An Internship with the Inspector General's Office

Beyond the Numbers

Date: 
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Posted by: 
The Office of External Relations

Over the summer, the OIG’s Office of External Relations—that’s us—welcomed a student from the University of Maryland—Baltimore County to complete an internship in our office. She wrote for this blog, and worked on many other projects for us.

As she neared the end of her internship, we asked her to sit down with us and talk about her experience, and we thought we would share that exchange with our readers.

Intern Profile:  Marissa Piegols

School:  University of Maryland—Baltimore County

Major(s):  English, History, and Media & Communication Studies

Expected Graduation Date:  May 2016

What was your position at OIG?

I served as a Social Media Intern for the OIG’s Office of External Relations. My position involved a lot of writing and design; I’ve also written blog posts and have designed a variety of products, including award certificates, flyers, website banners, and graphics for OIG’s Facebook page.

How did you get this internship?

I actually never directly applied to this internship. The office received my resume through UMBC, and then contacted me through e-mail. I was completely surprised when I was asked to interview for the position, but was also excited for the unexpected opportunity!

Given the extraordinary cost of higher education, what made you take an unpaid internship?

At first, the unpaid aspect of this internship did worry me. Although I have a regular paid job, I work during the rest of the week—gas, car insurance, textbooks, and tuition are incredibly expensive. However, the opportunity to gain real experience in the public relations field was too valuable to pass up. Not only was this internship relevant to my major, but it was also in a career field I was interested in! Actual field experience has probably taught me more than some of my classes have. I can honestly say that I have not regretted my decision for a single second, even when my tuition bill came in.

What did you enjoy the most about your internship?

I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like about my internship! If I had to decide, I think my absolute favorite aspect was all of the hands-on experience. I was able to use my writing and design skills to write blog posts and design graphics, but I was also able to shadow the senior leadership and even attend a meeting with the Inspector General.  

What has been the most challenging part of this internship?

I think the most challenging aspect of working for the Office of External Relations has been trying to navigate all of the different policies and complexities of the Social Security Administration. When I was writing the blog post, Is Social Security Disability the New Welfare?, I had to learn a lot about what disability was and about the types of programs SSA offers. Before this internship, all I knew about Social Security was that I had a Social Security card and needed to protect my number to prevent identity theft. I also knew Social Security had to do with retirement, but since I’ve barely entered the workforce, retirement is hardly something I’m worried about. Now, I’m not only becoming familiar with SSA’s various programs, but I’m also coming to understand more about retirement and even about things I should be discussing with my older relatives who do receive Social Security.

Why should young people care about the Social Security Administration?

I knew next to nothing about Social Security when I started my internship, but now that I’ve begun to learn more, I believe it is incredibly important that people my age educate themselves on what Social Security is and how it applies to them. The future is unpredictable, and it’s important to learn how to help yourself or your family. I think young people need to ask themselves, what would happen should I suddenly need disability benefits to support myself? Do I know what qualifies as disability? Am I equipped to help my parents manage their Social Security benefits as they get older? If the answer is no, I recommend checking out the SSA website (www.socialsecurity.gov), which is a great resource for someone wanting to learn more.

Would you recommend an SSA internship to other students?

Yes, definitely! On the surface, an unpaid internship at the Social Security Administration might sound boring to someone with aspirations of working at a company like Google or Apple. You might be surprised at how much SSA can offer you in terms of valuable experience and learning opportunities! Regardless of the office you work for, I strongly believe that with an open mind and a good attitude, any internship with SSA will be an experience you will never regret.

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The Office of External Relations thanks Marissa for sharing her time and talent with us for the summer. If you are a student at a Baltimore-area college or university (we can’t pay travel costs) and are interested in an internship with our office, please contact your career center. You may also send an email to oig.oer@ssa.gov, but please know that we may not be able to respond to all inquiries. Please don’t leave your personal information in the comment section below.