Creating the Value in Your D.C. Internship

Posted on Monday, Mar 14, 2016

 Internships provide students with a holistic experience. On one hand, they provide students with invaluable experience, exposing them to different workplaces, and providing them with relevant experience and hands-on training they will be able to apply in their later careers. On the other hand, internships can be a veritable challenge, placing students into unknown surroundings, providing them with difficult tasks, and forcing them to network and meet other employees.

While internships may be defined as “temporary positions with on the job training”, I prefer to think of them as experiences that provide growth. When I began my internship at the International Trade Administration, I realized I was not developing in the ways I had expected. Most of my work was simple, and did not challenge me or take me out of my comfort zone. I realized that I was part of the problem. I had not taken the correct steps to create personal value in my internship. I knew I had to begin working to make the proper arrangements, and work with my superior to make this semester an experience that will not only leave an indelible impact on me, but on my organization as well.

Creating internship value begins with interns taking the initiative inside of their office to pursue projects that will add long-term value to the company or agency. While it may be tempting to focus on networking and experiences, this internship provides students with a fantastic opportunity to pursue interesting projects to improve the processes and environment for their co-workers and organization. Managers may be hesitant to give interns responsibilities on these large projects, but the best advice I can give is to ask. If a certain task looks interesting, ask if you can help. If a certain meeting has information you want to hear, ask to sit in! People are always willing to help you gain the most out of your experience, and will typically go out of their way to make sure you learn in the process.

Another important internship technique that I have implemented, is the importance of offering your services to different individuals. In government agencies, the work can sometimes be slow. To prevent a slowdown, and maintain a steady project load, offer your services to others inside of your office. They will be grateful for the extra hand, and you will gain the extra experience!

One thing that I have been reminded of on this particular internship is to leverage what information I already know. Even though many of your tasks and projects may seem new, it is likely you have learned information in your studies that will help assist you on the project. Currently, I am assisting on the International Trade Administration’s Innovation Initiative. While I know relatively little about the innovation process within the organization, I have spent time researching and reading about innovation techniques in different courses I have taken at Texas A&M. The case studies I read, and the work I did in those classes has certainly applied, and helped me to design new ideas and techniques specifically for ITA.

The best part about being in Washington, D.C. is the opportunity for what I like to call “cultural enrichment”. The city is full of museums, memorials, and special sights for you to see. The best memories are truly made walking around monuments late at night, taking Saturday trips to the various Smithsonian museums, and riding the Metro to Chinatown to eat authentic Chinese and watch some great basketball!

To recap, here are my D.C. internship tips:
  1. Internships are growing experiences, make the most out of this opportunity
  2. Take the initiative and make an effort to work on projects you find interesting and will leave a lasting impact
  3. Reach out to others in the organization and offer your help
  4. Remember and utilize the things you have learned at Texas A&M
  5. Take advantage of all of the cultural enrichment activities D.C. has to offer

Logan McDivitt
International Trade Administration
Spring 2016 Washington, D.C.