Criminology major Emerson Devlin, Class of 2020, kicked off her junior year at Merrimack College with one of the most daunting and rewarding experiences of her career. After countless routine visits to job boards including Handshake, Merrimack College’s online job platform, Emerson ultimately decided to turn to her personal network to further explore her internship opportunities. Per recommendation of one of her peers, Emerson resolved to apply for a position as a Teaching Assistant at the Middleton House of Corrections. By reaching out and indicating her interest to the Criminology department at Merrimack, Emerson soon secured her experiential learning opportunity.
While Emerson recalls feeling accomplished at securing an internship for the fall, she additionally remembers her apprehension in taking on an internship that strayed slightly from her career expectations. Emerson exclusively sought after internships relevant to her interests in law because she felt sure it was the next step in her career development. Now, Emerson realizes that delving into the unexpected can actually lead you closer to your career goals. She states, “The internship I did with the Middleton House of Corrections definitely wasn’t what I had in mind, but it was a really cool experience, and not many people get to say that they worked in a jail as a teaching intern and interacted with inmates. [Working in a prison] is not what I want to do as a career, but I got so much out of it that I never expected I would. It’s important to be open minded to everything, because you never know where that experience might lead.” Although Emerson may have determined that she would not like to work in a prison setting in her future career of choice, her enthralling experience with Middleton House of Corrections did prompt her to pivot her career development in law entirely.
In fact, Emerson’s experience enabled her to discover an area of law she never quite considered prior to her internship. Emerson reflects that, “Going into [my internship], I just thought it’d be a cool experience, but after learning about the inmates and what they went through, it really shifted my mindset and perspective in the different areas of law I’d like to concentrate on. I actually had my mind set on going into divorce areas of law, but now I’d like to go into being a public defender, or even just advocating for those that are incarcerated.” Outside of the classroom, Emerson obtained an awareness to the issues of the incarcerated that ignited an unforeseen passion to educate others.
Beyond her newly found desire to advocate for the incarcerated through her career aspirations as a lawyer, Emerson additionally appreciates the distinctive attributes she can showcase in her future experiential learning opportunities. After her teaching assistantsship, Emerson went straight to the O’Brien Center for Career Development to touch up her resume to exhibit her new skills in the best way possible. In reference to her application and interviews following her internship, Emerson expresses, “when people see [my internship at Middleton House of Corrections] on my resume, it’s definitely a point of conversation. It shows many different qualities about me, and I think it helps distinguish me from another person who might of had more of a straightforward office internship. It definitely sticks out.” Emerson’s experience in a unique position provides her with a well-rounded perspective that often falls overlooked in the industry she plans to pursue while also setting her apart from more traditional career pathways.
Emerson’s decision to challenge her professional expectations and take on a serendipitous experiential learning opportunity serves as a paradigm for the value of exploring the different career paths available within a particular industry. The knowledge you gain from hands-on experiences in the working world only adds to the merit of your skills, and as Emerson so sensibly advises, “more experience is never a bad thing in my book.” Students only benefit from increased experience in the realities of the field they are interested in pursuing; receiving various viewpoints that can only better prepare students for all that the industry has to offer. While searching on Handshake may certainly provide the positions you seek, sometimes the best resources to finding your next experiential learning opportunity may just lie in your network of peers or your major’s department — simply take the chance!
Written by: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021