Internship to Job at NYC DEP and the Power of Effective Communication

The past few months have been quite exciting. Not only did I have have an amazing internship experience at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), but I was fortunate enough to be hired for a full-time position. The full-time position directly relates to work that I did in my internship at DEP’s Energy Office as the Summer Graduate Energy Intern. This blog post is the story of how I obtained this full-time position and the lessons I learned from doing so.

Throughout the fall and spring semesters during our first year as Bard CEP we frequently met to discuss internships. Eban stressed that during both the internship application process as well as the internship, to be vocal, assertive, and do not hesitate to pick up the phone to call someone if need be. Throughout my internship experience I did exactly that. Almost on a daily basis I attended meetings with my boss (the Director of DEP’s Energy Office) and I met an array of individuals from varying backgrounds; from DEP employees to private consultants to the commissioner of DEP. I made it a point when I met someone to say their name over a few times in my head so I would not forget. This was because if I ever had a question for them I needed to remember their name to look it up in the Agency’s email address book. I would then proceed to ask questions such as, “How did you get to the position you are in today?” or “What is your academic background in?” or if I knew their field of study I would pick their brain about some academic related issue. These types of questions were pertinent to igniting conversation and making myself memorable in a non-chalant way.

As mentioned in my previous blog post the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment (BWT) is the most energy intensive Bureau in the Agency. Thus, being a part of the Energy Office we had bi-weekly energy meetings with upper-level individuals from BWT to discuss the status of projects or issues relating to energy or GHG emissions. At one of the first meetings I went to I met the Assistant Commissioner of BWT. He was a very welcoming man with a charismatic personality who is a professional engineer (P.E.) and has an M.B.A. from NYU Stern.  When we first met he offered himself as a guidance resource, saying that while I am in my internship to not be afraid to reach out to someone who’s work I am interested in and ask questions, such as himself if applicable. Most importantly he stressed that while I was there that I should take advantage of the access I have to DEP employees and the resources they have.

About two weeks later I emailed the Assistant Commissioner of BWT asking him if he was willing to set aside some time for me to ask him some academic guidance questions. At the time I was interested in pursuing an MBA and was not sure if the Bard MBA focused in Sustainability or a more traditional MBA was right for me. He did not respond to my email until two weeks before my internship ended; he apologized for the lag and asked me to have lunch with him. As we sat down at the table he asked me, “Taylor, what was it that you wanted to talk about?” I responded with my dilemma on the MBA, and he said, “Oh really? I was under the impression you were looking for a job. I heard you did good work in your internship this summer and if you are interested there is a position opening up in the next two weeks in BWT doing similar things.” Of course my response–being a young motivated graduate student–was, “Absolutely!” It turned out that a major consultant working with BWT and the Chief of Infrastructure Sustainability Planning both mentioned to the Assistant Commissioner that I was doing good work upstairs and was interested in a full-time position after the internship.

The Assistant Commissioner of BWT hired me as a consultant and two weeks later I was walking back into DEP’s headquarters as a full-time consultant. Everything from then on changed. I even changed my thesis from the smart grid and renewable energy to analyzing the costs, benefits, and challenges of beneficially using anaerobic digester gas (ADG) at wastewater treatment plants. Moreover my boss was willing to work with me to help with my thesis by being my tertiary reader. Moreover I get to go to work each day and work intensively on a subject that at night I am writing about in my thesis.

It was quite amazing how everything came together so fast and the only thing I can attribute it to was communication skills, doing the best I could everyday in my internship, and pointing in a direction. I knew I wanted to live in Manhattan; thus upon receiving this internship I committed to getting hired full-time after. I put myself out there by actively engaging with a variety of individuals. Most importantly I told them the truth about where I was and where I wanted to be; and finally I asked for help either in terms of direction or a connection and it worked.

The primary take-away message from my internship experience is one of people skills; which involves professionally communicating with people, being assertive, confident, and not being afraid to put yourself out there and be honest with what you are doing, where you are going, and what you need. I was merely inquiring about something I was confused on, I needed advice, so I went to someone with experience on the issue and it evolved into something bigger. Of course consistently doing well at work and being passionate about what you are doing helps, but appreciating people and maintaining memorable relationships with them makes a huge difference. In conclusion, I recommend that ALL first year students or interns for that matter go to their superiors and confidently talk with them as people, because in the end they are people. Do not be afraid merely because of some institutionalize hierarchy to address people as people. Yes, it needs to be at the right time, but once you identify the “right time” put yourself out there and ask questions or for advice; no one can possibly know everything, which is why effective communication is so important.

 

Taylor Evans

te8239@bard.edu

 

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