Internship Search Tips for Political Science Students

Political science majors pursue a wide variety of careers which is a testament to the degree’s versatility. This is good news but it also makes deciding what career avenue to pursue a little more challenging. Here are a few tips:

Understand why you are pursuing an internship.

An internship is an excellent way to see if a particular career is right for you. It is also a way enhance and develop professional skills. If you are curious about what types of skills are needed in the workforce, the National Association of Colleges and Employers has created Career Readiness Competencies. Learn more about these competencies and how your political science degree helps you develop these skills. O*Net can help you understand what types of skills are necessary for a particular career position.

Decide what type of experience you wish to gain based upon your interests and career aspirations.

If you need help narrowing your focus, the Career Center can help you through assessments and one-on-one counseling.

The following websites may also be helpful as you think about a career in political science:

American Political Science Association

What Can I Do With This Major – The University of Tennessee

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook

College of Charleston Department of Political Science

Decide where you want to pursue the internship and explore your options utilizing comprehensive resources.

If you are looking to obtain an internship in Charleston, contact your internship coordinator to discuss possibilities and where other students have interned before. Your internship coordinator can also direct you to local resources. CougarJobLink, a database maintained by the Career Center, also contains a list of organizations seeking interns. (Log into MyCharleston and select the Student tab to access CougarJobLink.)

If you are looking to obtain an internship outside of Charleston and are not familiar with that area, you may find the following tips helpful.

Utilize LinkedIn to search for and connect with College of Charleston alumni in your field. Develop a LinkedIn profile and conduct informational interviews with alumni. If you need assistance with LinkedIn, contact your internship coordinator or the Career Center to set up an appointment.

Learn more about what types of companies and organizations are available by researching Chamber of Commerce websites. You can find a city’s Chamber of Commerce site by conducting a web search.

Many political science students seek internships in Washington, D.C. An alumna who worked for years in D.C. helped us to create a list of helpful resources specific to that area.

No matter where you seek to pursue your internship, let your family, friends, faculty, and internship coordinator know of your interests. They may have a connection that can help you. Keep in mind that not all internships are advertised so don’t be afraid to contact an organization you are interested in to see if they sponsor interns.

Once potential opportunities are identified, be sure to update your cover letter and resume.

It is important to keep your resume updated, but you should always tailor your resume and cover letter to the internship you are applying for. The Career Center has created excellent guides to develop these materials.

Apply to the internship and be sure to follow up with the organization. 

Follow application instructions carefully and set a reminder for yourself to check on the status of your application. Be patient, show initiative, and keep a positive attitude during the process.

Keep track of the internships you applied to and save the internship announcements. Sometimes online postings are removed so you want to be sure you have the descriptions for interview preparation purposes.

Written by Kristin Wichmann

Political Science Senior Creates Intentional and Unique Internship

Brendan Geiling, a senior political science major and communication minor, wanted to gain experience in the emerging field of brand development so he contacted Charleston based Garden & Gun to see if they would be willing to host an intern. Geiling researched the magazine’s website, discovered that they had a team that specialized in his interests, and was able to secure the internship.

Charged with various brand development research projects, Geiling focused on social media, product development, and email marketing. He created copy for social media, assisted with art recommendations for ads for the magazine’s website, and researched software solutions to integrate the magazine’s commerce and email marketing software systems. He also had the opportunity to research the magazine’s brand partners and compile reports for company sponsors like Volvo.

Geiling noted that he pursued the internship because he is a tactile learner. Along with honing his teamwork and technical skills, Brendan quickly learned the importance of attention to detail. He enjoyed participating in the art recommendation process for advertisements and was amazed how the selection of products, background images, and fonts can be quite a time-consuming process. It reinforced for him how important it is for the magazine to have a cohesive brand image.

In addition, Geiling integrated his interest in social media into his political science capstone paper on the Arab Spring under the direction of Professor Chris Day. He studied how social media can be a tool for social justice and change. For example, he cited how social media helped Tunisia and Egypt create collective action which resulted in changing their government regimes. Geiling’s research on successful and unsuccessful models led him to create a guide on how to effectively use social media for social change.

Brendan became interested in social media while interning for a luxury retail company in high school and has forged a very intentional and unique career path. He has complimented his political science major with communication and computer science courses and taken on a number of social media-related jobs.  He intends to first pursue digital branding in the entertainment industry in either Los Angeles or New York City and then a political communications career.

Junior Sarah Nesbit to Intern with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Summer Internship Program

Political Science major and African American Studies minor Sarah Nesbit will participate in the highly selective Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Congressional Internship Program on Capitol Hill this summer. Offering three distinct internship programs, CBCF’s mission is to “prepare college students and young professionals to become principled leaders, skilled policy analysts, and informed advocates by exposing them to the processes that develop national policies and implement them from Capitol Hill to federal field offices.” The program will provide Nesbit with housing, a stipend, internship placement, and various networking opportunities. For eight weeks, she will intern with a U.S. Representative participating in bill writing, policy research, the legislative process, skills workshops, and formal events.

Among other requirements, the application process requires a demonstrated interest in public service, governance, or policy making; leadership and community service participation; and strong writing skills. Nesbit serves on the College of Charleston Honor Board, as a Student Ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and Vice-President of her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. She previously served as a Junior Senator and the Campus Diversity Liaison for the Student Government Association. Sarah facilitated the first diversity town hall at the college, which served as an open forum for minority students to voice their concerns and desire for change to administration officials. Nesbit is also active in the area of community service.  Within her sorority, she has organized community cleanups and backpack drives for middle and high school students, helped educate college students about health-related issues at informational events, and taught minority children in her hometown and Charleston classical ballet. Nesbit credits Dr. Lynne Ford’s “Women and Politics” and Dr. Valerie Frazier’s “African American Literature” classes in enhancing her writing skills.

Interested in the juvenile justice system, Nesbit aspires to pursue a graduate degree in public policy or education law before earning her law degree. Her ultimate goal is to become a judge.

Nesbit is the second political science major to be selected for this prestigious internship.  Trevor Jones participated in the CBCF Internship Program in 2016.

Senior Advises Students to Step Out of Their Comfort Zones During Internships

Senior Kat Calabro pictured above during a study abroad trip to Morocco.
Senior Kat Calabro pictured above during a study abroad trip to Morocco.

By the time senior Katherine (Kat) Calabro graduates in May 2017, she will have interned for four semesters in counterintelligence at Defense Security Service (DSS) in North Charleston. As part of the U.S. Department of Defense, DSS oversees the protection of U.S. and foreign classified information and technologies in the hands of cleared industry under the National Industrial Security Program by providing professional risk management services. The internship has given Kat the chance to gain hands-on experience in this field.

Although she is not able to go into great detail about her work, Kat did share that she is responsible for the research and analysis of raw intelligence data, counterintelligence reports, and drafting reports for her supervisor. The internship has enhanced her analytical, research, and writing skills along with expanding her domestic and global awareness. Kat has also gained proficiency in utilizing specific technical research tools and analytical software.

Kat’s political science coursework provided a solid foundation for her internship success. She noted that while every class has been beneficial, she particularly found Dr. Desjean’s Intelligence Community and International Terrorism and Counterterrorism courses to be extremely relevant. Kat’s previous work at a local law firm also helped her know what to expect of a professional and collaborative environment.

Along with integrating coursework and building professional skills, Kat’s internship helped solidify her interest in the Department of Defense and narrow her career focus. She always knew that she wanted to work in an intelligence field, but recently realized she wants to be an analyst.

Managing an internship, being a full-time student, and serving as President of the Political Science Club requires excellent time management skills. Kat recommends getting a lot of sleep and planning ahead. She has scheduled her classes in the morning, internship in the afternoon, and has learned to delegate tasks to other club officers.

Kat advises her peers seeking internships to consider three suggestion: –1) apply for an internship even if you don’t think you are qualified since you never know what applying can lead to; 2) get involved in campus life so you can meet new people and network; 3) don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

Sophomore Morgan Godfrey To Intern With State Department

Morgan Godfrey FinalPolitical Science and International Studies double-major Morgan Godfrey is the fourth recipient of the W.N. Looper Award. The award is sponsored by 1983 alumna Ann Looper Pryor and provides $3,000 to help cover the costs associated with interning in Washington, D.C. This summer, the sophomore will intern with the Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs in the Office of U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.

Godfrey is interested in the legal and humanitarian aspects of this internship and aspires to eventually study international and humanitarian law. She is looking forward to building connections within the State Department as she hopes to work for the federal government. Godfrey noted that Dr. Chris Day’s Model African Union and First Year Experience courses were instrumental in her decision to apply for this internship. She also gained a tremendous understanding of international relations in Dr. Max Kovalov’s Model United Nations course. In fact, she and her classmates won every possible award at a recent Model UN conference in Atlanta. Consequently, Godfrey is now in the process of establishing a Model UN Club on campus.

Godfrey is very grateful to Ms. Pryor for funding this invaluable opportunity and also noted the positive impact that Professors Carmichael, Goettsches, Day, Knotts, and Kovalov have had in her college career and internship search. She noted, “The professors at the College have given me the confidence, skills, and help I need to succeed not only academically but professionally as well. I have been so blessed to have professors who are willing to take time out of their busy schedule to discuss my interests in a variety of areas including law school, internship opportunities, and even just how my day is going.” Godfrey expressed thanks for the advice she has gotten saying, “I feel as if I have so many mentors to choose from here at Charleston, all of whom offer a different skill set to help me reach my goals.”

Senior Gains Presidential Campaign Experience

Andrew Fink
Senior political science major Andrew Fink with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Senior political science major Andrew Fink has always wanted to work on a presidential campaign. This dream came true in August, when he secured an internship with the Marco Rubio presidential campaign as the Lowcountry Field Representative and Digital Coordinator for Outreach. Fink learned about the position while he was interning at the Heritage Foundation, a political think tank in Washington, D.C, the previous summer.

As the Lowcountry Field Representative, Fink frequently represents Rubio at events, and makes important connections with supporters, influential community members, and the Charleston GOP. He was also instrumental in arranging Rubio’s successful visit to campus on December 1st. To increase attendance, Fink called constituents and also promoted the event on the campaign’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. His long hours and hard work paid off; the on-campus event was a resounding success and in mid-December he was promoted to a full-time, paid managerial position with the campaign.

According to Fink, the internship and new position have “enhanced my communication skills as well as my ability to build relationships and motivate others.” As a manager, he currently supervises volunteers and interns. Fink also drew upon his political science classes. He noted that Dr. Knotts’ southern politics class as well as Dr. Ragusa’s research methods and congress classes helped prepare him for this experience. The internship has also expanded his interests in national security, education policy, and mental health issues.

Fink credits his family with instilling in him the importance of gaining work experience during college. He also is very grateful to Dr. Ragusa for helping him to secure his internship at the Heritage Foundation. Fink encourages other students to develop good relationships with their professors. “They provide great advice and can serve as a recommendation,” he said. In addition he recommends that students “reach out to people, don’t be shy, advocate for yourself, and be willing to do any task.”

“Andrew is an exceptional student: he’s hard working, bright, and has a deep interest in campaigns and elections,” noted Dr. Ragusa. “I have no doubt that he will have a very successful career working in American politics.”

Political Science Intern Pursues Passion and Positive Change

Abigail Tennenbaum

Senior political science major Abigail Tennenbaum has a passion for food and a desire for positive change. Through her fall internship at the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability, Abigail integrated both of these aspects. Her major project during her internship was determining the feasibility of procuring local produce from GrowFood Carolina, South Carolina’s first local food hub, for the College of Charleston’s Dining Services.

Abigail noted that buying local food “contributes to the local economy (because) profits stay in the state rather than being dispersed among national and multinational companies, lowers the carbon footprint due to shorter transportation distances, and takes advantage of the year-round growing season we have here.”

She was well-prepared for her internship because she had interned the previous summer with GrowFood Carolina, and therefore had already established a solid relationship with the nonprofit. Abigail noted that her tasks included “examining and analyzing what Dining Services currently purchases in order to begin identifying potential areas of enhancing local purchasing.” She also researched what other school programs, like the University of Virginia, were doing to procure local food and what alternative models were available. In addition, Abigail worked to figure out how GrowFood Carolina could become an official vendor at the College of Charleston.

Abigail learned about the Office of Sustainability early in her college career. As a member of the Green CofC*, the undergraduate sustainability organization on campus, she met a number of political science majors who were involved with the office and began taking on individual projects of her own. Over two semesters, she spearheaded the implementation of the composting program that is currently in the College’s dining halls. This program has resulted in approximately 500,000 pounds of food waste being diverted from the landfill.  Not only did her experience create positive change for the College, it also helped her explore a potential career interest.

Abigail has enjoyed the flexibility, autonomy, and sense of community she experienced in the Office of Sustainability and has the advantage of learning with 24 other interns. The Office also has provided a number of professional development and networking opportunities such as regular office meetings as well as career and grant writing workshops. Abigail has even had the opportunity to present on her compost initiative at the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference.

She found her political science background helpful in her internship for several reasons. She said that learning the “big systems approach” has helped her better understand the system that she is currently working in and helping to change. Just as there are key actions and steps necessary for political change, there are short term and long term goals necessary for the type of change she is looking to achieve with food procurement. Abigail also noted that because she has been required to give a number of presentations in her political science classes, she is more comfortable presenting and learned how to tailor her message to a variety of audiences.

When asked what advice she would give future interns, Abigail recommended that they reflect on their experiences. She encouraged journaling, keeping a detailed planner, making notes of lessons learned and planning for the future. She admitted that internships can be time consuming but they are necessary and can be quite rewarding.

*Please note that Green CofC has merged with the Alliance for Planet Earth and is now called CofC Alliance for Planet Earth. Meetings take place every other Wednesday at 6 pm in Maybank 103. The next meeting will be held on February 25th