An Intern’s Perspective: The Importance of Balancing Theoretical Learning with Real Life Career Exposure

An Intern’s Perspective: The Importance of Balancing Theoretical Learning with Real Life Career Exposure

Guest Column by Kristen Reilly, Marist College student and Putnam County PILOT Program intern

As a rising junior at Marist College, I can personally attest to the importance of internships, shadowing opportunities, leadership programs, and everything in between.  This summer, I joined the privileged ranks of 44 other students as an intern with Putnam County Government.  As part of the PILOT program, also known as Putnam Invests in Leaders of Tomorrow, we were selected from a pool of 109 applicants to be placed in varying departments within Putnam County.  Established by County Executive Odell in 2013, the program was designed to give students an opportunity to work or intern in local government to gain experience and knowledge for their future careers, and to keep young talent in the county.  Among this year’s list of 109 applicants, 45 students were selected, including seven high school students, 36 college students, and two graduate school students.  The hosting departments ranged from the County Executive’s Office, Legislature, Finance, Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office, among others.

As a Political Science and History major, I had the distinct honor of working with the County Executive’s Office.  Witnessing the day-to-day management of the county and what an elected official juggles on a daily basis was an invaluable experience.  Far from the stereo-typical intern duties, featuring lackluster filing and “gopher” assignments, my experience was challenging and interesting. I was never left without something to do or learn, and the significance of my workload increased along with my tenure to include communications with constituents, running resolutions down to the Legislative Department, and working on projects to make my coworkers’ jobs easier.

Personally, the PILOT program provided me an outlet to either strengthen my interest in politics or prove to me that this wasn’t my career path. Fortunately, the experience strengthened my passion for politics and government, which has further motivated me to stay the course. I’m happy that the experience has confirmed my inclinations, but even if the opposite had been true, the experience would have been equally, if not more, valuable in exposing me to a career choice that may not have been an ideal fit.  School can’t teach you that.

As my internship with the County Executive’s Office comes to a close, I am not only grateful for the opportunity, I feel indebted to those who gave me the chance to work within my field of interest, in a professional and respected setting. A special thank you to County Executive MaryEllen Odell for creating an internship program, in conjunction with Putnam County Departments, that pushes students like me to pursue a career that both suits their interests, and allows them to grow and develop as an employee and individual.  I look forward to reapplying to the PILOT program in 2018!