Friday, August 7, 2015

A dream internship, and no coffee jockeying to be found

by Sarah Bond-Yancey, National Housing Conference 

My hand hovered on the mouse, just above the “submit” button.  It had been a long, emotionally challenging senior year, so I was torn between staying home for the summer and applying for the internship that I really wanted: Marketing and Communications at the National Housing Conference. 

I knew Washington, D.C., would be the perfect place for an internship at this point in my career, because it would put me at the nexus of many parts of the nonprofit housing industry. I was set on interning at NHC because NHC has not only been involved in historical housing milestones such as the creation of HUD, but has continued to remain relevant by providing a critical bridge between the embattled grassroots and top-down hemispheres of planning and development.

As I read and reread my application, however, the three month internship duration and the 2,329 miles between D.C., and my Seattle home seemed infinite.

Dramatically exacerbating my uncertainty, the writing sample I had chosen to submit with my application was risky. It was a solid piece but deeply personal; the kind that either tugs heart strings or lands you in the  “thanks but no thanks” pile in a work environment where employers are not interested in who their employees are as people. But I couldn’t submit anything else. The article, simply titled “Habitat advocate and volunteer shares her personal journey,” was the result of my almost six-year battle with learning how to be honest with myself. If I was going to take the first post-bachelor’s step toward my housing career goals, I was going to do it without sacrificing the honesty that I had found.

As overcome uncertainties often do, my internship at NHC is turning out to be the perfect opportunity at the perfect time.

Right now, I am at a critical crossroad in both my career and my personal life. I am taking two years off between finishing my bachelor’s in community-based development and pursuing a Masters of Community and Regional Planning. My goal for the next two years is to set a solid foundation for graduate school by gaining professional real-world experience in the affordable housing industry.

My NHC internship is kicking off this process in the most incredible way. I am not only broadening my communications and marketing skillsets, but am also gaining professional experience in national event planning, industry relations and nonprofit development.

The best part about interning at NHC, however, is the inclusive, collaborative team environment. I have so many friends who have enthusiastically landed their dream internships, only to end up as a deeply disappointed coffee jockey or data entry monkey. NHC is one of the few, rare organizations that are truly eager to engage, respect and develop their interns. Over the past two months, I have had the opportunities to do everything from original design work and web content creation to large-scale project management, leading our organization through a collaborative process of updating NHC’s online resources.

For these and other opportunities to come, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the entire NHC staff for their warm welcome and genuine investment, especially Amy and Radiah, who have both been incredible mentors and colleagues.


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