This past Winter Break, Ryan Summers completed an exciting externship at the Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C. with Kate Blair ’10. Ryan decided to participate in the Extern Program because he wanted to understand what it would be like to work at an organization such as the GAO. He was also interested in learning more about research analysis and auditing.
Ryan emphasized in his extern application that the GAO was his top and only choice. The senior also highlighted his research experience. Before he went to Washington, D.C., Ryan called his sponsor and asked questions about the organization, appropriate attire, and working environment. He also took notes for follow-up questions.
His first day at the GAO consisted of introductions to the organization, its structure, goal, and functions. Ryan met many different people in a variety of positions and had informational interviews about their roles at the GAO. “I learned so much from many different staff levels and positions throughout the different research teams as well as the ARM research specialists who assist the auditors on their research projects,” the senior remarked. Ryan’s favorite aspect was a mini-exercise that his sponsor had given him. He had to come up with an audit where he interviewed people to get a sense of how things worked at the GAO. In the end, he had put together his own audit and document using the evidence that he had gathered throughout his three days.
The most effective questions Ryan asked his sponsor were about the different career routes he could take since he is taking a gap year before going to graduate school. Ryan wanted to know what experiences his sponsor would recommend. After participating in an externship, Ryan suggests following up with one’s sponsor with an email thanking them. He is still in contact with his own sponsor. “A good way to stay connected is to connect with them on LinkedIn and maybe share an article or blog that would deal with their organization/company or their line of work that shows you took a lot from the experience,” explains Ryan.
Ryan’s experience at the GAO helped him figure out where he wants to take his career in the future, whether it’s advocacy, lobbying, or think-tank work. He sees himself doing research analysis. By externing at the GAO, the senior learned about the interactions between Congress and the company, how representatives on the Hill use it to figure out best improvements/recommendations they can get out of future bills, and how to improve current institutions and their funding.
The Coolest Part of the Experience
“D.C. is one of my favorite cities; make sure that when you’re not at your externship site to try all the amazing restaurants, museums, and nightlife the city has to offer! The greatest reward was learning that going into research, analysis, or auditing would be something I could see myself doing in the future, post-graduation.”
Ryan advises to do as much research on the extern organization in order to be best prepared for talking to your sponsor and asking questions. He also urges students to not be afraid when asking questions, especially about someone’s career path. Ryan would definitely recommend this externship since his sponsor, Kate, and her colleague, Beth were very nice. This job shadowing opportunity gave Ryan insight into the GAO and whether or not he would like working there down the road.