Would you expect a sophomore cadet to have the necessary experience to lead a company of soldiers?
Probably not. Therefore, we assign cadets to commissioned officers-in the equivalent of an internship to gain additional experience. Likewise, we would not expect a first-year law student to prepare and argue a complex case before the U.S. Supreme Court, so we assign law students to seasoned attorneys so, in the future, they will be best prepared for the demand of their professions. Notwithstanding the existing negative stigma that interns are “clueless,” U.S. companies spend millions every year retraining and preparing college graduates whom were expected to be ready to enter the workforce upon graduation. Thus, it behooves employers to invest in interns because all interested parties benefit from the resulting collective increase in work experience.
The issue of compensation
Should you expect pay for your time and effort? It is a difficult question because, although historically internships have been unpaid, they are running into legal problems, among others, and are slowly being phased out. If you are offered an unpaid internship, the question becomes personal: is the experience you hope to gain worth the rather large kick to your wallet? Expenses don’t stop simply because you are interning with your dream company. I have always dreamed of working for the U.S. Federal Government because I have always been fascinated with the butterfly effect, as it pertains to criminal law on a global scale. Keeping my dream in mind, I had to first honestly assess my experience in relation to my desired employment. I asked myself, “am I a good fit for this position?” The answer was no because the little experience I have is limited to the classroom. So I began to evaluate how I can improve my portfolio, which is how I ended up researching internships.
Finding an internship that matches professional goals
I started my search by making a list of all federal organizations that listed “law enforcement” as a duty. The resulting list was expansive, spanning far beyond the big-three. Next, I entered that list into an Excel spreadsheet. It is critically important to separate your list into a clear and concise table-format because each organization will have its own requirements that you will need to meet. It is very easy to confuse one organization’s requirements with another’s, and making this can complicate your search and success. At this stage, it may be helpful to coordinate with your school’s career services office. They will be able to provide you with access to their network of employers who, in partnership with the school, may waive certain requirements of their internships. Your school’s career services office will also help with resume and cover letter development.
Armed with a comprehensive list of all your potential employers and their given requirements, the next step is to methodically attack each requirement. One requirement may be a simple as sending a copy of your latest resume, another may require you to submit three unique essays. It is crucial that you name each digital file you work on in accordance with its relevant employer. For example, if you are sending a resume you tailored for a particular office, name it: “Lastname_Essay1_Office_22JUL2018,” or your potential employer may tell you exactly how they want their digital files named; in that case, follow the specific directions of your potential employer.
Missing this crucial step, means a high likelihood of accidentally sending a misaddressed cover letter to a potential employer. To avoid this embarrassing misstep, check the file names of each digital document you draft and add each filename to your previously created table for internships.
Finally, after meeting each of your potential employers’ requirements, you get to sit back and enjoy the equally exciting yet painful process of waiting to hear back. If a potential employer replies by saying they are not interested, simply notate that on your internship table. You may want to check back with them in a year because they now have you “on file.” If a potential employer replies by saying they would like you to interview for the position, set the date on your internship table, your phone, your whiteboard, your friends’ phones and anything else you can think of to remind you of the date and time of your interview.
When the interview happens during a deployment
My interview took place over the phone (which is not uncommon for some employers). Unfortunately, I was overseas, in the northern Sinai Peninsula, when my potential employer called. I remember answering the phone upset and I thought for sure I had “bombed” the interview. The lesson I learned was to share the interview time and location with the pertinent people in your life who can help ensure that you are not disturbed, to a reasonable degree given each circumstance. It may be difficult to tie down a specific hour within your day in which you will not be distracted, but it is very important to ensure you are physically and mentally present for your interview.
I was fortunate enough to be selected to serve as a summer law intern with the Department of Justice, Executive office of Immigration Review. The DOJ selects 50-70 qualified applicants per year and I was one of them. Until the summer of 2018, I did not envision myself working in immigration law. I also did not expect the publicity surrounding the hotly debated topic of immigration reform.
However, I applied the experience I gained during my military service and soldiered on. As a result, I absorbed a wealth of information and guidance that can be best described as drinking from a fire hose. I worked for five highly experienced and insightful immigration judges that were kind enough to not only share their knowledge of immigration law, but also the steps they each took to reach their professional goals. Moving towards my professional goals, I am now armed with unique work experience that will make me more appealing to a potential employer.Read comments