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The Five Secrets No One Tells You about Internships

Melanie Wolff is a junior studying Urban Studies. She participated in the Penn in Washington semester during Fall 2014. She interned at Achieve, Inc. – one of the top education reform non-profits in the US. This previous summer, she interned for the Helmsley Charitable Trust in New York City as their Education intern. She can be reached at See below for some great advice from Melanie:

  1. Everyone at Penn uses the “networking” buzzword, but they forget what it actually means. Most networking can be done within groups you have already built up in your life at Penn. Do you have a work study job you enjoy on campus? A research assistant position that ignited a passion? Ask your bosses and major advisors for career advice and mentorship. Ask them if they know people in your field of interest. They are pure examples of people who made it in their career, and you are already close to them – no cold calling necessary. You already have a network with which to find an internship – take advantage of it.
  2. Do not underestimate Penn Career Services’ resources. Signing up for their listserv will keep you up to date on internship opportunities, and keeps the job search at the front of your mind. If you’re looking for a specific opportunity within DC, they have sample internship listings under the Government, Law, and Politics section of “Career Advice.” Penn in Washington also has thousands of D.C. internships on their site [click the "Internship Database" tab at the top of the page].
  3. During your internship, listen - don’t just speak. People want to be heard. Engage your bosses and coworkers in conversation where you can compliment them honestly, or bring up something you discussed at an earlier date. If you make them feel heard, then they will take the time to listen to you.
  4. Your role as an intern is to help – not to be the new boss. A panel of employers at top DC firms complained that students have a tendency to act like they were the CEO of the company, rather than the intern. This isn’t about knowing your place, but rather, knowing that you have a lot to learn from the people you are working with.
  5. Get an internship in something you want to do – not just for prestige, or because everyone else is doing it. The purpose of an internship is to give you a glimpse at a career path you want to take. Your path is different from everyone around you, so you don’t have to justify your choices to them. In my case, I have a passion for non-profit work and education – not exactly the typical career path, particularly at Penn. What matters is that you work towards your own goals, whatever those may be.