There Is No Such Thing As “Just” an Intern

Posted on Friday, Apr 19, 2019

The nervousness of starting the first day of my first internship must have been showing. The department head pulled me aside and told me this, with a full motivational speech about how even though my official title is Intern, I am still a part of the team and they value my input.

Throughout my time at OSTP, the entire team held true to that promise. Every team member has created an environment in which I sometimes forget that I am not actually a permanent staff member.

Of course, the experience began with the standard intern assignments. I compiled spreadsheets, acted as official note-taker in meetings, and typed summaries. But through getting to know the members of the team and asking to take on more responsibilities and play a bigger role, I have now been able to attend (and contribute to) interagency discussions and assist in the drafting and editing of official documents.

Watching movies and TV shows gave me this idea that interns were just coffee-runners for more important people. I’m sure that you could create a similar experience for yourself if you only did the bare minimum and waited for people to give you assignments to do anything, but this internship experience has taught me that, despite how cliché it is, internships really are what you make of them.

Ask to attend that meeting or help draft that report, and never be afraid to ask questions or offer your input. I can’t speak for every hosting office, but many recognize and appreciate that the interns they train will become the future of the policymaking world and genuinely want to see you succeed.

So, as you begin your internship, remember that there is no such thing as “just” an intern. You wouldn’t be there if someone didn’t see the potential in you.

Becky Gates
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Washington, D.C. | spring 2019