How to land a dream foreign service internship

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Susan Burnham
Susan Burnham stands on the balcony of the George Marshall Center during her internship at the U.S. Embassy in France. (Susan Burnham)

Previous interns at embassies, consulates and other foreign service positions around the world provided tips about securing the best internships with the foreign service at a panel organized by BYU’s Foreign Service Student Organization.

  1. Get experience that will stand out.

Getting experience will not only help an applicant’s resume stand out, but it will also give students a better idea about what their interests are.

Stefan Bentschneider, who interned with the Diplomatic Security Service in Puerto Rico, advised students to seek out jobs in the field of their interests. He recommended searching USAJOBS.gov for opportunities and also seeking out jobs here at BYU.

Bentschneider worked as a security guard for the MTC and eventually in the Kennedy Center International Security Office, as well. These experiences helped him come in contact with people that helped him get to the next step in his career.

“Be the person that looks good coming out of school,” Bentschneider said. “Don’t come out and then start building your resume.”

2. Have professionals review applications and resumes.

Chelsey Johnson, who interned at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea, suggested going to career fairs and other events where students can talk one-on-one with foreign service officers about their applications. Johnson attended a fair last year where an officer looked over her application and suggested major improvements.

“If you can’t go to a career fair or something like that, contact the diplomat in residence,” Johnson said. “Meet him. Talk to him. Make that contact. That’s why he’s here.”

Susan Burnham, a former intern at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, also advised getting help from experts on campus.

“The career studio in the Wilkinson Center is amazing,” Burnham said. “They teach you how to articulate your worth.”

3. Make the personal statement memorable.

Miranda Hatch, a former U.S. Embassy intern in Panama, said she believes the 500-word personal essay is one of the most important parts of the application.

“It’s so important that you don’t be humble,” Hatch said. “Highlight the experiences you have.”

Her internship boss gave her advice about standing out as a BYU student specifically.

“He told me to make sure to highlight experience on your resume that shows that you have had diverse experiences — that you’ve worked with diverse people, whether it be on your mission or volunteer opportunities that you’ve had,” Hatch said.

4. Be smart about applying to countries.

At least 4 out of the 5 interns at the panel had applied to two embassies.

The panelists said applicants should think about the popularity of the countries they’re applying to and how many positions the country has.

Connor Kreutz, a former U.S. Consulate intern in Leipzig, Germany, said he was surprised about which country he heard back from.

“Germany gets a lot of applicants, so I was kind of concerned that I might not be the first choice in Germany,” Kreutz said. “I applied to Morocco because Morocco is obviously smaller and there’s a consulate and an embassy there. I never heard back from Morocco, though I did hear back from Germany.”

5. Get in contact with the right people.

The final tip was to start meeting professionals in a specific field of interest right now. This will help in getting expert tips and figuring out the path to take.

Bentschneider recommended using both BYU Bridge and the Take a Cougar to Lunch programs.

“Use the resources that you have here,” Bentschneider said. “Networking is good. It’s not going to get you a job, like it does in the private sector, but it’s really helped me figure out that this is where I want to be.”

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