#OpenMic: Former Obama White House Intern

Earlier this week, we kicked off our first-ever Handshake #OpenMic session on FacebookLive. Our goal is to connect recent grads with the Handshake community to help answer any and all questions about the job search. Everything from what to wear for an interview to how to find your mentor — we hope to make the search for a job or internships a bit easier.

First up on #OpenMic was Christopher Nickelson, a 2016 University of Texas grad and former White House intern for First Lady Michelle Obama. Nowadays, Christopher has continued his advocacy work with the team at Global Citizen in New York City.

Highlights from #OpenMic with Christopher:

Q: What tips do you have for students interested in career in politics or government?

Christopher: Start by volunteering! You can volunteer on a local campaign in your hometown or sign up to volunteer for events on campus. When I was a student at UT Austin, I helped register students to vote on campus registering volunteered on Wendy Davis’ campaign for Texas Governor. This led me to explore other roles in politics and advocacy that I didn’t know existed. You can work in everything from communications to fundraising to grassroots organizing — there are endless opportunities for students looking to get started in politics.

Q: What was the process like to land an internship at the White House?

Christopher: Well, it actually started the year prior when I applied and did not get selected for the White House Internship Program. That rejection helped me take a step back and build my resume for the following year. I didn’t have any connections in D.C. so it was all a bit overwhelming at first — I felt like I didn’t have a leg up. The White House requires your resume, personal statements, recommendations, plus a draft memo on a policy issue you are passionate about. I wasn’t 100% sure where to start, but I did it with a ‘Christopher’ flourish — made a Seal of Christopher Nickelson at the top of my memo and made sure my creativity came across in my application. I figured if I caught their eye by standing out, they would be searching for someone with my personality.

Q: What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Christopher: The best advice I received was from President Obama. He said “Don’t think about what you want to be, think about what you want to do.” If you dissect that a bit, it’s not about wanting to work in marketing or become an engineer, it makes you think more about the goal of your work, what you want your outcome to be each day. It’s something that has really stuck with me since my White House internship and it is advice I have passed on to friends who are beginning to navigate their careers.

Watch #OpenMic with Christopher in full below. Have any additional questions? Feel free to reach out to Christopher HERE.

Handshake is the college career network helping all students build a meaningful career - no matter where they go to school or who they know. joinhandshake.com

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