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5 in 5! with Mental Health America

December 2, 2010

5 Questions. 5 Minutes. 1 Employer.  This week, we have Jessica from Mental Health America.

Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association) is the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, they represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation – everyday and in times of crisis.  They accomplish their mission through advocacy, education and service.

1. What do you look for when you hire an intern?

Enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. The interns who get the most out of their positions come in looking to make a difference and get real hands-on experience.

Dependability and openness. We look for people who are going to come to work on a regular basis.  We also look for people who are willing to talk about things that are giving them a hard time and look for help.

Most of the skills to do the job can be taught, but those qualities can’t be.

2. How did you get started in the industry? How can I get started?

I sent my resume to every entry-level position at a non-profit within 30 miles.  I worked while I was in high school and college, participated in a variety of school groups, volunteered, and did internships.  In all of my extra-curricular activities, I made sure I did more than just the basics.  Whenever I had down time or finished a project, I asked my boss what else I could do to help.

You can get started by interning, volunteering, working,joining groups – anything to get involved.  The best entry-level resumes showcase people who are actively engaged.  When you land an entry-level job,exceed all expectations.  Do your assigned work to the best of your ability, and then volunteer to take on additional tasks and projects.  Volunteer to do inventory, make schedules, research projects, edit and draft memos, train new hires — any new project is a chance for you to learn another skill and get noticed.

3. What is the future of your industry?

The future of the non-profit industry is steady.  People in this country will continue to support charitable causes.  Many non-profits have adopted more business-like outlooks and are getting grants and contracts from the government or the private sector in addition to gifts from the public.

Health, especially mental health, will be a major area of public focus for years to come.  Many other professions in the health industry are projecting growth.

4. What is one main thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression? To make a negative impression?

An intern can make a favorable impression by coming to my office and asking me what else he or she can do.  Initiative goes a really long way.

An intern can make a negative impression by acting entitled when it comes to doing occasional grunt work.  I make sure that my interns have substantive work, but sometimes, interns have to file.  I have to file.  My boss has to file.  We all have to file.  Pouting about occasional filing is not good.

5. Give us a positive intern story? An intern horror story?

We had a great intern over the summer who was so dependable she arrived at our Annual Meeting site before our entire staff did.  She was so helpful on every project our Senior Vice President of Operations sang her praises in a staff meeting.

We’ve had a few interns over the year that just stopped showing up.  They didn’t call, they didn’t leave a message – they just stopped showing up.

They just stopped showing up?! Tsk, tsk. Thanks for all the great information, Jessica. Interested in interning with this nonprofit?? Check it out – they’re currently looking for a Development Intern, an Accounting Intern, and a Health Education & Policy Intern.

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