Studies in Indian Place Names (SIPN) with ISSN 2394-3114

Internship Insights: Daniel Zimny-Schmitt at the Chicago Mayor’s Office

Interview with Daniel Zimny-Schmitt, Class of 2016, BA Environmental Science, minors in Spanish and Geography
Summer 2014 Intern with the Mayor’s Office, City of Chicago
DU Internship Award Mayor's Office
Daniel Zimny-Schmitt
  • What was your role in your job or internship?
I worked as a Sustainability Communications intern at the Mayor’s Office. My primary responsibilities revolved around the Sustainable Chicago 2015 Plan, including writing press releases for upcoming initiatives and launch dates (Drive Electric Chicago and Solar Chicago), researching and preparing summaries of progress made on each of Sustainable Chicago 2015’s seven goals, and beginning to draft material for the 2014 annual progress report of the SC 2015 plan due for release this fall.  I also had the opportunity to draft tweets for the department’s Twitter handle and help prepare PowerPoint slides for a monthly meeting on SC 2015 progress.
  •   How did you find this position?
I have been part of an organization named Chicago Scholars (which recruits high-achieving Chicago Public Schools students) since my junior year of high school. I’ve developed a good relationship with the career and internships counselor there, who had a connection with someone at City Hall who was looking to fill a sustainability related internship position.  He let me know of the opportunity available and I followed up with a phone interview.
  •  What were the key factors in you being hired?
During the phone interview, my interviewer and eventual boss immediately noted that I had worked for two of the City’s partner organizations in their sustainability efforts (Midwest High Speed Rail Association and Clean Energy Trust). This gave me a leg up since he could tell I was already familiar with nonprofit and government work as well as with transportation and energy, two of the main focus areas in the Sustainable Chicago 2015 plan.  I also actively asked questions during the interview about the SC 2015 plan to demonstrate my interest in and comprehension of the project I would be working on.
chicago mayor's office internship
  • What did you love about the position? What was challenging?
The part of my job I loved the most was researching and quantifying progress toward each of the Plan’s seven goals. Seeing progress being made was very encouraging for trying to meet the goals on time but more importantly for the positive environmental impact it had.  Communication with my boss was always an issue due to his hectic schedule, and this led to some wasted time on projects when I was not clear on his directions and had to either track him down or risk working for hours on something I was doing the wrong way.
  • How did DU Career Services help you?
DU Career Services (especially John Haag) helped me immensely in preparing my resume, approaching my phone interview, and of course awarding me the summer internship award allowing me to pursue this unpaid internship in my field for the summer instead of having to find a paid job somewhere else. I have found Career Services to be one of DU’s best hidden secrets: very few students I know seem to regularly utilize it but there are truly some great opportunities available through the Career Center.
  • What advice do you have for other DU students seeking to find and learn the most from their internships?
I would encourage DU students to take an active approach in both the finding and the learning aspects of their internships. It is difficult and competitive to find an internship within your field while still a student, so taking advantage of the Career Center, your professors, or any contacts you may have is necessary to succeed.  Do not just sit back and cross your fingers, start with a list of 10-15 places you are interested in working and try to make at least one of them work.  Once you find an internship, again it is important to take initiative.  When you have a half an hour of down time, read some industry news, think about how effective the company’s website is designed or if it could be improved, or ask someone else around the office about their job to see if it is something you could see yourself doing someday.  How much you get out of an internship is directly related to how much you put into it in the first place.
  •  What is your future dream job? How did this internship help you get there?
At this point and time, I wouldn’t say I really have a “dream job.” I know I would like to work in something related to Environmental Science or Sustainability, but whether that will be in scientific research, activism, government, or sustainability in the business world is something I really don’t know yet.  This internship has given me the chance to work in the world of local government and its efforts in the sustainability arena.  Having already worked at nonprofits, I have now had the chance to compare two of the primary sectors of employment for sustainability-related work.  Learning about the similarities and differences between these sectors and being able to say that I have worked in both environments is invaluable to both my future job searches and my personal insight in the field.

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