George Mason University

News at Mason

She turned her internship into a full-time job

December 17, 2019   /   by Damian Cristodero

Graduating senior Erika Young left a favorable impression during an internship at Destination DC that resulted in a full-time job. Photo donated.

Erika Young said she knew she wanted to work full-time at Destination DC almost immediately after showing up for her internship.

The George Mason University senior was tickled when she saw a welcome message to her on a screen in the office. She loved the collegial vibe in which everyone seemed committed to working together.

So Young, a tourism and events management major who will graduate this week, made herself indispensable at the organization that markets Washington, D.C., as a convention, tourism and special events destination.

The result was a paid position as a visitor services specialist after her internship ended, and a full-time job that begins Jan. 2 as the administrative assistant to the director of tourism sales and the vice president of tourism, sports and visitor services.

“I can’t believe,” Young said, “how everything fell into place.”

A big part of that was Young’s determination and belief in herself.

Just as she was to begin her internship in February, Young walked away from her full-time job as a regional communications supervisor for a retail company that wanted to relocate her to Seattle. Young, 30, who has an associate’s degree from Northern Virginia Community College and a 1-year-old son, Cameron, with her fiancé, decided to continue pursuing her education.

“I had to decide, am I going to finish the degree and get a job in my field, my passion, or am I going to take another job that just pays the bills?” Young said.

As it turned out, her program’s required internship provided the foot in the door she needed to help secure her future.

“I really feel like coming to Mason was the right choice for me because it put me in a position to get where I am,” Young said.

Young, who grew up in Fairfax and lives in Temple Hills, Maryland, is the third Mason intern Destination DC has hired recently, said Theresa Belpulsi, vice president of tourism, sports and visitor services.

Belpulsi praised Mason’s tourism and events management program and how well-prepared its students are.

“Nothing we do seems to scare them,” she said.

About Young, she was even more effusive, calling her a “superstar.”

“She is just spot-on in everything,” Belpulsi said. “She’s organized, tenacious, a go-getter. She distinguished herself not only in her department, but the whole organization.”

Young had some previous marketing experience because of a work practicum with the Washington Redskins. She credited Tina Jones, the fieldwork experience coordinator for Mason’s tourism and events management program, for pushing her to look for an internship that would provide a broader experience.

But creating a job? That was all Erika Young.

“I think that during my internship, I treated it like a long-term job interview,” Young said and added, “Investing in yourself is important. If I believe I can do it, I’m going to do it. Nothing is going to stop me.”