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#HonorsProblems: Learning to Be a Professional

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Anshul, an ESIA sophomore studying international affairs and security policy.

We are all here at GWU in the Honors Program for a couple reasons. One, we are intellectually curious students who want to learn in an interdisciplinary manner about the world we inhabit in the city that runs the world. Two, we want a job so we can pay back our absurdly high GWU tuition. Internships are a way that students gain work experience while not being paid, in the hopes that they may get a job in the future.

Coming into my freshmen year, getting an internship was all that I had on my mind so much to the point that I made my first mistake. Lesson number one is learn how to say no. I took a position with an expatriate group that ended up having pretty shady connections which led me to resigning after three weeks. Later on, the United States government informed me that continued work for that organization would have led to me being blacklisted for a security clearance. Washington D.C. is full of people who want smart, capable talent that exists in the Honors Program. You are in much higher demand than you think, so take a beat to assess where you are and what risks you are taking. Learn to say no, and leave short term gain for long term benefit.

The decision to leave the internship was a culmination of lesson two. Lesson two is get mentors and figure out channels of advice. When I started working at the organization, I informed multiple mentors of mine about my decision. Some of them were retired, some of them were young, and some of were senior professionals. They were the ones along with my father who first sounded the alarms about the organization. More recently, I used their advice to navigate a complex situation where I had to negotiate with two government agencies regarding conflicting offers. Washington D.C. is run on institutional knowledge, knowledge that no matter how many books you read you can’t get. Mentors use their years of experience to help you get ahead. Make sure that you develop mentors across different fields, ages, and experience levels.

Lesson three is learn to be responsible for not only your actions, but also your team’s. Personal responsibility is one of the most sought after characteristics in the hiring process. As someone who has held a few positions by now, I know that there are good and bad bosses. I have had both. The key to dealing with bad supervisors is knowing how to accomplish the mission while dealing with a frustrating boss. Interns have low to no influence in the organization that they work. You can go to HR but that rarely results in anything. Instead take charge of projects that aren’t going anywhere. If your boss is making you do administrative work instead of your job description, stay late to meet your actual deadlines. Take work home or speed through the nonsense. You have to be humble and tenacious to make sure that you make the most of the opportunity that you can.

Working is hard and make sure that your schedule can deal with the extra time commitment and stress. The more experience you can get, the better prepared you will be when you graduate and enter the workforce.