Interns Seek Their Place in the Sun
Entry-Level Apprenticeships Can Lead Summer Workers to True Career Interests
By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 11, 2004; Page F04
"It's been wild," Courtney Robinson said this week about her summer job.
Not what one would expect to hear about an internship at the Environmental Protection Agency, but the excitement in her voice told no lies. She has worked on "real" projects in the media relations department, a good gig for a 19-year-old mass communications major from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, in the nation's capital for her first internship.
The wild part? "I feel like I don't have enough time, there are so many things I've been doing," she said. Robinson has updated publications, marketed a video to cable television stations and put together a mailing of a video produced by the EPA that went to every member of Congress.
Sure, she thinks she still wants to go into radio or television, but she has learned about the environment and public relations this summer, which she never experienced in her classes. In addition, she has learned that maybe she's not a desk person. "Some days I'm just like, 'Oh, my goodness. I have to sit in the office all day!' "
Okay, so now she knows. And that's what internship life should be about.
Welcome to the dog days of summer, when the interns that swarmed to the city are well into their jobs, and starting to think about how the working world will fit into their lives after they graduate. The projects? Good. The commute? Bad. Wearing suits? Bad. Casual summer? Not so shabby.
Many of the interns, after hearing nightmare tales of summers of envelope licking and photocopying, learned that unpaid, barely paid or surprisingly well-paid gigs can be a great learning experience, and often are what they make of it.
Claire Finucane had a nightmare internship several years ago. It was her first, working for a commercial real estate development firm in the San Francisco Bay area. Her boss had her make 40 copies of an investment book for prospective clients every week. The books were 60 to 80 pages each. Instead of programming the copy machine to print in groups and collate while she went off to do other work, her boss said she had to copy each book page by page, then collate the pages herself. He told her the machine didn't work.
During her last week, she discovered the collator worked after all. Her supervisor admitted he just thought the books looked neater when she compiled and straightened them herself. She essentially wasted an entire summer.
Now, Finucane interns (yes, paid) at the Census Bureau as she finishes up her last semester of graduate school.
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