By Anna Foster
If one place was awarded the title of the City of Interns, I’m positive it would be Washington, DC. Since moving here, I myself have had four internships! Every year thousands of young people flock to DC hoping to explore their interests, gain experience, and expand their network of professional connections, for which there is hardly a better place.
As this summer’s intern class settles in, I’ve called on B.A. Rudolph Foundation alumnae to share advice on how to make their summer internships a success.
1. Opportunity is to be sought, and networking is essential.
While it appears that everyone in DC arrives accomplished, it’s important to remember they all started somewhere, and they had help. What unites successful Washingtonians is their ability to gain mentors and advocates who will help connect them to opportunities.
“The summer taught me that the field is smaller than you think, meaning that who you know and how you treat others really does make an impact on your prospects and career. The lessons I’ve learned from people that were once strangers will be something that I can cherish and make use of throughout my career.” – Erin Marshall, 2015 Undergrad Scholar
2. Learn how to balance work and life.
It’s important to find the right balance between pushing yourself to work harder and not letting work be the only focus in your life. The pace of life in DC is hectic and often Washingtonians are so passionate about what they do that it bleeds into their personal lives. Be sure to take a break from work to explore your new city because the time you’re able to spend in DC will pass quickly.
“It’s important to find the right balance between pushing yourself to work harder and not letting work be the only focus in your life. It’s awesome if you want to work late but you should give yourself time to relax too.” – Marie Vastola, 2015 STEM Scholar
3. Be open to meeting new & diverse people.
It’s no secret that DC is one of the most culturally and politically diverse cities in the US. With cultural celebrations and academic events happening constantly, it’s important to go out and participate- you never know who you might meet! People will surprise you with their openness; both in terms of wanting to know more about you, but also in sharing their own experiences.
“I was fortunate to work and learn from a very multicultural team. Together, we learned from each other’s diverse experiences, attended events featuring renowned international guest speakers, and dined at authentic restaurants.” – Olga Boichak, 2015 Grad Scholar
4. Anticipate change and learn to work with it.
They say that change is the only constant. Whether you work on a project all summer, only to have the details change on you at the last minute or your supervisor quits out of the blue, it’s important to stay calm and keep a positive attitude. This is an incredibly fast-paced world so things are bound to change. What’s important to remember is that you WILL survive!
“I will be able to transfer the skills I developed through the internship to my forthcoming academic endeavors. Apart from the hands-on training I received, I learned to adapt to new circumstances and come up with viable solutions when confronted with challenges.” – Vasiliki Chioti, 2017 STEM Scholar
5. Success is rarely an accident, so work hard and ask for feedback.
We all know that the 9-to-5 grind can be exhausting and that there are times you want to throw your hands up in the air and quit. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your career. Always say yes to more responsibility. Attitude, more than ability, is what makes a great intern. Grab an extra cup of coffee, reach for some dry shampoo, and keep up the great work!
“I learned how important it is to take initiative with my work, to have confidence in my work without constant reassurance or oversight, and, most importantly, to take responsibility for that work. When you can manage those values, then you can eagerly accept both criticism and praise of that work and truly advance.” – Alejandra Carrillo, 2014 Scholar
Special thanks to all our past scholars who contributed to this list! I hope this advice helps you make the most of your summer internship experience. Remember: you’ve got this!
Anna Foster is a 2018 intern at the B.A. Rudolph Foundation, serving both our Programs and Communications departments. Anna is a senior at the George Washington University (GW), where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and hopes to work in international women’s advocacy and empowerment post-graduation.