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How Poisonous Is This Pill?

Internships can lead to great things. But what if you’re interning with an organization that you’d rather not attach your name to? Just how damaging might a Google search be? Hill Navigator discusses.

Q: As a recent college graduate, I’m recently on the hunt for a full-time job, but in the meanwhile I plan on continuing to intern. I have an offer on the table to work for an unnamed advocacy group that works with privacy/censorship issues. Without getting too specific, they’re very much of the anti-NSA surveillance, pro-Snowden persuasion. This position would entail writing public pieces that my name would be attached to.

While I don’t disagree with most of their positions, I wonder if this job would be a poison pill, given that my primary interest is national security. If I try to get a position later on, say with the House Committee on Homeland Security, (or a governmental agency) would I get blackballed based on my association with this group?

A. Blackballed, no. But any prospective employer is likely to ask about your previous work, and if you’re attaching your name to something that any Google search can turn up, you want to make sure it’s representing you well.  

Likely a future employer in the same field would have some understanding of this group’s policies and positions. Civil policy disagreements are part of the nature of working in Washington. But if it’s a fringe or extreme organization, you’re correct that a governmental agency might raise eyebrows at your association. If you want to take the temperature of such a group, ask people currently in the field how the group is regarded. They can give you an answer as to how your future employers might regard this line on your résumé.  

Given the language of your question (“poison pill” and “blackballed”) I’m inclined to think this group might not be the best fit for you. But ultimately that is for you to decide. Part of the internship experience is finding out what suits you best. If it’s not the right fit for you, learn what you can and move on. One internship need not define the rest of your career.

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