February 21, 2017
By Melissa Rohman
Internships. Most of us who are pursuing an undergraduate degree want them and absolutely need them. An internship not only allows you to gain professional experience in a your desired area of interest, but will also beef up a resume that is starving for experience and notability. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get paid for the time you intern or get reimbursed for travel expenses. It’s rare, but hey a broke college student can dream.
I’ve been interning and living in D.C. for now a month, which I can hardly believe. What I’ve learned is that D.C. is a city with a culture and atmosphere built around a few things, including professionals and interns. It’s so different than Chicago; I’ve never been in a city the first thing you’re asked when you meet someone is “What do you do?”. Most people who come to D.C. are looking for one thing and one thing only: a job. Many pursue a career in politics (because, duh), while others will venture out into the world of NGO’s and non-profits, advocacy groups, the education system, and think tanks, among other organizations and companies. You’ll find a handful of 20-30 year olds roaming the city as well as young college students like myself taking in all that D.C. has to offer. Washington, D.C. is one city in the United States that is crawling with interns and young adults searching for their next level up in their career. It’s a city where you are allowed to pay your dues, make connections, and gain experience that will put you ahead of the game professionally. Also, it’s apparently a city where I’ve heard that because you’re an intern, you are essentially viewed as, and I quote this from a friend of mine also interning in D.C., “the scum of the Earth”. I think that’s a brash and dramatic statement and most definitely depends on where you’re interning. True, 95% of internships don’t pay their interns and as an intern you may be seen by those higher up as vulnerable, hungry for experience, and given tasks that others don’t want to do. But that’s the point AND that’s not all interns do.
The other day I was at my internship at the American Heart Association. As their Marketing and Communications intern, I’m responsible for managing their social media accounts, writing and publishing online stories about heart disease and stroke survivors, writing blogs about healthy living government advocacy and congressional legislation pursued by the association, and attending events in D.C. and live tapings of news segments. So far, the experience has been great and the people I work with are fantastic. There are some tasks that are tedious and others that I really enjoy. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of social media for the association because February is National Heart Month. Social media can be fun but after a while doing it day in and day out it can get very boring.
While I was scheduling posts for the association’s social media, I got an incoming call from Chicago on my cellphone. I didn’t recognize the number, but I picked up anyway because I assumed it was someone from home. Nope. It was a telemarketer. It was funny because when I picked up I said hello about three times before I heard a voice. A woman then said, “Hello, sorry I think my headset disconnected there for a second”. What was even funnier is that after she got her headset situation taken care of, it was like a light switch went off and she went right into a scripted spiel congratulating me because I apparently won a three day, two night vacation to Orlando in the most commercialized and peppy voice I’ve ever heard. I quickly said, “No thanks, I’m not interested” and immediately hung up.
Two things I learned in that moment: one, telemarketers annoy the absolute crap out of me and two, how lucky am I to have the internship that I do. An internship that is in a field I like, with an organization that it highly respected nationally and has a wonderful mission, and is overall an opportunity that will help me learn and grow professionally, emotionally, and mentally. The internship you have isn’t a make it or break it opportunity professionally. That’s the beauty of an internship; you get to do so many things and learn what you like and what you don’t. An no disrespect to the telemarketer, because we have to do what we have to do, but I’m thrilled to know that I am in a position where I still get to test the waters with what I want to do after I graduate in May and not have to robotically sell people vacations to Florida day in and day out.