How She Got That Internship is a series that highlights conservative women’s internships in various organizations and positions to inspire the next generation of conservative women to lead. Did you, or a young woman that you know, have an internship experience you want to share with our readers? Submit it in this form and we will contact you if we think it would be a great fit for the series.
This was certainly a weird season for internships–with the global pandemic making a lot of internships go virtual. Thinking about the future, girls across the country are dutifully working to prepare for the internships they have landed and thinking ahead to future internships and jobs. FFL is sitting down with a number of interns to reflect on the best internships they’ve had and inspire others to try new things, step outside of their comfort zone, and be the best intern they can be.
Today, we’re talking to Susannah about her internship at the Mercatus Center. The Mercatus Center is “ a libertarian non-profit free-market-oriented research, education, and outreach think tank.” The Mercatus Center is located in Arlington, Virginia.
Susannah is a senior Economics major at Grove City College near Pittsburgh. At GCC, she serves as co-captain of the Debate Team, Executive Administrative Editor of the Journal of Law and Public Policy, as well as Social Chair for Omicron Delta Epsilon. On campus, she works as a Marketing Fellow for the Institute for Faith and Freedom, a conservative think tank, as well as for the Economics Department and the Office of Admissions. She interned at the Mercatus Center during the Summer of 2019 and the summer and fall of 2020.
How did you find out about the internship opportunities at the Mercatus Center and what was the application process like?
I originally found out about the internship at Mercatus in the Summer of 2019 through the Koch Internship Program. After applying and being accepted into KIP, I submitted my application to Mercatus. It was a straightforward application process with one interview with my direct supervisor and the Director of Media Relations and then a short interview with HR.
The following summer (2020) I was hired directly by the Director of Media Relations, but that was a very unique experience.
Was your internship in-person, virtual, or a hybrid?
I was virtual for Summer + Fall 2020, but in person in Summer 2019.
What was a typical day like there? How did you balance your intern work with school, other activities, etc?
My role was heavy on data analytics so every day started with checking the data tools I managed and ensuring they were up-to-date. From there every day was different! Some days I would read econometric models and translate them into plain English, other days I would edit pitches for reporters, there was always a wide variety of projects for me to do.
Especially when I was working for Mercatus during the school year, I tried to compartmentalize my work and other responsibilities. When I was “on the clock” I worked really hard to resist the urge to check school email or check group chats for my clubs. When I was off the clock, I tried to avoid looking at my work email or using my work computer. This allowed me to think of them separately and be more productive both at my internship and outside it.
Were there other interns that you worked closely with? How did that impact your work–were you in teams, bullpens, collaborating on projects, etc?
Although there weren’t other interns in the communications department, the other interns and I helped each other on projects as much as we could. Whether that was a policy intern answering questions about research or me editing another intern’s blog post, we were able to collaborate a lot which not only made our work better, but made the experience more fun.
What was the biggest WOW moment of your internship?
Almost every day there was a WOW moment, but for me the biggest was seeing how my work could actually make a difference to the media team. Being a returning intern was really unique because I could see things I had done in 2019 being used in 2020 and then continue building upon them.
What kind of mentorship did you receive during your internship?
The mentorship I received was incredible and was one of the most valuable parts of my internship. I had daily check-ins with my boss which always provided incredible insights into professional development or life lessons. She even created a professional development series that gave me advice on everything, from being a PR professional to applying for full time positions. Besides my direct supervisor, every person on my team was willing to meet with me and discuss anything I was interested in – from international relations to speechwriting.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned during your internship?
I learned so much during my time at Mercatus, but the biggest thing I learned was how important both positive and negative feedback is. I tried to seek out feedback and see what I did well on projects and also what I could improve on which really helped my performance. I’m still using that feedback to produce better work in my current role.
What are three tips you would have for someone else doing an internship there?
Get to know the people. Everyone at Mercatus is SO incredible and so willing to talk to you and let you pick their brains. A lot of the people there were interns themselves and love to hear what you’re doing and give advice. I really wish I would have connected with more people outside of comms in 2019 when I was in person.
Be entrepreneurial. Mercatus’ culture is huge on being innovative and thinking outside the box. If you see a gap and you can figure out how to fill it, don’t be afraid to speak up! When they say they want to hear your input and ideas, they really do.
Keep track of EVERYTHING! This is something I didn’t do in my first internship and at my first summer at Mercatus and I really regret it. I look back at my notes from this past summer all the time to help me in my current job. It’s also affirming to keep track of little wins or things people say about your work.
What’s your #1 tip for someone doing an internship at the Mercatus Center?
Listen and take in everything you can. The people working at Mercatus, in every department, are incredible and have so much knowledge to share. Some of the greatest things I’ve learned as a PR professional have come from things people said in passing. Take advantage of every opportunity and learn as much as you can.
What’s next for you? How did this internship shape your career plans, your academics, or your idea of what you wanted to do after graduation?
This internship solidified my desire to go into policy communications. Although I had thought that was my path, working for Mercatus made it abundantly clear. Next semester, I’ll be working as a Media Relations intern for the American Enterprise Institute and then hope to go on to grad school in economics while working after graduation.