Why an Internship is More Than a Job

Posted on Sunday, Dec 18, 2016

A lot of people will tell you that an internship is what you make it, and I’m going to join the chorus. When I started my internship, I assumed the projects I would be assigned at work would be all I needed to get closer to my future career. Boy, was I wrong. After a few weeks of working, I realized there was a whole world of opportunities I still had yet to explore.
Here’s what you need to know:
  • Your network is your lifeline.
  • Fun is not a waste of time.
  • Your internship is just a jumping-off point.
If there is one bit of advice that never gets old, it’s this: network, Network, NETWORK. I happened to work in an office with a very diverse group of scholars, public officials, and journalists, and I took the chance to ask them about their lives and experiences. That kind of insight is invaluable to someone just starting his or her career. Not to mention these are points of contact you can come back to later when you need recommendations or a bit of advice.

If you are lucky enough, you might even be working in a new place with a rich history that you can’t experience anywhere else – somewhere like Washington, D.C. If that is the case, use up every free moment and immerse yourself in the local culture. Take some good old-fashioned initiative, look for new things you can do, and enrich your life outside of work as much as possible. This won’t necessarily make you more professional, but you will have some good stories to bring back to the office.

Not every internship is going to be your dream job. It might not even be remotely related to what you want to do for the rest of your life. That’s okay. The whole point of an internship is just to get your feet wet in the professional world and to put a little experience under your belt. If you feel like something is missing from your internship, figure out what it is and GO DO IT. You might discover a new interest or passion as a result.

Tailoring your internship experience to suit your dreams and aspirations can be difficult, but if you’re anything like me, you live for a good challenge. Cheers!

Was there ever a time when you felt like you were missing something and discovered a new interest or passion as a result?

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Kirsten Worden
The Brookings Institution
Washington, D.C.