Student Intern: Ashlee Stafford
Internship: International Justice Mission
I interned with the International Justice Mission (IJM) in Washington, DC, and in Manila, The Philippines. IJM is an international human rights organization focused on seeking justice for victims of violent oppression. It strengthens local public justice systems by assisting local law enforcement in rescuing victims from their oppressors, holding perpetrators accountable, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and transforming communities so that the poor can be protected from further abuse. It is based in Washington, DC, and has sixteen field offices in ten countries around the world.
What did you do in your role as intern?
I began with a semester-long human resources internship at IJM’s headquarters in Washington, DC. I completed projects with nearly every member of the human resources team, including revamping the international internship manual, creating job postings, and using feedback data to create a training report. IJM invests heavily in its local interns, so I also got to interact with the executive leadership team and be involved in several professional development events (including a Strengths Finder session and a resume workshop). It was an incredible experience.
My role in the field was very different. I was in the IJM Manila office for 10 ½ months, also on the human resources team. We had 27 open positions, so I spent most of my time working on recruitment and orientation for new staff members. I was given challenging projects in DC, but in Manila, I had even more freedom and responsibility. Field office internships are a much deeper dive into the work that IJM does, which is invaluable but difficult at times. It was incredibly fulfilling to contribute to IJM’s work on the ground.
Why an internship?
I was involved in the IJM campus chapter during my time at Covenant. I was really impressed by IJM’s work, and I wanted to be a part of it somehow. After I graduated, I realized that the only reason I wasn’t applying for the internship program was that I was afraid of living in DC. I decided to get over that and apply, and I’m very glad that I did.
How did you get the internship?
IJM has a very extensive online application process. I submitted all of my materials and then was given the chance to interview over the phone. I also did my best to network into the company and spoke over the phone with one of IJM’s regional directors, who encouraged me to consider the international internship program as well.
What did you learn through your internship?
My internships with IJM were really incredible; I grew a lot personally and professionally through both of them. My DC internship was more supportive, and through solid feedback and wonderful role models, I was able to learn how to carry myself in a professional environment and be more confident in expressing my ideas. In Manila, I was more on my own. I learned leadership, initiative, and cross-cultural communication, and I found out that I was capable of seeing a need and meeting it, even if it meant doing things I had never done before.
What are your plans/goals for the future?
I’m preparing to move to Denver, CO, so I’m applying to jobs in the area. I’m focusing more on finding a way to get a foot in the door of a great company than I am on just applying to jobs (though that was my strategy initially). I’m hoping to gain some corporate experience to compliment what I learned at IJM, so my goal is to work for a global company, either in human resources or another field. I’m considering pursuing an MBA, but I probably wouldn’t start that until fall of 2015.
How does your internship relate to your career plans?
I want to stay very closely connected to IJM, even though I’ve decided not to apply for a job with them in DC. Even though I’ve been applying for work outside of the human rights field, the experience I gained through IJM gave me a lot of skills that are transferrable to a host of other industries. International business experience is valuable, and I’ve already seen doors open because of it.
On a more personal side, my internships with IJM completely changed my perception of the world. I am much more eager to embrace adventure, challenges, and new ideas because of it. It gave me tangible skills (someone looking at my resume would know that I’m capable of working in recruitment), but the more important piece of it was how it changed me as a person. Once you do something like this, you don’t really go back to who you were before. My goals are different, as are my priorities. I hope to never lose my love for the Filipino people and my desire to support them, or my passion for the world, or my willingness to take risks. I hope that those things can make me more able to truly thrive in whatever work I end up doing.