E-Net News

Career Moves: Interview & resume advice leads senior to D.C. internship

James Carter ‘14 leveraged the Student Professional Development Center and involvement with The Washington Center academic seminar program in the nation’s capital to work with the International Economic Development Council.

Elon University senior James Carter

Elon University senior James Carter knew from his earliest days on campus that he wanted to intern in Washington, D.C., as he studied political science and public administration. The native of Eden, N.C., had learned of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars three years ago during a conversation with political science Professor Chalmers Brumbaugh.

Today part of Elon's Executive Intern Program, which welcomes each fall a select group of student leaders to learn about higher education administration by working with university officials, Carter recognized that spring semester of senior year would be his final opportunity to intern in the nation's capital before he begins graduate studies at American University.

With help from Chalmers Brumbaugh's wife, Pam, director of experiential education in the Student Professional Development Center, Carter was accepted into The Washington Center. The center then steered him toward a prime internship with the International Economic Development Council.

Carter is the latest person to be featured this year in a series of E-net profiles on the successes of students and alumni who have used the Student Professional Development Center to find job and internship openings, or to prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from staff.

He answered questions recently from the SPDC about his experience.

Tell me about the company and your role as an intern.

The International Economic Development Council is an organization that supports the work of economic developers worldwide through professional development activities such as webinars and conferences, staff expertise, legislative affairs, information research services and networking opportunities.

As the organization’s public policy intern, I generated the public policy blog “The District of Economic Development” to inform IEDC’s 4,000 members of policy events on Capitol Hill that affect their work. In addition to that daily responsibility, I worked on special projects to prepare for The Federal Economic Development Forum, IEDC’s annual policy conference. I scheduled and attended meetings between our leadership and the staff directors of economic development-related congressional committees. I also reported back on economic development-related conferences that occurred in the city, and I attended events hosted by The Atlantic and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

My internship allowed me to learn from individuals well respected in the field. I was honored to be in the room with the directors of many federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Congressional Budget Office and the U.S. Trade Representative, and I even had a personal conversation with the director of the National Science Foundation.

I also supported the IEDC’s Public Policy Advisory Committee by attending meetings and keeping minutes. My work experience at the International Economic Development Council truly placed my academic knowledge in a practical context. 

How did your interest in the internship develop?

Interning in Washington, D.C., through The Washington Center has been a goal since a conversation with Professor Chalmers Brumbaugh my freshman year. I consider myself very fortunate to have found an internship tailored to my passion for economic development.

What did you learned from the experience?

One of the most valuable lessons I learned is to set realistic goals and expectations. While we are all talented students, it does not negate the learning curve that comes with our transition to the work environment. I learned to accept that I am not going to perform perfectly on every task the first time around. A firsthand experience with this concept for me was mastering professional versus academic writing. This was especially true when I began generating the blog.

The internship stressed the importance of being flexible. I have worked on assignments and been told at a moment’s notice that they were no longer needed and pointed in another direction. It’s also imperative to be transparent with yourself about your true strengths and weaknesses. You can only improve on a deficiency that you are willing to acknowledge.

All in all, the internship confirmed that my undergraduate education has prepared me to be a successful young professional. The experience expanded my horizon in terms of career choices. Employers value true talent, experience and a willingness to learn.

With whom did you work in the Student Professional Development Center/Career Services to prepare for your internship, and what help did you receive?

When I was applying for my internship at the International Economic Development Council through The Washington Center, Mrs. Pam Brumbaugh was instrumental to my success. She assisted me in refining my resume and my policy and personal statements. Her dedication to helping me securing an internship that matched my interest is representative of her commitment to positive student outcomes. When I was in the interview stage of internship placement, I worked with Rayna Anderson, a Career Fellow in the SPDC. Her positive energy was empowering and I could tell that she related to how I felt as a student having recently been in a similar situation herself.

What faculty members did you work with to prepare for your internship/employment and what help did you receive?

I also worked with Dr. Betty Morgan. I am very grateful that my public administration senior seminar this fall was strategically structured to help us as students connect the theory we learned in the with the language and skills necessary to seek employment or, in my case, a substantive internship. Both Dr. Morgan and Mrs. Brumbaugh prepared us for post-Elon by having us evaluate our personalities and our strengths. We also practiced interviewing, networking and elevator speeches, selling ourselves in our writing, professional dress, and even etiquette and cocktail conversation.

What recommendations would you share with other students about career services?

Whether it’s considering graduate school, writing a resume or cover letter, or seeking career advice, I encourage students to stop by Career Services to make an appointment. The SPDC is invested in student success and ultimately ensuring that students are pursuing their desired path after graduation. 

Eric Townsend,
5/9/2014 10:00 AM