Saturday, September 26, 2009

I'm sorry, can you repeat that?

One of the most loathsome, least enjoyable parts of interning is phone duty. You are the first line of defense between the public and your office, which means there's MOUNTAINS of pressure. Be professional. Be courteous. Be on top of things. Know the phone number of your office in case you're asked or have to leave a message. There's nothing worse than having left a successful, professional sounding message, and then you go to leave your number and you're like "Um, er,'m sorry, let me'm trying to look apologize-0000!!" as you frantically scramble to find the post-it note where you'd written it down a million years ago.

Then there's the whole next issue of taking messages. Oh, man. Usually it's're with it enough to take down at least the caller's first name, and kind of generally remember who they're with. At least enough that you can give the message to your boss and they can figure it out. But sometimes it's just information overload, and it's all you can do to get down some initials. I look back at the end of the day at some of the messages I've taken and they're all but unintelligible.

Particularly embarrassing though is when you're working with an accented individual, and for whatever reason, you just can't for the life of you understand them. You can only ask someone to repeat their name so many times before it's just unacceptable. It's just awkward for everyone involved.

Then there are the crazy callers who just baffle you. There was the one woman who just wanted me to "Lemme as'you a queshon!" Um...shoot. Then there was the woman who wanted to schedule a manicure and pedicure. I just wanted to say that we do many things, but manis and pedis aren't among the services available.

Maybe part of my aversion to phone-answering comes from the fact that when the phone rings, Vivaldi's "Spring" plays in electronic wonder, while simultaneously the second phone rings in a normal (though earsplitting) tone. So I answer the phone after nearly suffering a coronary. My adrenaline is gushing as a result of being startled out of my wits, and I'm finding it hard to pay attention to the speaker because mostly I'm trying to calm my heart rate so I can hear over its pounding.

So what's a girl to do? Be brave, be confident, be professional. YOU ARE INTERN! And if all else fails, wing it. "Hello, this is Jenny speaking, how may I help you?" (The longer your intro, the more time you have to pull it together...)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An NGO Life

Once upon a time, way back in freshman year, I thought that I would never work for an NGO. They're too radical, I thought, too ineffective. They just sit there and make a raucous but aren't productive. Oh, how wrong I was. First I dabbled in the NGO scene in Spain, where I learned not only that the relaxed-work-environment-in-Europe had some truth to it, but that NGOs actually have an impact. My use to them was limited, by I learned many things.

NGO work in the States is a little more intense. My job description is much more varied than it was before, ranging from the more generic duties of answering phones and stuffing envelopes to the varied tasks of grant research and event planning, with a little graphic design and essay-contest coordination thrown in. But what is continually striking to me is the sense of purpose that infuses every action taken in the office. There's a difference between making noise and raising awareness, and a lot of the potential effectiveness is hampered by a lack of money. But that doesn't hinder NGOs from being productive. All the projects we undertake have an ultimate objective of helping people. My stuffing envelopes for a fundraising campaign is going to bring in the capital needed for a project that will end up benefitting the poorest of the poor. Focusing on grant research will help us sponsor an event that could potentially bring someone to the USA to speak on a pressing issue. Awareness and funds will be raised, and we can help whole communities develop a sustainable, higher quality life style, which is very fulfilling for everyone involved.

Tune in next week for: Phone Mishaps and The Balancing Act

Monday, September 14, 2009

Testing, Testing

Oh, internships. Oh, interns. Oh, to be an unpaid intern in a city where, without interns, NOTHING would function (versus only a few things that run currently. The DC metro system must not have any interns...that's why it struggles). With an internship, you feel like a real person who's going places. You get all dressed up at the crack of dawn because you have PLACES TO BE! FOR YOU ARE INTERN!!! Let's be honest, when you see your peers walking down the street in their suit and tie or high heels with the I'm-in-a-rush-because-I-have-a-life face on, you think, wow. They must have it together. Don't believe it. Behind the polished exterior lies a freaked out, stressed out individual who is also juggling a full course load, clubs, extra-curriculars, gym time, a significant other, happy hour and a million drains on the wallet in addition to also trying to figure out what on earth they want to do with themselves for the rest of their lives. Oh, to be an intern.

But I'm not here to philosophize (that's a lie, that's exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.) I'm supposed to be writing about life in the trenches. About what exactly being an intern entails. It's comprised of doing the boring admin work that no one else wants to do and way more time on a computer than is strictly healthy. But, it's also comprised of some of the most rewarding experiences of your college years. You learn about things you had no idea existed, deal with all sorts of amazingly well read, intelligent, important people and gain a skill set that will hold you over for the rest of your life. Being an intern is usually pretty darn cool. Except for the relative lack of monetary compensation involved.
The bottom line is, internships are the testing grounds. It's where college kids can find their passion, and employers can find the best and the brightest to take not only DC (remember we're responsible not only for the city, but what happens inside of it) but everyone to infinity and beyond.