I looked forward to padding my resume as much as humanly possible with hours of Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro experience, but in that process, I was surprised to discover more about myself than I could ever hope to learn about marketing or social media.

Internships, in general, get something of a bad rap – at least for those of us who are more excited by ideas than by the prospect of a promotion and spacious corner office. Internships are necessary to get jobs, but they are strictly, maybe even disgustingly practical. You join a workplace to make network connections. (Save business cards – those people might get you jobs!) You take on projects to acquire more skills and build your portfolio. (Save every printed copy, every draft, no matter where it was published!) And internships do accomplish all of these things.

My time at AHA didn’t hurt my resume and portfolio, to be sure. The most important outcome, though, has almost nothing to do with the actual products of my labor. I learned who I am as a person and who I could be as an employee.

My revelations were, apparently, things that my friends and family already knew about me, but I guess it took an actual workplace, actual work, for me to see them in myself. Ironically, I learned that I’m not interested by social media. I’m what consumer psychologists would call a “lurker.” I’ll scroll, glance, sometimes skim, but I don’t like to interact with people digitally when we could have a much better conversation face-to-face. I don’t want my days governed by whether likes and follows are up or down, and as for going live, forget it. It turns out that I don’t enjoy being in front of a camera.

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy my internship. I loved working with AHA. The work they are doing in Manhattan – promoting the arts and bring people together – is immensely meaningful, and the organization itself is made up of some of the friendliest and most caring people I’ve ever met. But marketing, at least as a career, is not the place for me.

I took a Spiritual Gifts test a couple of months ago, and I scored perfectly on Teaching. Then, several weeks later, a skills test at the English Department’s Career Seminar confirmed that result. Since then, I’ve made plans to change my career path. When I mentioned it to my dad one day in passing, I could almost hear his eyes roll over the phone. “Whoa, you? Who’d have thought,” he said. Even though I laughed at his sarcasm, I realized at that moment just how thankful I was for my internship. Not only do I have the skills to get a job in a wide variety of media-centric fields, but I know where I have to look to find meaning in my work and in my life.

– Alyssa Cook (MA ’19)

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