A Few Useful Tips from #MuskieIntern Alumni
How often do we take someone’s advice? How often do we listen to someone’s suggestion? Seeking and giving advice are very important parts of effective leadership. According to the Harvard Business Review, “When the exchange is done well, people on both sides of the table benefit.”
To encourage this exchange of ideas, the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program, a longstanding exchange initiative funded by the U.S. Department of State for emerging leaders from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, held its first alumni panel this May as a part of an orientation event in Washington D.C. The panel saw four 2016 Muskie alumni share their U.S. experiences with this year’s class of scholars.
It was a great opportunity for the soon-to-be interns to learn about what to expect from their internship, how to approach common situations in the workplace, and how to prepare for their summers in new cities and the American business environment. Our alumni were able to provide some very useful tips on making the most out of their summer internships.
Here are some of their suggestions:
1. Create personal connections everywhere you go.
As Nura Agzamova , a Fulbright Scholar from Kazakhstan who is currently studying library science at Syracuse University, pointed out, “The line to a water cooler may land you a job interview, staff picnic can be a great way to find a mentor, and office canteen can help you learn about your host institution.” Nura interned at the Smithsonian Institution during the summer of 2016 (read more about her experience) and made numerous personal and professional connections that have already benefited proven valuable.
2. Set personal and professional goals for yourself before your internship starts.
An internship is a perfect time to learn and grow – both personally and professionally. Mila Pestun, a 2016 Muskie alumna from Belarus who is studying international development at Ohio University, recommended to set goals before starting one’s summer internship. She advised, “Create a list of skills you want to develop or improve so that you can later put it on your CV.”
Mila acknowledged that sometimes it’s difficult to brainstorm summer goals. She suggests consulting LinkedIn to scope out your former or future supervisor or role model’s different experiences. “It can be particular project or field, software or tool, or all of the above.” According to Mila, it’s important to be both realistic and strategic in such approach.
3. Ask as many questions as you can.
Not sure about your schedule or current task? Don’t know how to respond to an email? How to find out what kind of events are happening in the community? An internship is a perfect time to find the answers to all these questions and more. You can ask your supervisor to clarify or explain something you don’t completely understand. It’s also okay to ask your coworkers for help; typically, there are a few people in the office willing to mentor you through the beginning stage of your internship.
As Nura emphasized, “Internships are the perfect time and place to ask questions. Asking questions is essential for growth.”
4. Become an active community member and volunteer.
Engaging in community service is an important component of the Muskie program. It offers participants a unique opportunity to get involved in the U.S. host community they live in, as well as to contribute to an important matter of their choice. Raman Maroz, a Muskie alumnus from Belarus who interned at World Service Authority, had a great experience volunteering with Washington, D.C.’s Bread for the City, a local nonprofit that provides area residents with food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services.
Raman says, “It is not my first time when I was providing community services in the United States. I volunteer because I want to strengthen my local community and assist vulnerable people.”
While many Muskie interns decide to volunteer for the cause they feel most passionate about, others want to try out something completely different. A perfect example of this is Alexey Perekipniy from Russia who volunteered with Imerman Angels Brunch Run 5K and Walk in Chicago. Reflecting on his experience, Alexey pointed out, “I enjoyed that time what I spent with Brunch 5K Run volunteering team, because these people really believe that in one day we can beat cancer diseases and every day they are doing everything they can to achieve this goal as soon as possible.”
5. Enjoy it!
All of our Muskie alumni panelists emphasized how exciting and unique their summer internship experiences were. They learned a lot, met many inspiring professionals and talented individuals, made invaluable connections, contributed to their local communities, and shared their culture and traditions. Mila Pestun emphasized that even “if you have little professional experience, you have international perspective, cutting-edge education, and probably something else unique to contribute.”
Our alumnipanel provided a unique opportunity to connect our current class with former participants to learn, share, and grow. These helpful tips and support definitely increased our participants’ confidence to begin their summer adventures as they gain practical experience in the United States that will complement their graduate education.
Their internships may vary between big and small cities, private and nonprofit organizations, and in field of study– but our Muskie interns are united as true emerging leaders and cultural ambassadors who create mutual understanding and promote global collaboration.
- How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer Internship - June 15, 2017