By Josie Hill, BA in Communication, GWU, 2015
I once called myself “the career intern.”
My story begins along with the 99.7 percent of the GW freshman population: aspiring to go into law until I actually went into law. After my first job at the OGC of a major nonprofit and my second at a private trusts & estates firm, it was already junior year when I realized the law life was not for me. I had regrets, I was unsure about my career, worried about being jobless, and I was graduating in a year with no idea what to major in.
Enter the GW Center for Career Services stage left.
Thanks to the bounty of opportunity that is GWork and the endless support provided by Career Services, I landed my first communication internship at another major nonprofit. From there, I went from PR agency to PR agency until I landed an internship with Edelman, a leading global communications marketing firm – there was no going up from there.
Six months later I’m a full-time Junior Digital Specialist on the Corporate & Public Affairs team in NYC. After all of this, it would disappointing if I didn’t have any take-aways – turns out I have seven:
- Learn to like coffee/tea/water/soda/anything you can use as an excuse to talk to someone
One of the first things you learn as an intern is how to talk to people. You talk to people who you’re interested in, who you’re not interested in, pretty much anyone you could learn something from – so that’s everyone. You are in the same building/floor/office with the people who have been in your position and know what it takes to succeed – take advantage of it. Ask them what their job is like day to day, what they learned when they were your age and my personal favorite: what they would tell themselves as an intern now.
- Put your social media addiction to good use
We’re all guilty. Social media addiction is a thing and we have it. Why not work with what you’ve got? One of the biggest things that people look for in a great intern is taking advantage of opportunities and using the skills you’ve learned and applying them. Took a photography class? Those better be on your Instagram so everyone can know you have awesome hobbies. Digitally inclined? Go my route and make a website for yourself then put your resume and all your work on it. Put your social media handles on things, your website, your resume, your card – people are going to Google you (also, invest in a business card), it’s your job to make sure they find what you put out there as easily as possible. Pro tip: Make sure your name is consistent, pick a name and stick to it. For example Josephine Hill instead of Josie Hill, all your content should be as search-engine-optimized as possible.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there
Your company hired you as an intern because they want to see what you can do. Make sure everyone in the office knows your name, knows what team you’re on, how great you are and that you’re going to be in need of a job in 3-6 months (lightly, of course). Volunteer for things that interest you and ones that don’t interest you, go out to lunch with people other than your fellow interns and be the one that sticks out. No intern drones here, which brings me to my next point.
- “No” is still in your vocabulary
Find that fine line between being the “known to work hard” intern and the “being at work until midnight” intern. If you’re having a busy day with a to-do list longer than your wait for a 4 ride, don’t forget that the word “no” is still a thing. I still get told this every day. People respect that you have limits and you know what they are, if you tell someone you’re swamped for the day and have an astronomy mid-term tomorrow but you’re happy to do it another day if possible, they will listen. The very last thing you want is for someone to realize you’ve taken on too much work and can’t handle it. Better to be safe and sane than sorry and stressed.
- Shop around
The most beneficial opportunities came from the most unlikely places. Throughout my time at GW I seriously considered a handful of careers:
– Archivist (look it up)
– Nonprofit communications
That’s a lot of switching classes, calls to mom, changes to my resume and countless hours on GWork. Moral of the story: you’re going to try a lot of Chinese takeout until you can find the right wonton soup, if you know what I mean.
- Make your own Colonial Army
Make friends. You can make friends/colleagues/mentors everywhere. Start with those you know best, GW alumni. Take advantage of the vast network of other people who want to help you get to where you want to go (go to the Center for Career Services networking events). They can give you advice, proof read your cover letter or connect you with a future employer – all because they’re Colonials. Keep this mentality in the office too: there are mentors everywhere that want to see you succeed, but they’re not going to come to you so get out there and find them!
- Keep your eyes on the prize
Per #5, you’re going to get discouraged, you’re going to think you’re on the wrong path and want to change careers like you change classes the first week of the semester. Remember that neither the earth, Rome, nor Beyonce were built in a day, so you have time. Learn skills, make friends, build your portfolio, get hobbies, take risks – any opportunity you take will benefit you eventually. It will all work out in the end, just have faith in your capability to rule the world…or just land a job.