Name: Jessica Raboin
Minor: German Studies
Intern Title/Name of Organization: Intern (Praktikantin), German Federal Employment Agency (in German: Bundesagentur für Arbeit)
How did you find out about the internship and what was the application process?
Last summer I did some research into the German Federal Employment Agency using their webpage, visiting with a career counselor at their office and stopping by the Career Information Center (Berufsinformationszentrum). I read on their website that internships were offered, but there was no official posting for the internship. During my visit with the career counselor, I was given the name of another person in charge of internships. I called and set up an appointment to meet with him. The meeting with him was more or less an unofficial interview, and afterwards I was told to send him my resume and cover letter. Within a few weeks I heard back that I got the internship!
What were some of the highlights?
During the first month, a government delegation from South Africa came to our agency to learn about the German vocational system and youth employment policies. I got to help out with the presentation, including explaining aspects and doing some translation. Another one of my favorite experiences was going to the local schools with the career counselors to meet with students.
What was a "typical day" like? What were some of your major responsibilities?
The internship was constructed so that I could see just about every department in the agency. I spent time in the following departments: entrance and registration; work placement and job counseling; social services; airport labor project; career counseling; academic advising; job services for the mentally and physically disabled; immigration and labor market integration, special circumstances and issues job counseling; and the department for equal opportunity for single mothers. There are over 1000 federal employment agencies in Germany, and it just happened to be that the agency I did my internship at was where many pilot programs were being conducted. Therefore I got to see many different programs that aren't offered at any other agencies, which really created a unique experience for me. I also got to learn about and help out with a project for the European Employment Services (EURES), which is basically the European employment agency.
What were some of the challenges of your internship?
At first, the biggest challenge was getting used to German business etiquette and the language. By language I mean the technical terms and abbreviations that only the agency uses. In the evening I would take home brochures from the agency and read them in order to learn about the programs and processes, in addition to increasing my technical and business vocabulary. After the first month I was relatively familiar with the different terms, programs, departments and abbreviations. During the second month I actually gave a presentation in German at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich comparing the services offered at the German Federal Employment Agency with the American Workforce Center, college career centers, and the European Employment Services.
What did you learn?
Along with all of the "industry" specific knowledge I gained, I solidified my own interests and career goals. Most of all, I gained a lot of confidence from the experience of working in a different country and communicating in a different language.
What advice would you give other students interested in internships?
The best thing I ever did was going into the Career Resource Center during the first semester of my sophomore year (but you don't have to wait that long!). I wasn't happy with my major, and I didn't really have a concrete idea of where I was going. Meeting with a career counselor helped me reflect on my own strengths, interests and aspirations. I took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest Inventory, which basically provided ideas of possible majors, classes, and even student clubs that might be of interest to me personally. Although I don't follow them to a t, the assessments and meeting with the career counselor gave me direction. Since then I have had numerous work-study jobs and internships that related to my professional interests-each one clarifying for me what I would like to do professionally.
Look for companies, organizations, even departments on campus that interest you and apply for positions! If there aren't any internship positions listed, then I recommend contacting the company or organization and asking. Take initiative-the employers aren't going to come to you. Show them your interest and enthusiasm! Also, don't not take an internship just because it isn't paid. If it is at an organization or is a job you want to perhaps do after college, then the experience will be worth it!