“So, why do you want an internship at the White House?”
And so it began. “I think this is a very special time to work at the White House,” I said. “Of course, anytime you get the chance to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is obviously a high honor. But this is an historic administration. And for the first time in a long time, I feel proud of many of the initiatives that are coming out of the White House. I want to do my part to contribute.”
On the other end of line, five staffers from the Office of Management and Administration were gathered around a speakerphone listening to what I had to say. I must confess – being the center of attention in a conference call with the White House is a fairly nerve-racking experience, though everyone on the line was surprisingly cheery and easygoing. It was very clear that they all got along famously and that this office would be a great place to work.
Over the course of the next fifteen minutes or so, they proceeded to ask me a slew of questions relating to my academics, previous internship experiences, and language skills. There were no curve balls per se, though the last question I found intriguing. After looking over all of my application materials, one staffer noted that I was “clearly passionate” about the environment and asked if I would feel “shortchanged” by working in an office that didn’t deal directly with environmental policies/issues. First of all, I found it hard to believe that anyone could be “shortchanged” by working in the White House, regardless of the department. In all seriousness, even bottom of the totem pole, lowliest of low positions are nothing to scoff at. Second, so much of what the Office of Management and Administration does is event planning – which does (or at least should) have an environmental component. In my response, I mentioned the idea of “event sustainability,” which I thought was a nice way to tie in the work of the office with my own interests.
After getting the chance to prod them with my own questions for a bit, the interview concluded. Overall, I thought it went well. There were no heinous gaffes at least. Of course, I knew the competition for the position would be intense. But for the moment, I was content.