Peggy McKee – Reflections on the 2019 Maine Government Internship Program

“I am thrilled at how well-suited she was for the work we needed her to do, and her work ethic is exactly what we needed.” —Maine Government Summer Internship Program Supervisor

After a successful summer internship season—the biggest I’ve seen yet—it’s nice to take a breath and reflect on the 2019 program. We were able to place a record 63 interns from 30 different schools into full-time 12-week internships in Maine state, municipal, and county government.

When we first open the call for applications in February, there’s no telling what kind of year it will be. For 2019, we had applications from 265 students at 76 different schools.

During the student application process, requests also come in from supervisors with job descriptions for their ideal intern. We received inquiries from many of our repeat internship supervisors, offering tried and true positions that make annual contributions to their agencies. At the same time, we also received many brand new calls for interns from state agencies, and a fabulous expansion of opportunities in municipal government.

As we receive job descriptions from potential supervisors, they typically have projects in mind and a vision of the proficiencies a student would possess to get the job done. While the selection committee reviews student applications, it is fun to envision each position and figure out what skill sets and personalities would be the best fit. Through the weeks of the selection process, each member of the selection committee seems to have their favorite internships—the ones that make you think, “I’d love to do THAT for a summer!”

Image of Student at Video Shoot
Adam Poulin, MGSIP 2019 intern hard at work.

Students begin working in late May, full of expectation (and maybe a little uncertainty) on the parts of both interns and their supervisors. By mid-July, when we gather all the interns together for an educational day of programing in Augusta, you can feel the interns’ confidence. They are settled into their jobs and have their path charted for the remainder of the summer. This is when it is such fun to talk with the students and get their read on how they are being challenged and how they measure their professional contributions. I particularly like to hear them exchanging notes with one another—they often find they are working on similar issues from different angles, especially the municipal interns. At this point, they are firm in their skills and can more effectively learn from the people around them. They see how what they have learned in their college classes can be applied in real world settings, and are starting to get to know and appreciate the dedication of their coworkers. Many have had the opportunity to network with professionals in their field. Many are in a hurry to get the most from their remaining weeks on the job.

Images of Students Learning
Image of students learning about the Maine economy at the Maine Municipal Association.

Having read the job descriptions before their internships start, I love hearing each of the interns describe their job in their own words, talking about which parts they find exciting and which tedious, and what they are learning about themselves and about how government is done in Maine.

By the end of the summer, interns are able to look back on their whole job in terms of what they have learned and accomplished, what skills they have used. One intern this year said, “I got a lot of great experience marketing myself and learning how to interact with people in a professional setting,” and others also echoed this new found professionalism. They networked with people in fields they are interested in and made professional connections. While most are headed back to college for another year or two, a few of them turned their internships into  full-time jobs.

Interns and supervisors getting a tour of the Blaine House.

Interns also learned that, as in any job, there are challenges: commuting, working on a computer all day, knowing how to deal with slow days, and learning how to ask questions. Many of the interns said some of the best parts of their job was the people they worked with: “My favorite thing about the internship was the work environment. The office was eager, ready, and inviting from day one.”

They gained a greater appreciation of Maine government in its many forms: “I learned that there are a huge number of different types of positions doing wildly different, interesting things across state and local government.” Interns serving in towns, cities, and counties discovered that “Municipalities are very personal. Local government has the biggest opportunities to impact the lives of people and communities, and dedicated people in these towns can make life better for everyone.”

Supervisors usually look for interns with particular skills useful to their office or their summer project. Yet they often remark on the additional skills and energy the intern brings. An intern’s enthusiasm contributes to their colleagues’ experience as well. “I get so much in return,” says one supervisor, “the opportunity to work with the intern and benefit of the excellent work I receive.” Another supervisor remarks, “Our interns not only provided a boost to our productivity, their energy was refreshing and helped all of us recharge our batteries.”

Image of Interns Working
Kaitlyn MacNeil and Lars Gundersen, 2019 MGSIP interns hard at work for the Air Bureau.

By our end-of-the-summer reception, the supervisors’ pride in their intern’s accomplishments is evident. One state supervisor remarked, “She has been a strong addition to our office. We really hate to see her leave.”

Intern with Supervisor
Photo of interns and supervisors in the Blaine House garden.

Each year we ask both interns and supervisors what advice they would give to others in their shoes. The best advice from current interns to future interns? “Always be open to additional projects! Offer your services when you see an opportunity, and don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t done before. It’s impossible to fail; you’re here to learn.”

Sometimes supervisors are challenged to stay a step ahead of their interns. Here one also offers some advice: “encourage supervisors to have a list of projects for the interns because they often work much faster than we anticipated.”

Lastly, one of my favorites: “Work hard and keep a smile on your face.” That’s what we’ll be doing here at the MCSPC as we prepare for next year’s Maine Government Summer Internship Program.


Image of Peggy McKee
Peggy McKee, Director of the Maine Government Summer Internship Program