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Catch and release: building networks, one intern at a time

By Rebecca Cohoe

At the Harris Centre, public policy interns are hired with the intention of eventually letting them go. Sound harsh? Don't worry — releasing smart, experienced graduates into the workforce is all part of the plan.

Open only to recent graduates, the internship is a chance for grads to gain real-world experience in public policy. While on the job, interns help organize the Harris Centre's public policy-related programs, including Synergy Sessions and Memorial Presents public forums. However, the ultimate goal of the program is to give exceptional recent grads access to the opportunities and networks of the Harris Centre, with the expectation that, after a year, they'll be well placed to find rewarding careers elsewhere.

"This internship is about helping promising graduates gain experience and networks that he or she can then use, professionally and personally, further down the road," said Mike Clair, associate director, Harris Centre. "We've had interns from various disciplines, five in total, but the one thing that they've all had in common is their desire to learn and get involved."

Take the latest graduate of the program, Johan Joensen. He's a uniquely talented guy: not only is he one of the less than 100,000 people worldwide who speak Faroese (the language of his Nordic home, the Faroe Islands), but before heading to Memorial where he earned his BA, double majoring in political science and history and getting his MA in political science, he worked on a factory freezer trawler on the open seas.

His internship ended slightly early this summer, but for good reason — he landed a job with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers' Union (FFAW) as a petroleum industry liaison. He credits his time as the public policy intern with helping to open the door to his new position.

"While working with the Harris Centre I helped organize multiple events, one of which featured the president of my current employer as a speaker," he explained. "Further to that, I was also involved in planning other meetings and workshops attended by elected members and hired staff of the FFAW. So, prior to applying and getting the job, there was a fair amount of mutual exposure."
Mr. Joensen's advice to future interns is simple.

"It's a rewarding and positive work environment, which makes it very easy to engage and learn from all the staff," he said. "Approach the position with an open mind, a willingness to learn and an expectation of excellence."

Do you think you'd be a good fit for the Harris Centre public policy internship? The job posting for the 2012-13 public policy intern is now available online. For more information, please visit the Harris Centre website at www.mun.ca/harriscentre.

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