By Nicole Radivilov, B.A. ’16, International Affairs
Success comes in unusual ways, and as I’m wrapping up my final year at GW (a year before I expected to), I’ve realized I followed an interesting path to where I am today. Around this time last year, I was still essentially a sophomore – at least, I considered myself a sophomore. It was my second year at GW, I hadn’t acquired an internship yet, and I was far from thinking about post-graduation plans. Looking back at this entire year, I think I was far luckier than I realized.
How was I so lucky to be successful on such short notice? I believe there are certain characteristics I’ve been able to cultivate in preparation for when opportunity arises: an ability to know my strengths, being open to different ideas, and seizing opportunities as soon as they come instead of putting anything off.
At the end of this last summer, I was interning at a small private consulting firm. Although I appreciate the skills that I learned, I did find my personal growth stunted a little by the fact that the firm was extremely small, and I didn’t mix well with the environment. One of my classmates was working with the Economic Development Agency at the Department of Commerce at the time, and he encouraged me to go through GWork and apply to more government jobs.
I saw that the International Trade Administration (ITA) had an office position open for interns in the fall, and I applied as soon as I saw it. Although I was less experienced with writing cover letters since I hadn’t done that many applications by that point, I still focused on my strengths and skills; especially emphasizing the new skill-set I gained at the consulting firm. Even with only the one internship, I used my experiences and highlighted my work ethic from classes to make it through the first round of the interview and obtain an in-person interview. Unfortunately, the office turned me down, and I did not get the internship.
It was definitely a stumbling block. However, a week later, I received a call from a different office that I had never heard of before, claiming they had received my résumé and a referral from the original office I applied to in the ITA. Even though I was waiting to hear back from a different internship, I took the chance and seized the opportunity to interview with them, opening myself to a new idea. After all, this office also sits within the Department of Commerce. The interview was successful, and I found that I meshed much better with the personalities of the office than I had in both my consulting internship and the first ITA office.
Preparing myself by keeping in mind those three character traits I mentioned above helped me. I kept an open mind, I didn’t procrastinate on pursuing a new opportunity (especially since a phone call for a potential internship may not have a formal deadline for responses), and I made sure to focus on my strengths in the interview.
I received the internship, and through it have had the opportunity to network with other offices in the Department of Commerce, visit embassies on behalf of our office, and attend meetings with top business executives. Finding the strengths I drew from the internship and my classes, being open to opportunities, and not pushing off responding to the new office led me to where I am today – one of the top interns in our office, with a great stepping stone for networking with federal officials and for opportunities after graduation. Plus, it’s quite fancy when someone asks me where I intern, and I get to say, “The Department of Commerce”!