Alex W. – The Public Affairs Sector in Washington

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The inside of a typical office building in Washington – Souce: Voice of America

This fall, I interned at a public affairs consulting firm. Thanks to this experience I learned a tremendous amount about the professional expectations of Washington DC and the political culture of our nation’s capital.

Although Public Affairs may not seem directly related to International Relations, I found my degree highly applicable to my work. Thanks to my Maxwell education, I immediately knew which sources to look at for information. More importantly, I was able to communicate my ideas in clear and effective manner. I also became the “go to” person whenever a Senior Associate needed some quick context on a rising international issue.

A typical day at my internship began with me monitoring different news topics for various clients. I was in charge of following a certain country in the Middle East on a daily basis in order to let people know the latest on the ground developments as soon as they happened. This substantially increased my knowledge of the region, while providing me some specific context on the deeper issues of the country. Afterwards, I would normally begin to research a new specific issue I was covering for a memo. My supervisor normally gave me one full work day to finish his assignments, which meant that my information had to be concise and relevant to the client’s interests.

Every week I would also attend events on behalf of my company. This allowed me to be aware of the latest DC policy trends, and provided me an opportunity to present my opinion of these new findings to my supervisor. My internship also substantially developed my skills in regards to interacting with the House and Senate. I was in charge of monitoring the actions of several committees that were involved with various international issues. Thanks to this experience, I gained perspective on who some of the major players were in Congress in terms of forming the US’ foreign policy.

One aspect of my internship that surprised me was its emphasis on social media. I had never websites like Facebook or Twitter in a professional setting so there was a brief period of adjustment for me. This is a skill that employers highly value and I encourage anyone to gain some experience in this regard since it will definitely increase their marketability.

This internship gave me a first hand experience at the complexities of the national government and its inner workings. The general public affairs sector has always appealed to me since I believe that a client is only as successful as their last news update. In this technological age where information is changing at a moment’s notice, it is incredibly important to continuously monitor the relevant issues. My company taught me how to excel at this.

Although my focus was more technical at Syracuse, my internship has provided me with the professional flexibility I yearned for moving forward. I do not know what the future holds for me job wise but I am confident that the combination of my Maxwell degree and Washington DC internship will provide me with the experience I need to obtain that elusive “first dream job.”

Alex W. is an alum of the Maxwell School with a master’s degree in international relations.