As the end of the academic year approaches, students at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs are busily searching for new opportunities: graduates are seeking new jobs, and first-year students are on the hunt for internships. Many of them look toward Washington DC, the center of government and influence on public policy.
Nearly two dozen Humphrey School students had a chance to learn more about what it’s like to live and work in Washington on a week-long career exploration trip last month, arranged by the School’s Office of Career Services.
Their busy schedule included informational interviews and visits with alumni working at the Government Accountability Office, the State Department, the US Senate, as well as nonprofits and think tanks.
With more than 300 Humphrey School alumni living in and around the Washington DC area, “this trip gives current students the chance to learn directly from alumni and employers what it is like to work in Washington DC, and also hear about career and internship opportunities,” says Jennifer Guyer-Wood, director of career services.
This is the 13th year the trip was offered, and Guyer-Wood says it’s part of the Humphrey School’s commitment to helping students and alumni find meaningful work once they complete their academic programs.
We asked two students who made the trip this year to share some of their insights.
Gunnar Carlson is a mid-career Master of Public Affairs (MPA) candidate in his first year at the Humphrey School. Carlson is currently the general manager of Center Drug, and independent retail pharmacy in Hopkins, Minnesota, where he’s worked for 24 years.
“As someone who has spent his entire work life in Minnesota, I’m interested in relocating and Washington DC is a strong possibility for my family,” he says. “My goal after graduation is to switch careers into a field more in line with my MPA training. This trip helped me understand what types of careers are out there for me.”
Carlson says he appreciated the advice he received from Humphrey School alumni who work in the DC area. “They suggested increasing my networking both in Minnesota and in the DC area. LinkedIn was also emphasized a lot. The importance of taking any opportunity you can, and the need for persistence were also common themes I heard.”
As one of only two mid-career students on the trip, Carlson says he thinks more MPA students should take advantage of the opportunity. “I found myself constantly thinking about how beneficial each aspect of the trip was for me, including the experience of getting to spend time with the other students. As I prepare for my next career, it was illuminating for me to listen and learn from others preparing to start theirs.”
Rachel Dame is on track to complete her Master of Public Policy (MPP) this spring, and will spend the next year in Albania as a Fulbright Scholar.
This is the second trip to Washington DC for Dame. She also went last year, and the connections she made then led to a summer internship at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank that has a partnership with the Humphrey School. She also met an alumna who offered her a place to live during that time.
“I have continued my work with the Stimson Center by completing a capstone project with my supervisor from last summer,” Dame says. She attended the DC trip this year to meet with Stimson Center staff and reconnect with alumni she met last year.
“They were extremely candid in providing advice on navigating Washington,” Dame says. “One alum in particular spoke about opportunities to work in the global policy arena at other federal agencies apart from the State Department. This was not an avenue I had previously considered, and I greatly appreciated this individual’s advice and willingness to help in my job search process.”
The alumni also stressed the importance of concise writing skills, which Dame notes is something Humphrey School students continually practice in their classes.
Dame’s long-term career goal is to work in the global policy field, at a federal agency or an international institution, and the trip gave her the opportunity to meet with alumni who work in that field.
“They also highlighted the importance of leveraging my Humphrey School connections for career opportunities,” says Dame. “Through my internship and job search, I have already seen the strength of the Humphrey network.”
About Career Services at the Humphrey School
The Office of Career and Professional Development helps Humphrey School students and alumni find meaningful work in their chosen areas of study with a variety of employers, including government agencies, nonprofits, and businesses.
In addition to career exploration activities such as the Washington DC trip, the office provides a wide range of career resources, including individualized counseling, domestic and global mentor programs, internships, and workshops. Contact the career services staff at [email protected].