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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Where I am now 

I'm spending the summer (at least until the end of July) interning at a foundation just outside Philadelphia. For those who don't know, foundations are basically charitable organisations which exist to give away money. Having spent ten years as a fundraiser for organisations that constantly had to worry about where the cash was coming from and if there'd be enough in the bank to pay the next months salaries, it's a nice change to be somewhere that's struggling with how to use the resources it has available.

My official role here is working on strategic communications projects, but I'm also using the opportunity to find out more about how the organisation (and the foundation sector more broadly) operates, and treating it a bit like an anthropological study - observing how things like organisational culture operate. So far the overall exoperience has been a bit mixed. There was a huge event last weekend, and I spent my first three weeks doing basic admin for that, which wasn't exactly what I signed up for or the best use opf my abilities. Since that's been got out ofe way though I'm on to more fulfilling and intereting things.

The internship recruitment experience was 'mixed'. Post-school I want to do consluting in the non-profit/philanthropic sector. It's what I said I wanted to do in my admissions essays and what I've stuck with all the way through. There are very few internships available in this area though, and those there are generally want people with consulting experience (which is understandable, given the cost of supporting a non-consulting-experienced intern), so I decided to look at a mixture of mainstream consulting jobs and internal strategy jobs in non-profits. The mainstream consulting side of the equation meant the standard round of on-campus rectuiting Emloyer Information Sessions (EIS's), coffee-chats, networking events etc., etc. , which I didn't enjoy in the least. The whole experience just felt like a big time sink that I was getting very little out of. And it didn't help that I wasn't particulalrly excited about the jobs for their own sake, they were pretty much a means to an end. When it cam to applications and interviews, people seemd fine about my non-profit background, but less fine about a non-American without strong exisiting ties here wanting to summer in the US. I can understand the logic (they don't want people who just want to be with them for the sumer, then head elsewhere full-time) but I wish they'd give people the benefit of the doubt a bit more and not jump to conclusions - people were very happy to see me for London jobs, but I know that there's no way on earth that I'd every accept a mainstream consulting gig there. Anyway, between the wanting-to-summer-in-the-US factor and the second-round-interviews-in-the-same-week-as-a-major-extracurricular-commitment factor (advice to others: a 90-hour week is not good straight before a full day interview) I came out the other side of the on-campus recruiting experience with non job, but experience that I think will serve me well for full-tinme recruiting. Looking for non-profit strategy jobs couldn't have been more different - there are a lot of them around and they don't care where you're from as they're not looking to recruit you full-time. My biggest challenge was finding something where I'd be getting some genuinley new experience rather than just doing what I've done before for a different organisation. As it turned out, it took the grand total of two e-mails and a ten-minute interview to get this job which, now that I'm passed the initial admi work, is proving to be a great fit.

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