What's it like to be an intern? WWU students share their experiences
Majors: Journalism and Political Science
Interned with: NationalJournal.com
'Make people wonder how they ever got along without you.'
What did you do in your internship? I was a reporting intern and basically performed the same duties as paid staff writers. I pitched and wrote stories on some pretty momentous legislation moving through Congress, such as the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, health care reform and federal stimulus spending. I also contributed to NationalJournal.com's "Before & After" series, which profiles the transition that occurs when one politician leaves office and another takes his or her place, and wrote promise analyses for the site's "Promise Audit," an award-winning blog tracks the progress of President Barack Obama's campaign promises.
How did you find your internship? I was fortunate enough to know a Western alumna who is currently a paid staff writer at NationalJournal.com. She helped "grease the wheels" for me.
Why did you want this internship? As a Journalism and PoliSci major, writing for NationalJournal.com represented a unique opportunity to blend the best of both disciplines. I kind of see myself as a political junkie, policy wonk and journalism nerd, so this internship was really a no-brainer for me.
How can students get the most out of an internship experience? Work your tail off. Employers love interns who show initiative. Your goal should be to make the people you're interning for wonder how they ever got along without you.
Whatís been the most important thing you learned? It's not what you know, and it's not who know: It's both. Talent and experience are important but they'll only get you so far; the same can be said for connections. You'll be a force to be reckoned with if you have bothóeven in this abysmal job market.
Any big surprises or challenges? The most challenging (and fun) part for me was finding original stories and angles to pursue in a city like Washington, D.C., which is teeming with political journalists trying who are all trying to do exactly the same thing. I'm the type of person that relishes a good challenge, so I found the competitive nature of the job quite rewarding.
How has the internship experience changed you or your future plans? Interning at NationalJournal.com helped me discover the kind of journalist I aspire to be and type of career I want to have.
Do you have any advice for families of students? Families should definitely help students complete at least one internship before graduation. That help could come in the form of using family connections to land a student his or her first internship, financial support (as many internships are now unpaid) or simply general encouragement. It will be much easier on the family if the student graduates with professional experience in addition to a four-year degree, which are becoming nearly ubiquitous on most resumes and job applications these days.
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Major: Business Administration, Marketing concentration
Interned with: Target
How did you find your internship? Target's Campus Liaison did a presentation about Target's opportunities in one of my marketing classes.
What did you do? In the first six weeks, I spent time with each Executive Team Leader to learn about the different processes and how they fit together to run a smooth, profitable store. In the last four weeks, depending on what my store needed and what I was interested in, I was able to develop and then given all the resources I needed to implement a specific action plan to improve my store. By the time my internship ended, I was able to improve my store's Attendance & Payroll Impact report by 65%!
Why did you want this internship? I wanted something fast-paced. I wanted to be with a reputable company that I can advance with. Target ranked 20th on Newsweek's ď50 best places to intern.Ē
How does this internship relate to your studies? My degree is Business Admin and I'm included in every aspect of Target's business. On a day-to-day basis, I know where my store is standing in regards to sales, payroll, profit margin of each department, etc.
How can students get the most out of an internship experience? The best advice I have is to know exactly what you want because no one can help you achieve it if you don't have a clear picture in the first place. Target provided me with so many different opportunities and all I had to do was ask.
Whatís the most important thing youíve learned? Work is important but family should always come first.
Any big surprises or challenges? One of the challenges that I had was my age. I came into my store in a leadership position but at a younger age (21). No one challenged my authority, but it's hard when there are team members that have been with the company for 10 to 15 years.
How has the internship experience changed you? I originally wanted to join a marketing firm, but now I know that an office job is not for me. I love my position with Target because something new and exciting always happens on a day to day basis.
Do you have any advice for families of students? The best advice I can give to families is to be open-minded about your studentís choices. My immediate family was really excited about my internship but my extended family kind of looked down on it solely for the reason that it was retail. Families should encourage their student and by this point, they're old enough to know what they want and how to go about getting it. At this age, the students need to be able to earn an internship on their own.
Hometown: Salt Lake City
Major: Human Services
Interned with: Catholic Community Services
What do you do in your internship? I take part in three group counseling sessions each week. The groups consist of young adults who are attending treatment for substance abuse issues. At the bare minimum I observe how the counselors facilitate group discussions, and then document the necessary notes and observations. Most of the time however, I get to act as a sort of counselor assistant interacting with clients, building on what the counselors' lesson plan and, at times, running small portions of group.
How did you find your internship? I basically looked at it like any other job search. I contacted many non-profits in the area and let them know I was a Western student looking for an internship. I went out and met with people to do informational interviews where I would ask them about their program to see if it would be a good fit for me. Since I didnít really have a set idea on where I wanted to do my internship I looked into a wide variety of programs offered in the community.
Why did you want this internship? It appealed to me because it seemed like front line work dealing with addiction. I have a lot of respect for the group counseling approach to addiction recovery and that is primarily what Catholic Community Services (CCS) offers. I also really enjoyed speaking with the director of the site and saw him as a person I could learn from. Another aspect that appealed to me was that they seemed to be very intern-friendly. Since CCS is used to having interns I felt I would be entering into an environment where my time could be utilized efficiently.
How does this internship relate to your studies? The field of human services deals with working with clients to help them build themselves up. It looks at things from the standpoint that in order for a person to change, they need to figure out what will work for themselves. We canít approach a social issue and tell people what to do, and simply expect them to do it. Human services takes the approach that it is necessary to work with people to enact healthy and sustainable change. This relates to CCS because it is a program that works with addicts by way of motivational interviewing. This approach recognizes that each person is capable of confronting their addictions and, with the help of others, figure out why they need to get clean, and how to do it.
How can students get the most out of an internship? Try to look at it from two different standpoints. First think of your resume and try to do things at your internship that would be good additions to your work experience. Second, try to step out of your comfort zone each week. Take simple steps that lead you into feeling more comfortable in your intern environment. If you have only worked at a coffee stand up until now it may seem strange to go to work at an office, but set small goals for yourself on how to get past it. It is also important to try to have a good line of communication with your supervisor. You may need to be a bit proactive at times to avoid hitting a plateau and open discussions with your supervisor can help. Remember that you are there to work, but also to grow and gain from the experience.
Whatís the most important thing you have learned? I have learned people tend to have an urge to give advice to someone who is having a problem. At the same time many people may not be interested in simply receiving advice on how to fix what they are going through. So we have this weird construct where one person is having a problem, and another person tells them what to do, and they donít want to hear it so nothing changes. At CCS I have learned that what may be helpful is talking to people in a way that lets them figure out how they are feeling and what they want to do about it. At times it does make sense to offer a bit of advice, but only if it relates to what they are saying, or how they may be feeling. Otherwise it may come across as an all-knowing lecture, rather than relatable assistance.
Any big surprises or challenges? It has been interesting to see how many of my assumptions have been wrong. I always assumed that working with addiction meant basically saying the same things over and over until people get it. What I have found is that each day is different and that you need to be able to go with the flow during group. You can walk in to group with an idea in your head about how it is going to go and it will be the complete opposite. You may want to discuss relapse prevention and they may want to discuss anger management. You need to be able to offer the group what they need, while at the same time keeping things on track as much as you can.
How has the internship experience changed you or your future plans? I have decided to go into the field of chemical dependency. Before my internship I was not at all interested in working in this area, but because of my experience there I feel completely different. I am now very excited about where I am headed and basically have my internship to thank for it.
How can families help students find an internship or get the most out of one? They could always network through their own field to see if there are internship possibilities available.
Interned with: The Bellingham Herald
What do you do in your internship? I compile the police, fire and jail logs each morning. I write briefs and stories.
How does this internship relate to your studies? My internship at The Bellingham Herald has allowed me to use the skills I have been learning in my classes at Western in a real-life setting. It is rewarding to see all of the hard work I have put into my classes apply to something outside of the classroom.
What is the most important thing you've learned? The most important thing I have learned is to not be afraid to ask questions -- to both my sources and my editors. There really is no such thing as a stupid question.
Any big surprises or challenges? I was surprised at how different The Bellingham Herald was from The Western Front. The newsroom of a daily paper moves so fast that it can sometimes be overwhelming, but that is also what makes it so exciting.
How has the internship experience changed you ? This experience has showed me that a future in journalism is possible, despite the problems print news is currently facing. It has also helped me develop a thick skin when it comes to having my work critiqued, which I know will be valuable in the future. Mainly, it has given me the confidence I need to be successful in journalism, teaching me not to be afraid to ask the tough questions or search for the unpopular angle of a story.
Do you have any advice for families of students? My best advice to families is to be patient while your student is looking for an internship. I originally didn't get this internship, and was called about a month later to fill the news clerk position, which I was able to use for my internship. It can be frustrating to take the time to apply to so many internships and not get accepted, so I think families should remember your student is trying! As for students, it's important to be persistent and proactive while searching for an internship.
Hometown: Gig Harbor
Major: Fairhaven Concentration, "Media: Examination, Exploration & Expression"
Interned with: Media for Development International, Tanzania
What did you do in your internship? I work as an assistant to the owner of the company, John Riber. I do everything from editing short videos on what the company is working on to contributing ideas in writer's workshops.
How did you find your internship? I met Mr. Riber two years ago when he taught a summer course at Fairhaven.
Why did you want this internship? First of all, it meant I got to travel to Tanzania! Along with that it seemed like the perfect thing do to for my senior project, which is a requirement in Fairhaven concentrations.
How does this internship relate to your studies? My studies ranged across the field of "media," including video production, media literacy, journalism and social issues in media. MFDI focuses its media projects on social issues that surround the people of Tanzania and greater Africa. In this way it satisfied many of my interests and areas of study.
How can students get the most out of an internship experience? Whether you're getting paid (if so you're incredibly lucky) or not, pretend your internship is your new career. Dive into any projects you are assigned and show that you are passionate about your work to those around you. This could lead to bigger things in the future!
Whatís the most important thing you learned? My knowledge of media production and business has increased exponentially and I feel more than ever that I know enough about the industry to actually enter it. Along with this Iíve had the opportunity to learn about the complex social issues of a developing African nation. While I am grateful for these practical learning opportunities, I feel that the most important thing that I will take away from this experience is a great sense of independence.
Any big surprises or challenges? Within the practical filmmaking knowledge that I gained during my time in Tanzania, there ran an undercurrent of awareness -- a comprehension of issues that go far beyond the field of media or filmmaking. Like many social issues, some of the most pressing concerns found in Tanzania are complex and hard to fully grasp. However, beginning to examine and analyze them gave me the opportunity to contemplate how they should be approached in the context of filmmaking or a media campaign. MFDI is a company that strives to use its impact for good by using media as a tool for information. Simply by immersing myself among the people and ideas that circulate through MFDI I was able to step away from the practical side of things andobserve the social issues that are approached through a more objective point of view.
How has the internship experience changed you or your future plans? The new cultures and places that Iíve seen while here have fascinated me and prompted me to stay away from home for awhile longer. Iíve grown to believe that staying away from familiarity, staying out of your comfort-zone, forces you into a new realm of awareness and contemplation, this is the best learning experience of all. Experiences as well as people are addicting and I am looking for more of them as I travel on through Europe for several more months.
Do you have any advice for families of students? The support of my parents was key in my being able to pull it off. For parents to encourage their kids to get out into the real world and do an internship is very important. The enthusiasm and assistance that I received from my family was critical in shaping my experience.
Internship: 'Roadie' for Invisible Children
What do you do in your internship? Invisible Children produces documentaries about the effect of war on children in East Africa, primarily the child soldiers of Uganda. I live out of a van for 3 months with 3 other people, traveling around southern California and Hawaii, presenting our organization's documentary to high schools, colleges, universities, places of worship... pretty much anyone who will have us. Our presentation is free and our primary goals are to raise awareness, political activism and funds for our programs both here and on the ground in Northern Uganda.
How did you find your internship? A previous intern recruited me
Why did you want this internship? When else would I have the opportunity to rally a generation to end Africa's longest running war -- while living with 3 other people in a van and traveling around the country? It was an experience I could not pass up
How can students get the most out of an internship? Be willing to learn. Be willing to put aside what you know in order to build new perspectives and gain new knowledge.
Whatís the most important thing youíve learned? I have learned that there is SO much unharnessed potential in this young generation. We have so much to give and such a desire to live outside ourselves, but people sell us short and don't give us the opportunities that we deserve to great positive change. Invisible Children is giving these kids the tools they need to turn their back on apathy and indifference and walk towards a brighter, more peaceful future.
Any big surprises or challenges? I never realized how much a change in climate would affect me. This perpetually sunny weather is KILLING me! I want to be in the overcast Northwest sipping my coffee and wearing a scarf!
How has the internship experience changed you? I have been completely changed by this experience. Granted I am still in the middle of it and I have not had the chance to process all I have experienced. I have experienced the power of the individual. I am just one person, but I am sharing the story of thousands of abducted child soldiers in Northern Uganda with thousands people here. And from this internship I know that thousands of lives have been changed and are motivated to do something. Just because one person showed me the film when I was 18. Where I once took a more cynical view of where this world is headed, I now see that I am far from alone in desiring a future of peace and unity.
Major: Political Science
Interned with: Enterprise Rent a Car
What did you do in your internship? I got to be a part of a fast-paced business enviroment. I picked up and delivered customers and I was involved with sales. I also learned basic marketing and business skills. As an intern, I had a project to present to the area managers at the end. The project topic was assigned at the begining of the internship and was something that I worked on all summer. Basically it was focused on an aspect of the local branch that could be improved and how I thought we could improve.
How did you find your internship? I found out about the internship on the Career Center list serve
Why did you want this internship? It was a great way for a non-business major to gain business experience and transition into a career.
How does this internship relate to your studies? As a poli sci major my focus was in American Politics and the legal system. So knowing how to think analytically was very helpful. My studies taught me how to take in a vast amount of information and process it and store it. Eventually my goal with Enterprise is to work my way up to the corporate level and help with lobbying.
How can students get the most out of an internship experience? Completely embrace the experience and run with every opportunity, because while it is an internship it can easily turn into the beginning of a career.
Whatís the most important thing you learned? For me it would be sales and learning how a successful business is run.
Any big surprises or challenges? My challenge was playing catch-up with the other employees who had sales experience. What I lacked in sales I made up for in customer service and optimism that I will be great at sales soon.
How has the experience changed you? It helped me to solidify what I want to do. I know now that I am most happy in a service-based career where I get to interact with many different types of people and help them make their day better. Working for Enterprise has made my future plans more flexible because they are a large international company with opportunities all over the place. I don't feel as if the ceiling for advancement is pressing down on me -- the sky's the limit, as long as I want it.
Do you have any advice for families of students? Be supportive, let the student live at home, and help with the bills. Internships are tough financially because most internships are not paid. Having that financial support makes all the difference. I probably would have done more internships while I was at Western if I wasn't worried about paying rent or buying food. Those are some really huge mountains if you are supporting yourself.
Hometown: Bainbridge Island
Major: Geography, International Society and Environment
Interned with: Common Threads Farm
What did you do in your internship? Common Threads Farm is an educational program that teaches kids about where their food comes from. During the summer I helped chaperone groups of children to the farm, where we planted seeds, harvested food from our garden, and cooked meals with the children to teach them about sustainable agriculture. I also helped take care of the garden and animals on the farm.
How did you find your internship? I found Common Threads Farm through the Career Center at Western.
Why did you want this internship? I believe that itís important to know where your food comes from and think that teaching children at a young age will make them conscious consumers. This will hopefully lead them to make better decision about what kinds of food they eat and how it impacts the environment.
How does this internship relate to your studies? Geography is a wide range of studies but mostly focusing on the human impacts of the environment. This internship was my way to help educate the younger generation about how important our environment is through food production.
How can students get the most out of an internship experience? Have an open mind and make sure to pick out the right internship for you.
How has this experience changed you or your future plans? I have definitely been thinking about working with children as part of my career in the future.
Do you have any advice for families of students? I think itís important to make sure that you find the right internship. Talk with an advisor and let them known about your goals.