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Blog | Carter Center CEO Shares Career Advice with Interns

By Andy Pavey, 2021 fall intern in the Carter Center Communications Department and a senior at Grinnell College.

Every Carter Center intern gets an opportunity to sit down with CEO Paige Alexander for an informal group conversation and Q&A session. This autumn, I and 30-plus other interns learned the following career lessons from Alexander:

1. Adopt a Learning Mindset

When you’re just starting out professionally, it’s important to learn from every opportunity you get, Alexander said. “I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve had, and not a lot of people can say that. Part of it is a mindset, because I know that even if it’s not easy, or things aren’t going well, I’m learning something.”

2. Grow into Your Work

Impostor syndrome can be a potent challenge for interns and young professionals. Interns Jessica Addis of the Human Rights Program and Pretty Priyadarshini of the Guinea Worm Eradication Program wanted to know about how Alexander had dealt with feelings of incompetence or self-doubt in the workplace.

“I think you touch on something that everybody — women in particular — feels,” Alexander said. “If it’s not a position you think you’re necessarily qualified for, show your willingness to learn … and your willingness to do the grunt work that it often takes.”

3. Job Hop for the Right Reasons

Alexander noted the importance of sticking with workplaces and supervisors that will benefit your career in the long run: “You’re going to have those highs and lows, and that’s a part of sticking it out. But you’ll also know intuitively: Is this a place I want to stay? Is this a place I want to grow in?”

That said, young professionals are expected to job hop to try new things and find their niche. In fact, Alexander said recruiters want to see organic growth and experimentation on a CV.

4. Listen and Learn

Even if you don’t have all the answers, Alexander said, being an active listener, a critical thinker, and an apt synthesizer of your colleagues’ ideas can make you a trusted voice wherever you’re working.

 “The ability to sit and listen to what people are saying … and then to pick the pearls from what you’re hearing is something that has never failed [me].”

5. Landing That First Job

As their Carter Center experiences draw to a close, many interns look ahead to the next opportunity. Julie Burke, Overseas Operations intern, asked Alexander how to approach the post-internship job search.

Alexander first emphasized the importance of doing your research ahead of an interview: “You [should] let them know how badly you want the job and let them know that you know something about the organization, or you knew someone who worked there, or you follow their work.”

At the same time, “a lot of it is who you know,” Alexander said. Interns build connections with senior employees, experts in their field, and one another.

“You’ve got this network now at The Carter Center, and we want to be helpful.”

Related Resources

A Carter Center internship provides a substantive learning experience and an opportunity to explore career options and attain professional skills. Interns make vital contributions to the Center’s work in Peace, Health, and Operations worldwide. Opportunities you won’t find anywhere else — like sitting down with the CEO or visiting President Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains, Georgia — enrich the internship experience further.

The deadline for a summer 2022 internship is March 1, 2022. Apply today!

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