This article originally appeared on The Washington Center website. It is reposted with permission.
What did you major in? I majored in international relations and pursued a certificate in national security studies.
Where are you working? Title? I work for Adobe as a social media enablement specialist.
Where did you intern while in D.C.? My internship was in Fall 2016. I was the marketing and communications intern with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).
What is the most significant takeaway from your internship experience that is still affecting your life today? A key part of my (Washington Center) Academic Internship Program was the informational interviews assignment. We had to conduct informational interviews with two people outside of our internship site network that we found inspiring or that we wanted to learn more about. We had to step beyond our comfort zone. My interviews were with the Policy Advisor for the FEMA Administrator and the Policy Lead for the White House’s Precision Management Initiative. Doing these interviews made me aware of how to network.
These networking skills would prove immensely valuable when I returned to school. An acquaintance of mine announced on LinkedIn that she was being promoted to the main headquarters at Microsoft. This is where my (Washington Center) experience kicked in. I immediately commented, “Congratulations, I’d love a chance to meet and talk about how you got to where you are today if you have time.” She sent a direct message back, inviting me over to her place where she was already packing up to move. We talked for two hours about her work experience, and I shared my experience with TWC. At the end of it, I asked her if she would be open to being my mentor, and she accepted. That’s basically where everything changed for me.
What were some of the skills you learned at your internship that you are still benefiting from now? I think it’s both the hard and soft skills I developed. At my internship site, I learned hard skills like how to make editorial calendars for social media and how to plan social media posts for big events. For example, CHCI hosts a big annual gala and the year I was there we had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-President Barack Obama as speakers. My role was to capture all that was going on that night for the organization’s social media. I employed the social media management and Adobe Photoshop skills that I had learned at my internship site to post on CHCI’s social channels.
I also demonstrated the soft skills I had been picking up and refining during the semester. Working that event, I benefited from knowing how to work within a team, how to communicate with other teams’ manager and how to acclimate to different working styles for the greater goal.
What made you realize you needed to do an internship while you were in school? Because I was studying international relations, I wanted to make the most of my education and take the opportunity to study abroad at some point in my college career. To me, abroad doesn’t have to mean outside the country. I thought, "How can I study international relations and not study 'internationally'?"
D.C. is a city full of leaders, where decisions are made on an international scale. When a Washington Center recruiter came to my campus to speak about the internship program and the opportunities it afforded in Washington, I felt as if my next step was right there in front of me. It felt like the obvious solution to my study abroad questions.
What were your most significant concerns coming into the program? The main question was affordability. How could I address the finances of it? How would I be able to support myself while I was there? I considered maybe getting a part-time job while I was in D.C. Ultimately, though, I decided that I wanted to soak in the entire experience and not focus on holding down a part-time job along with the internship.
I think some things in life are so vital that you have to sacrifice to make it happen. Sure, the cost was a hurdle, but I think the payoff from the experience outweighed the expense. It also helped that my home state of Florida offered scholarships toward the program for students at state universities. That meant The Washington Center didn’t have to be just a dream; it could be my reality.
What have you been up to since your time with The Washington Center? I graduated in December 2017. By this time, my mentor and I had already started working on what my career goals were. Part of the reason I had wanted to do TWC was that I thought I wanted a career with the government. I had been contacted for a possible interview for a government position, so my mentor put me in contact with someone who had once held a similar government role. I conducted an informational interview with that person and, after talking with him, decided that the career path was not right for me.
I needed to make a complete change and decide what industry I want to go into because I now knew the government wasn’t for me. I decided to make a sharp turn back to my social media experience from my time with TWC, with the goal of going into the tech world.
Soon after, my mentor connected me with somebody at Adobe looking to fill a social media role. I immediately let her know I was interested and she put us both into a direct message. I got his email and reached out for a referral. Adobe liked my background and contacted me. I had the first interview, and it went well. Then I got a call back from the hiring manager, and a week later they offered me the role at Adobe! It was completely unexpected. Adobe was a great opportunity and, I knew, the right fit.
What advice would you share with future Washington Center interns? You have the opportunity to learn immensely from a lot of people in a short time during your internship. Washington, D.C. is a city full of leaders. It is a privilege to be there, but it’s up to you to decide how you’ll handle it. I had friends who, like me, made an effort and committed to networking while in D.C. Some of them ended up landing jobs as a result of their networking, including an opportunity to work at the White House. But I also had friends who basically slept through it. They didn’t capitalize on everything that this unique experience had to offer.
TWC was the catalyst for my professional life. Had I not been assigned to conduct informational interviews with new people in the nation’s capital, I would not have taken those skills back with me to South Florida. I was able to connect with successful professionals back home, like my mentor, who eventually led me to my job at Adobe.
I’m incredibly grateful for my TWC experience.