7 Ways to Stand Out at Your Internship

Written by Jackie Rogers, PA – Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service

Whether this is your first internship, or your final experience before entering a full-time career, make sure you’re following these 7 tips to excel in the office.

  1. Arrive slightly early
    The staff at your internship site will notice if you consistently arrive 10-15 minutes before you are scheduled to start. Arriving early will allow you to situate yourself and be prepared to begin at your start time. Also, if there is a commuting delay you will have enough lag time to get to your internship on time.
  1. Ask for feedback
    Asking your supervisor for feedback can be extremely valuable. You want to make sure that you are being a productive member of the team. This internship experience is a learning opportunity, and you want to see what you can do to improve.
  1. Take all assignments seriously
    Treat each assignment with care and diligence. Your supervisor is watching how you handle each task, and in order to gain more responsibility, you have to demonstrate your ability to complete each small assignment well.

  1. Take notes and stay engaged
    Bringing a notebook wherever you go will allow you to stay engaged and focused. Taking notes will allow you to jot down any information you will need in the future.

 

  1. Anticipate the needs of your supervisor
    Go above and beyond by watching your supervisor’s work style so you can better aid them throughout the duration of your internship.
  1. Be kind to everyone you interact with throughout your day
    Radiating kindness to others will make a huge impact on how you are viewed in the office. Helping fellow interns or staff on assignments will make a positive difference, and will demonstrate your ability to be a team player.
  1. Write thank you notes to show your gratitude
    Showing your gratitude to others will go a long way. Writing thank you notes anytime a professional takes time out of their day to meet you for coffee or lunch will help you stand out. I would also suggest writing thank you notes to each staff member in the office before you leave your internship. The staff will remember you long after your departure if you take the time to show your gratitude.

PA Testimonial – John (IBGA)

Written by John Foulkes – Program Advisor, Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA)

Growing up I loved reading about history. Learning about the Romans or the Ottomans, about revolutionaries and freedom fighters, really stirred my imagination on the effects people can have on the world. Eventually, this led me in high school to start reading about international relations and current affairs, and I haven’t looked back since.

 

Perhaps inevitably, this passion brought me to DC last summer, as a student with The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Economics and International Affairs program. The program drew me in through its unique premise which seemed like the best option for me to learn about world affairs, both in the classroom and in the office, and launch the international career I have always wanted. From Washington, the world’s sole superpower conducts its foreign policies. It is also where Andrew Jackson beat a would-be assassin half to death with his cane, Teddy Roosevelt swam in the Potomac every day, and JFK asked us to do what we could for the country.

This might have been my favorite aspect of coming to DC. On the way to my internship every morning, I’d follow Pennsylvania Avenue and see the White House. Some of my favorite memories of last summer came from walking around the historic city to museums and monuments with the great friends I made. You really can’t beat the National Mall for its Smithsonian Museums and national monuments. I loved going to the Sculpture Garden for Jazz in the Garden every Friday, as well as visiting the new African American Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and more. Not to mention, you haven’t lived until you watch the sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial. And this doesn’t begin to describe how amazing it is to work in the city.

I had the pleasure of having two internships this past summer. Arriving in DC I was working with the Free Russia Foundation, an organization of Russian expats working to highlight the human rights abuses of the Putin regime, and his danger to free elections and world stability. Working to bring attention to these important issues alongside my boss was a true pleasure. Since the Free Russia Foundation lacked an office, I worked remotely at the time, and so took the opportunity to join the Jamestown Foundation as their Global Security Intern. Jamestown works to inform the public and policymakers about societies that are strategically important to the US and which restrict access to information. I had the opportunity to analyze global events and organize meetings of foreign policy experts to discuss these issues. Both of these experiences were a true pleasure.

 

TFAS gives you the chance to learn at George Mason University as well as work in Washington. My favorite class was American Foreign Policy with Dr. Gary Armstrong. This is a great class on the strains of foreign policy thought in the United States and the current struggles the country faces internationally. Dr. Armstrong leads the class expertly and guided the class through complex ideas and problems.

Overall, TFAS was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I met amazing professors and DC professionals, made some lifelong friends and had the experience of a lifetime. I highly encourage everyone coming to this year’s summer program to make new friends and explore the city! Also, make the effort to connect with professionals at your internship site, I still contact the employees I worked with and it is very rewarding. You could not have made a better choice on how to spend your summer, and I am excited to meet everyone!

PA Testimonial – Holly (IEIA)

Written by Holly Focareto – Program Advisor, Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA)

Growing up in a military family, I found a passion for national defense that led me to my degree, where I grew my passion and gained a love for international affairs. After spending one summer studying abroad in Ireland and Morocco, I knew I wanted to spend a summer interning. I always wanted to visit Washington, DC and when I found about the incredible opportunities TFAS offered to intern in DC I was so excited. The program is amazing because of all the opportunities and experiences they offer.

Through TFAS and the Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA), I interned at the National Defense University, The Dwight D. Eisenhower School, where I developed friendships and learned life lessons from an incredible supervisor. I conducted in-depth research and helped prep classes for the upcoming classes that included Air Force colonels, CIA agents, and foreign military leaders. It was especially awarding for me to see materials I worked hard on over the summer to be incorporated into the incredible classes. My fellow interns (many from IEIA) became a small family and went on many adventures together around Fort McNair and DC. I had a supportive supervisor who challenged me and helped me grow my professional profile. He worked for the Department of Homeland Security and always tried to provide me opportunities to meet new people and enjoy DC life, including taking me for a briefing at DHS

Headquarters.  He was always open to questions and gave me advice that helped me not only for my summer in DC but in my life since then. It was also fun to watch all the helicopters and ospreys that would land right in front of our building throughout the summer.

At first, I was so excited for the internship component of IEIA, but I soon realized there was so much more. The academic focus of the program is hard to beat. The International Economic Policy was one of the best classes that I have ever taken. It challenged me to look at the world through a new lens. I also really enjoyed the Foreign Policy Symposium that TFAS hosted at George Mason University. It brought people from various backgrounds discussing various issues. The panels were awesome and I learned a lot. I loved sitting there and just listening to the speakers and the well thought out questions my fellow peers asked.

Now, of course, I had plenty of fun during my summer in DC. It was my first time in the city, so I tried to do as much as possible including going to museums, trying all the different restaurants, walking down the National Mall, and finding the best cupcake shop. My favorite moment was when a few of my friends and I biked from Georgetown to the Capitol Building and back to GW. We just went exploring and it started getting dark. The mall is incredible when all the lights come, and biking by all national monuments, the Capitol and the White House was an experience I will never forget. It was just a spur of the moment thing, but it was one of the most memorable moments of the summer.

Overall, this program is amazing and provides so many opportunities to meet people and grow your professionalism. My favorite part was building connections with peers and mentors through all the opportunities that it provided. There is so much you can do through the program and it goes by fast, so take advantage of every opportunity.

PA Testimonial – Abby (ICPES)

Written by Abby Nugent – Program Advisor, Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems (ICPES) 

I completed my summer internship with Child Care Aware of America in Arlington, Virginia as a governmental affairs intern. My daily role was to assist in researching legislation that would impact the goals of the organization, which include advocating for affordable child care options and safe learning environments for children. I had the incredible opportunity to frequently attend meetings on Capitol Hill with my supervisor, and discuss the climate of child care legislation and funding with congressional staffers. This experience gave me a first-hand view of the legislative process, which was even more valuable given the time I had spent researching the issues.

My favorite academic component of TFAS was the economics course I took with Professor Chris Coyne, the Director of Graduate Programs at George Mason University. Having never taken an economics class prior to the summer, I was intrigued to learn more, and the class exceeded every expectation. The focus of the coursework was how incentives based on economics could be applied to public policy decisions, which was applicable not only to my internship but to my coursework in college. I still find myself referencing principles I learned in this course, and it gave me the economics background that I needed to have a firm foundation in my support of capitalism and the free market.

My favorite social event of TFAS was the weekend visit to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. Given the fact that I have a deep interest in history, this opportunity was incredibly meaningful. The visit was a mix of a guided tour and free time to explore the grounds and farm-land. I left with a greater knowledge of Washington’s life, insight into his personal values, and more respect for arguably our most vital founding father.

TFAS is unique in the fact that it brings together a group of students who all share a foundational common interest, despite our varied backgrounds in journalism, economics, international relations, or other fields. Each and every TFAS peer I interacted with over the course of my summer had a deep desire to learn. Each and every moment of the summer, whether it was taking the metro to an event after work or even sitting in the dorm in the evening, was filled with challenging debate, discussion, and sharing of knowledge and experiences. I met students who challenged my worldview, given their outlook having grown up in a completely different area of the country or perhaps outside of the United States, and yet we all shared respect each other and an interest in expanding our perspectives. TFAS is more than an internship program, and it is more than classes and speakers, although those exciting opportunities make up much of the daily routine. My favorite part of TFAS was experiencing the summer with friends who challenged me and made every moment a chance to learn and grow.

PA Testimonial – Kylee (IPJ)

Written by Kylee Zempel – Program Advisor, Institute on Political Journalism 

As one of the most indecisive people in the world, I vividly remember only twice deciding on things I knew for sure I wanted: broadcasting and Washington. The first occurred while I watched coverage of a Presidential debate, hearing the moderators and thinking, I want to do that. The second occurred during my summer in Washington, DC, with TFAS. Late one night, I stood on the steps of the Capitol looking out over the National Mall—the White House visible to my right, the Washington Monument glowing tall in front of me, the World War II Memorial, Lincoln, and the Potomac far in the distance. I had never been so sure of something in all my life.

 

Growing up in small-town Wisconsin, I never dreamed I would one day live and work in Washington, DC. My Junior year of college, I interned for Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, and I realized I wanted to continue gaining professional skills through another internship. I began searching for internships in Washington, but I felt intimidated and completely unqualified for everything I found—until somebody recommended The Fund for American Studies.

The Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) seemed almost too good to be true. An aspiring television broadcaster and political commentator, my placement at Radio America proved to be a perfect fit. At my internship, I had the opportunity to work on an economic radio story that included research, radio interviews, radio and TV script writing, audio and video editing, experience with a green screen and teleprompter, and real television stand-up experience. While all internships are valuable, Radio America provided me with more than simply a line item on my resume. I walked away from that internship with real experience and a working portfolio!

In addition to my internship, I loved my Economic Problems and Public Policy class at George Mason. My professor knew the material inside and out and regularly added comic relief. I left that class with a better understanding of important issues facing our country, and the class challenged my perspective in ways I didn’t think it would concerning topics like terrorism and protectionism. I also learned valuable practical skills by attending many of the Professional Development seminars TFAS offered.

My favorite part of the TFAS program is the doors it opens for students that extend beyond their internships and summer experiences. Beyond entering an alumni network of over 16,000 people, TFAS presents its students with job opportunities, continued professional development assistance, alumni activities, and more. Thanks to TFAS, since last summer, I have had the opportunity to return to Washington to participate in two TFAS-related events—the 50th Anniversary Gala and a co-sponsored “Liberty and Equality” seminar—both of which were excellent!

But TFAS students don’t always dress in business professional. Other fun summer activities included playing sand volleyball by the Lincoln Memorial, kayaking on the Potomac River, and visiting Mount Vernon. One of my favorite events was the TFAS BBQ. At that event, I met the people who would become some of my closest friends from the summer! We topped off the BBQ with a stop at Captain Cookie and the Milkman (one of my favorite DC treat stops), and the rest is history! TFAS is a great place to meet people who will become your best friends and impact your life in unexpected ways. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer than in Washington, DC, with The Fund for American Studies!

 

 

PA Testimonial – Jackie (IPVS)

Written by Jackie Rogers – Program Advisor, Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service

Last summer I was afforded the opportunity to spend 8 weeks in Washington, DC to participate in the Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems program through The Fund for American Studies. I interned with the Washington Council of Lawyers, and my experience was everything I wanted in a summer internship. The organization works to ensure everyone, regardless of income, has greater access to our justice system. I was able to learn about the legal profession and public-interest law.

During my tenure at the Council, I had the opportunity to organize various events for the public-interest legal community. The Summer Forum was my last event with the organization and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the keynote speaker. The opportunities provided will greatly benefit me in my future legal career. My favorite internship event from last summer was entitled “Supreme Court: View from the Press Gallery.” Top journalists from The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, SCOTUSblog, National Law Journal, and Los Angeles Times—shared their insight on how they cover significant cases.

The Economic Problems and Public Policy Issues course at George Mason University greatly enhanced my view of economics. This class bridged my two favorite subject areas together in a tangible, challenging way. I thoroughly enjoyed each lecture and hearing from my peers with various point of views.

Before my summer with TFAS, I interned for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. While I thoroughly enjoyed my internship, it lacked the unforgettable opportunities only TFAS can provide. During my TFAS summer, I was able to visit the State Department, the Federal Reserve, the Embassy of Greece, and the White House. I am so glad I came back to DC to serve as a Program Advisor. TFAS is an unparalleled program that not only provides students with an incredible internship tailored to their interests, but grants opportunities to fully absorb all of what DC has to offer. I am extremely grateful to this program for helping further my professional and personal growth.

ICPES Student Spotlight

Written by Laura Cusack – Manager, The Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems

Victoria is a senior at East Carolina University where she is triple majoring in quantitative economics, political science, and mathematics with a concentration in statistics. Her future plan is to pursue a PhD in economics with a focus in development. Her career goal is to conduct research that influences policy decisions. She is a member of the Phi Mu sisterhood as well as Phi Eta Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Delta Epsilon, and president of Omicron Delta Kappa honors societies.

This summer Victoria interned at the Mercatus Center on the policy operations team. In this role she was able to perform an analysis of their publication process, compile data from policy research strategic plans, assist with executive level speeches, perform data validation on a draft working paper, and more. Through this experience Victoria soon realized that her internship was aligning with her future career goals. Not only was she given the opportunity to research free markets, but contributed to efforts that impact policy decisions on a larger scale.

In addition to her internship, Victoria took a foreign policy and economics course where she learned even more about free markets as well as different foreign policy perspectives. Through her internship, courses, and other opportunities offered by TFAS- Victoria is finishing her senior year strong with experience that will pave the way to a career that is sure to impact the world around her.

For more information on our summer programs, please click here.