As I’ve occasionally mentioned in the past few months (admittedly, quite sporadically), I’ve had the tremendous opportunity to work at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. as a video editing intern. Going into the program, I had little knowledge about what I was going to be doing, who the people were, how I was going to like them, and frankly, how I was going to cope with losing the majority of my summer to a 9-5:30 job.
But for anyone who might be thinking about the intern program, or have already submitted the application and been approved, I decided to do a full review of the goods, bads, and uglies (but trust me, they’re mostly goods) of Heritage’s program.
I’ve heard the intern program (called the Young Leaders’ Program, or YLP for short) be referred to as the “gold standard” of internships. As far as work goes, you’re not going to be running around copying papers, organizing paperclips, and bringing your stoic and serious-minded supervisor coffee between every one of his meetings. That’s for sure.
Your bosses and supervisors use you for real work and value everything you have to offer. The program isn’t just something impressive to put on a resume; it’s a job that’s meant to teach you skills, workflow, software, policies, writing techniques, politics, and so much more. (I’ve also heard it said that having “Heritage Foundation” on a resume is almost a free pass to any conservative job in Washington.)
As a video intern, my boss focused mainly on teaching me the concepts, skills, and the workflow of a professional video editor. He didn’t waste any time waiting to put me to work. After an initial test of “can you print these sides as three copies, two columns, and no video cues?” he set me to work on a promotional video for Heritage’s sister and grassroots organization, Heritage Action. Throughout the summer, I helped run the Daily Signal‘s studio, “man-on-the-streets” in the area, and Facebook Lives — as well as transcribed videos, inserted captions, and assisted in recording sound on video shoots.
Now here’s what YLP work is not: Heritage isn’t going to instantly name you a fellow and promote you high and mighty above the other interns. You likely won’t be writing filing cabinets full of editorials and producing your own Daily Signal shows. And you’re certainly not going to appear on FOX unless a ton of cameras appear in the lobby and you can’t avoid them to get to the nearest bathroom. But considering that Heritage pays you for eating free Chick-Fil-A and listening to incredible educational lectures (complete with a mini-complementary conservative library), I think it’s still a pretty good deal, honestly.
Which brings me to my next point. The reason Heritage is the gold standard in internships is because of the quality education you receive as you work. Throughout the summer, the interns would have the chance to go on “field trips” to Mt. Vernon, the Pentagon, the Archives, and even the White House. In addition, every week, interns would break from work to attend lectures given by experts on the Constitution, communications, and hot topics like health care and the public bathroom controversy. Sometimes these lectures take place during lunch and are called First Principles luncheons (and yes, free food including Chick-Fil-A, Rodi, and sandwiches are involved). Usually First Principles is hosted by David Azerrad and Arthur Milikh, both excellent speakers.
The only negative thing I could think to say about the lectures would be that everything seems to be somewhat one-sided. They explain the conservative stance on a topic flawlessly, but the counter view isn’t often expressed in much detail. I feel it’s important to fully understand the opposing side to better support your own, and while I feel way more educated from these lectures that I’ve been before, one of the complaints some of the interns made was that they would have liked to hear what views we were up against.
Between the food and the lectures (and of course access to the massive espresso machine in the staff lounge), I frankly can’t comprehend how they’re paying us for the whole summer. Honestly with the quality of education, we should be paying them.
And finally, what made Heritage such a memorable summer for me was the people. Throughout my time in school, I’ve heard a lot of people refer to organizations and clubs as “family,” but nowhere have I seen that metaphor carried out quite like Heritage. Staff and fellow interns were so kind, encouraging, and uplifting. Those I worked under or along side of have truly shown how much they wanted to see me succeed, even after the program was over. My boss, for example, always made it a point to praise my work and tell me how much he appreciated what I did every day. He even went out of his way to wish me a happy birthday and get me cookies to split with my fellow interns. (Yes, Heritage also takes birthdays very seriously. I was “Happy-Birthdayed” half a dozen times all day, and I barely told anyone.) Words simply can’t describe how appreciative I am toward my boss, coworkers, and fellow interns for all the memories and encouragement I received over the summer.
So if you’re still on the fence about joining the Heritage team, I say do it! Heritage made up one of the best summers of my life, I’ve learned incredibly valuable skill sets, and I’ve made lasting memories that I’ll never, never forget with some of the greatest people on earth. The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders’ Program is the best internship in all of Washington, and quite arguably, in all of America.