The Washington International Trade Association (WITA) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides a neutral forum for trade policy discussion—educating and connecting the Washington D.C. trade community.

Recent IPE grad Abigail Struxness ’13 connected with the WITA for an internship that has provided her with the opportunity to trade information with prominent members of the U.S. trade policy community while launching her career.

Abigail Struxness on the WITA "trade prom" red carpet. CES: How did you find your internship?

AS: I was interested in finding opportunities in the field of international trade and also of moving to D.C., so I Googled “international trade Washington, DC” and the Washington International Trade Association was one of the first items listed. After looking at their website, I noticed they had an internship program and applied.

Sometimes, it’s better to broadly research organizations in the field you’re interested in, rather than specifically searching for listed internship opportunities.

CES: What does the role entail? What’s a typical day like?

AS: WITA really depends on its interns and we are given a lot of responsibility. On a typical day, we prepare for upcoming trade policy events, communicate with and manage our membership database, update the website and our Twitter feed with relevant trade policy news, attend other trade related events in D.C., and write articles that are published on the website and in our membership newsletter.

This summer, I helped plan and execute our Annual Awards Dinner, also known as the “trade prom,” an event for over 500 of Washington’s most important figures in trade policy in the public and private sectors. While it was a lot of work, it was very rewarding and I got to interact with key figures shaping U.S. trade policy today.

CES: How is this internship helping you with your career exploration?

AS: WITA has been vital in helping me launch my career here in D.C.

The connections I’ve made at WITA events, with WITA members, and by attending the plethora of other events around town, have been extremely useful in helping me target my job search.

I’ve been able to go on many informational interviews, which—in my opinion—is the best way to get valuable career advice, build your network, and get job leads. I’ve also been able to meet a lot of people who are also just starting their careers in trade through the Young Trade Professionals group, which is a program of WITA.

CES: You graduated this past spring. What are you finding to be the benefits and limitations of pursuing a post-graduation internship?

AS: Although interning was not exactly how I had imagined my first few months of post-grad to be like, it has absolutely been the best decision.

Finding a permanent job in D.C. is very difficult to do unless you’re already living in the area and have built up your network of D.C. contacts. Practically everyone I met has gotten their start in D.C. with an internship. It’s a great way to dive into your chosen field, really learn the ins and outs of the professional community, and plan and prepare for next steps.

The most obvious limitation is that most internships are not fully paid and that can be challenging, especially in a big city like D.C.

CES: What advice would you offer other Puget Sound students who are considering an internship in the D.C. area?

AS: The most stressful part of my move out here was finding housing. Housing is in high demand in this city and it’s also not cheap. It’s hard to find housing before you move because most people want to meet you in person before giving you the place. Start early and apply to every Craigslist ad that you can—better yet, ask a friend who is already out here if they can help you by attending open houses on your behalf.

Second, take advantage of all the free networking opportunities here. D.C. has tons of happy hours, free events at think tanks, and networking groups to take advantage of. Go to as many as you can because you never know who could help you out (or become a new friend!)

Considering an internship? Helping Puget Sound students identify and compete for opportunities is CES’ stock-in-trade. 

© 2013 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo provided by Abigail Struxness