By Powell Wright
It has been a great privilege and pleasure to be part of Union’s term in Washington D.C. While here, I have been working for Public Citizen, a consumer-rights non-profit organization, within their Global Trade Watch division. Working 36 hours a week while keeping up with classes has been a challenge, but the opportunities in Washington have been amazing. This is my second internship sponsored by Union for school credit in the last four months. My last was with United Way of the Greater Capital Region during the winter term. While every political internship experience is different, it is good to know and understand each kind.
Advocacy non-profit organizations are groups dedicated to a cause and are very active in monitoring state and federal congresses. These organizations are often referred to as “think tanks.” Some think tanks around Washington include the Institute for Policy Studies, Public Citizen and the Cato Institution. Even though many do not affiliate themselves with a political party, think tanks have strong ideologies on one or more issues that they strictly abide by. If you work for any given think tank, it is very important that you truly believe in their causes and beliefs.
A think tank internship often requires a high amount of research and knowledge of the field you are working with. For instance, Public Citizen had me research the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for my job and discuss his successes and failures while working under Obama. Although the work can feel like school at times, it is a great way to improve professional writing skills and get your work into the public eye.
Charitable non-profit organizations are typically more focused on local and community issues, but tend to be politically neutral. These organizations include the American Red Cross, United Way and Salvation Army. Even though these organizations are indeed charities, there is a strong professional and business atmosphere within their internship programs.
United Way’s work was diverse, educational and rewarding. I became much more aware of the capital region’s community and needs after working for United Way last winter. My work included advertising for a charity golf tournament, researching the effects of Hurricane Irene and attending an Albany County Executive meeting on panhandling within Central Avenue.
I highly recommend working for a charitable non-profit organization if you want to give back to your community, while gaining professional workplace experience.
Working for a government official is a common path for political internships in both Washington and Albany. There are currently eight Union students working with Congress and the Senate on Capitol Hill. While I cannot attest to what it is like to work for a politician, I know many of the challenges and rewards from my peers. This internship experience tends to have a high amount of work and requires a lot of strict formalities.
The United States Senate has a bureaucratic office structure unlike any other, and respecting authority is key. Completing an internship in government looks phenomenal on a resume, as do most political internships. At your first job interview following college, you can proudly display how you directly participated in government, while maintaining a heavy office workload. Additionally, the social networking opportunities in government can pay off dividends in the future.
These are just three kinds of political internships common among Union students and easily within reach for everybody. No matter what kind of internship you may work for in the future, political or otherwise, there are many opportunities available in Albany or in any American city.
I highly recommend exploring the opportunities the capital region offers in terms of work experience. Freshman year feels like yesterday for me, and it’s never too late to prepare for the real world after Union. I recommend everyone reading this begins getting informed, educated, and active in learning about work experiences before college life ends. It’s better to get the job type wrong now than at age 25.