How My Non-Profit Internship Has Prepared Me for My Future Career

April 11, 2019 Sara Ahmed

Risk & Resilience: Advancing Food and Nutrition Security in Nigeria through Feed the Future event.

Figuring out what career you want can be challenging. Here’s how my internship has given me a better understanding of what direction I want to take with my career.

I intern with Leadership Global, an international development organization doing work in Africa, the Caribbean and around the world. I am their only intern for the semester in their D.C. office, which means I take on several responsibilities. There’s the day-to-day operations of the office, like working the front desk and answering phones. I’ve also been able to exercise some creativity by generating or updating existing content for their website. 

My favorite task so far has been assisting my supervisor in editing proposals for a development project. It’s been eye-opening to witness the complex process of transforming ideas into a practical field project. Meeting with different stakeholders and learning the nuts and bolts of what goes into a potential project such as this are experiences I’ll take with me as I consider a future career in development. 
I also have responsibilities outside the office. So far I’ve attended ten events on behalf of the organization at think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Woodrow Wilson Center. I’ve also signed up for other interesting events, like talks featuring Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Peace Corps Director Dr. Jody Olsen. This is a common task for employees at Leadership Global, especially interns. Organizations like mine are expected to be on top of their game and know about the latest issues in their fields. Just scanning a given audience, it’s easy to spot swaths of university students furiously writing notes or live tweeting the event. 

After such events, I write up memos and social media posts detailing how the event relates to Leadership Global’s work. Writing and proofreading these take up a large part of my day. By the end of my internship, I’ll have polished my written communication skills and developed a portfolio of writing samples I can show to potential employers. Many of the events I’ve been to like, “Saving Lives in a Time of Crisis: Why the Global Humanitarian System Matters” and “Risk & Resilience: Advancing Food and Nutrition Security in Nigeria through Feed the Future”, focus on issues development organizations must grapple with now or in the coming decades. I’ve gotten a better sense of the knowledge and skill sets that are in demand for the field. This information is valuable as a young professional trying to map out my career path. Events are also a fantastic opportunity for networking.

Whether it’s introducing yourself to the person sitting next to you or talking to one of the panelists after the event ends, there’s always an opportunity to learn more about a person’s work, exchange business cards and develop your professional network.

Sara Ahmed is a Spring 2019 intern at Leadership Global, an international development organization doing work in West Africa and the Caribbean.
Learning new skills

In terms of networking, a benefit of interning in the Leadership Global office means more one-on-one time with my supervisor and others who work closely with the organization. I’ve met and later connected on Linkedin with Leadership Global’s former interns and seasoned professionals with years of international experience.

In order to get a better insight into how nonprofits run, interns at Leadership Global take classes at the Foundation Center. The Foundation Center offers free, in-person classes and webinars taught by professionals working in philanthropy. Classes like  “Introduction to Proposal Writing” and “Introduction to Corporate Giving” are useful for my work as an intern now and because I am a graduating student looking into fundraising or programming jobs at nonprofits. 

By learning new skills, strengthening old ones, and expanding my professional network, my internship has broadened my understanding of what it means to intern with a development organization. I’ve been exposed to areas in the field that I’m interested in pursuing, as well as others I’ve decided are not for me. I can definitely say that my internship has been a learning experience that will shape how I plan my career in the near future. 

About the Author

Sara Ahmed

Sara attended Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York where she pursued a double major in political science and economics with a minor in Middle Eastern and Central Asian studies. In Spring 2019, Sara interned at Leadership Global, an international development organization doing work in West Africa and the Caribbean.

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