Career Exploration / Internships

Adventures in Internships: Who Says Your Career Path Should Be Linear?

BP Sept 30 2015 DNoel

By: Danielle Noel, BA in Political Communication, GWU, 2015

Graduate Student in Media & Strategic Communications, GWU, 2016

During my last semester at GW, I existed in two states: denial and fear. I loved being in college and it was hard to believe that it was almost over. The thought of paying for my own bills, having to manage a salary, and working eight hours a day terrified me. Eventually, I recognized that denying my imminent exit from school would only hurt me, so instead, I chose to deal with my fear of the real world.

As a student at GW, you immediately become immersed in the trademark competitive culture of campus. When I attended Colonial Inauguration in 2011 as an incoming freshman, we heard from a student who was “bored” during her very first semester and applied for an internship with her state’s Congressman. I left that session in a panic, shaking my head, wondering how in the world I was going to compete with such an accomplished group of people. It was extremely intimidating, but I decided that I would figure out the best way that I could participate.

Over the next four years, I would work as a research assistant for a website, as a judicial intern in the Brooklyn Family Court, as a communications associate for a non-profit organization under the umbrella of AmeriCorps, and as a part-time fellow for a political digital advertising firm. After each stint, I would reflect on my experience, and this was all part of my process. I looked for positions in areas and industries that I had an interest in, and just tried them out. It was a strategy I used to “cross things off my list.”

So when senior year came around and I still had no leads on a full-time position, I applied for a new program that the Career Services Center had created called Career Quest. Both undergraduate and graduate students would get the opportunity to go to New York City and attend informational and networking sessions at amazing organizations. I was accepted into the Advertising and Design cohort, with plans to visit major companies like Spotify, Peppercomm, and Ogilvy. In preparation for the trip, advisors in the Career Center encouraged us to develop smart questions and do research on every company. When we arrived in New York, with each company visit, I became more confident. The support of our advisors was reassuring and by the end of the trip, I had not only grown professionally, but personally. My network had also expanded and most importantly, I now had options.

Graduation soon arrived and I had a few internship options for the summer, since I was considering returning to school in the fall. I met with my career coach in the Career Services Center more frequently, and she helped me to develop a game plan. The amazing advisors I met on Career Quest also served as incredible resources and encouraged me to continue networking, especially with GW alumni who were working in my industry of interest. After attending a career event in Alumni House, I met a Senior Vice President at SKDKnickerbocker, a well-known communications firm. I recalled the confidence I had during Career Quest and the various internships I held during my undergraduate career, and was able to land a full-time internship with the firm this past summer.

I was certainly apprehensive about continuing to intern after earning a bachelor’s degree, but as an intern with SKDK, I received guidance from top progressive political and advocacy strategists, and developed skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my career. Through all my experiences, I have learned that my path will not be linear and that is okay. In fact, it’s actually part of the fun!

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