an intern? well isn’t that grand.

Life as an intern is not particularly glamorous, although sometimes it can be. I’ve been lucky enough to stumble into some great opportunities – and if you are looking for advice (and are still young enough to take it) be one at least once when you are in college. Multiple ones, in fact. You learn more working than you would ever in a classroom, especially if you surprise your boss (and yourself) of what you are capable of early on. You’ll get exciting things to do, and be a part of a lot of work that you can use in later interviews. Being an intern, while it may be grunt work and coffee-making sometimes, is usually more good than bad. You’ll definitely pick up things about people, success, and office culture if you pay attention. But look out for the following scenario: the awkward introduction. The average conversation goes something like this:

“So you’re an intern?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Isnt’ that grand. So what are you studying in graduate school?”

“No, ma’am – I’m still an undergrad, and I’m studying International Affairs at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.”

“Oh, well isn’t that grand. It must be exciting doing this!”

“Yes, ma’am, it is. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to work here at such an exciting time. I’m learning a great deal, and it’s been incredible interesting.”

“So, after you graduate, what’s next?”

Surprise! It’s an exciting choose your own adventure (clearly tailored to yours truly)! Do you choose:

A). Explain that you are thinking about graduate school, although you are not sure where to go, what to specialize in, or how you will pay for it. You’ve thought a lot about different options – majoring in International Relations, Development Studies, Public Health, Public Service. Minors or certificates in Gender Mainstreaming, Sustainable Development, Social Work, Conflict Resolution. Not to mention that all you have been talking about recently is getting out of school and starting a real life. But most careers now need at least a Master’s degree, despite the fact that they require several years of working experience that you don’t have. You might have to work in a something you don’t feel passionate about to pay for it, or get enough experience. End it with, “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about what’s next.”

B.) “Maybe the Peace Corps,” you say. Explain how much you love to travel, learn about new cultures, interact with different people on a personal level. Tell the story of how the Peace Corps could be your last chance to be a princess, and how inspired you are by the opportunity to make a real impact. Admit that you are worried about the sustainability of the work, living alone for two years, and how much you don’t want to serve in Jordan. And that taking two-three years off right now could make you lose your contacts that you’ve built in these internships, and the potential opportunities that are attached to them. “It’s a big decision,” you say, “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about what’s next.”

C.) “I think that working in the Foreign Service or USAID.” You’ve spent the past several weeks working with them, after all. You’d have to take the Foreign Service Test and get through the often years-long waiting period, probably end up serving a term in Kabul, Baghdad, or Peshawar – though that doesn’t scare you as much as it would scare your parents. You love the idea of being a part of the Obama administration, being a part of the change in foreign relations, working for Hillary. Without a Masters, though, it would be difficult to advance quickly in either organization, and a lot of your job would become paperwork. And you would lose the ability to interact on small-scale levels with individual people, not to mention moving every few years to a new place with new people. Though that, admittedly, is not a bad thing considering your tendencies as a modern nomad and big-picture way of thinking. You finish, “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about what’s next.”

D.) “I have thought about working with an NGO like CARE, IRC, or the Clinton Foundation.” You have worked at CARE, and loved it. But these jobs are difficult in this economy – salaries go down, people have less to donate, and those donations would pay your salary. But they understand that, it doesn’t really need explaining. And again, its difficult to break in if you don’t have a certain amount of work experience, specialization, or connections. You can’t be an intern forever. Say, “There are a lot of options, and I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about what’s next.”

E.) Reply snarkily, “Trust me, lady. I ask myself something similar everyday.” Then make an offhand joke about only traveling to the Middle East to marry into oil wealth. Or graduating with an MRS degree. Or being the cute-but-awkward intern forever. Laughingly say, “Just kidding, but I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about what’s next.”

F.) Laugh it off, admit you don’t know, and steer the conversation somewhere else with the comment, “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about what’s next.”


4 thoughts on “an intern? well isn’t that grand.

  1. Pingback: Certificates of Appreciation « i figure wherever i am, that's where the world is

  2. Sup im fresh on here, I came accross this forum I have found It vastly accommodating and it has helped me out loads. I should be able to contribute & assist other users like it has helped me.

    Thanks Everyone, See Ya Later.

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