The Foreign Service Journal, December 2019

82 DECEMBER 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT the intern’s responsibilities. Although specifics aren’t always listed, ideally you should know general expectations before you apply. Check out (the federal government’s job website) to get a feel for the jobs out there. There’s a place in the federal government for nearly every college degree, not just for political sci- ence and economics. You’ll see postings ranging from Army cook to chief policy analyst. Narrow your search by select- ing the “students and recent graduates” option. Open an account, and you can save any jobs you find promising. I applied to my Virtual Student Fed- eral Service internship through USAJobs. gov, and only a statement of interest, résumé and references were required. Since my application was a general one, addressed to all State VSFS programs, the acceptance email from the VSFS team included my placement at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. I then received an email with project details from the embassy’s VSFS coordinator. There was no interview for VSFS—bonus! Utilize AFSA. AFSA’s website is a great resource for internship seekers. Check out the student resources webpage (afsa. org/students)—that’s how I landed my first internship at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. The Nuts and Bolts of Applying I knew that applying to any internship would require at least a résumé and cover letter, but I had no idea where or how to begin. And since first impressions are literally everything, I wanted these docu- ments done right—but how? Visit your school’s career services center. Ask the adviser for templates and examples; mine created an individual- ized format, and now I just follow the pattern. Throughout undergrad, I sent application materials to my adviser to check for wordiness, formatting and so on. Brevity is key. What if you don’t have “relevant” experience? If you don’t have previous internships to mention, high school and early college jobs can showcase professional characteristics, such as punctuality, teamwork and leadership. Be specific: “While teaching swim lessons and lifeguarding, I demonstrated leadership, communication, trust and oversight by creating a safe environment.” Avoid generalizations—“My time as a lifeguard gave me work experience” is not going to cut it. Use what you have: cam- pus organization participation, research projects, part-time jobs and so on. Seem- ingly unrelated jobs can be relevant if you can draw a connection between them and the internship. Get references. For my first internship applications, I listed my bosses from high school and college jobs and one of my international affairs professors—after having obtained their consent. I still use their names as references, with permission. Get help editing your application documents from a professor, career adviser or writing center staff member. If you are writing in a foreign language (such as for a cover letter to an embassy), make sure to have a native speaker edit it. Write a cover letter that shows you have taken the time to research the organization and its mission. Use it to highlight, in complete sentences, any prior experience. If asked for writing samples, choose sections from your best research papers (the ones that received top grades), double-check the grammar and attach the file as a PDF. All attachments must be PDFs unless otherwise requested. Follow all delivery directions. Some places have explicit expectations regarding the email subject line, the file names and order for attached documents, for example. Any deviation may land your unread email directly in the trash bin. Make sure your message is addressed to the proper person, using that person’s full title. It should explain who you are (school and major), state your intention (“I would like to express interest in X internship programwith X organization for X semester”), and ask for a response (“I look forward to hearing from you soon”). Edit your email message, and have someone else do this, too. Avoid exclamation points. Don’t lose your shot at an internship because of hasty writing. Prepare to wait. The immediate, short-term goal of applying is to get an interview, not to get hired. In my experience, it is normal not to get a response to an internship application; an automated response confirming receipt isn’t unusual, and a speedy, non- automated response within a week or so is positively cause for celebration. When I emailed my statement of inter- est and the required documents (cover letter, résumé and a writing sample) to ADST, the executive director returned my email the next day and assured me that There’s a place in the federal government for nearly every college degree, not just for political science and economics.