As students who’ve had previous experiences in interning, we really didn’t know what to expect from the Department of Energy. We were prepared for general office work, making phone calls, and maybe even courier duties. From the day we stepped into the Office of Public Affairs, our perceptions changed. During our time at the DOE, we’ve been exposed to so many processes that we never would have imagined undergraduate students would even be allowed to watch let alone participate in. We’ve worked on reports that have been distributed to entire offices, we’ve helped research and put together speeches, and we’ve attended meetings with officials who have treated us as their own.
By far the coolest thing we’ve been a part of during our time here was an intern-exclusive “Coffee and Donuts with Chief of Staff Brian McCormack”. We met in the General Leslie Groves Conference Room, which overlooks the red brick castle-esque Smithsonian Institute. As interns trickled in, we chatted about our respective offices within the department, our hometowns, and our studies in school. It was exciting to meet with other interns who had a range of interests and to compare our responsibilities through the different offices.
What we anticipated to be a small get together among interns to share breakfast and small talk turned out to be an experience that only few could have hoped to be a part of. We were given career advice from Chief of Staff McCormack based on our experiences and education interests. Mid-way through our meeting with Mr. McCormack, we were surprised and excited to be joined by Secretary Rick Perry himself. He took the time to chat with each of us – we truly got the impression that he cared for each and every one of us interns, a sentiment bolstered by Secretary Perry’s ability to draw personal connections to each of us after learning of our backgrounds and family. Mr. McCormack and Secretary Perry kept a focus on our careers, emphasizing the importance of keeping in contact with our fellow interns and advisors in our offices because, in government especially, you never know where people are going to end up.
As students who want to start a career in the government, we really can’t think of a more appropriate way to jump in than to intern at the Department of Energy. We imagine that the majority of the public sees the DOE as nothing more than a glorified electrical company, but there is much more than meets the eye. In our meeting with the rest of the interns, five different offices were represented by only nine interns. We had a geology major in the Office of Fossil Energy, political science majors in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, and a law student in the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, just to name a few. The sheer scope of what is covered in the “Energy” Department is absolutely mind boggling, and to be even a small part of it all is the greatest privilege any prospective intern can have. And of course, having an impromptu meeting with the Secretary was the icing on the cake.
Our meet and greet this summer was a perfect example of the value of this internship. It was an opportunity for us to make connections, which in the government is everything. Regardless of which school you attend, experience you have, or town you come from, if you connect with the right people there is no limit to how far you can go, and interning at the Department of Energy is a great place to start.