Center for Strategic and International Studies

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Center for Strategic and International Studies Reviews

Updated August 14, 2014
Updated August 14, 2014
46 Reviews

3.9
46 Reviews
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Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
Center for Strategic and International Studies President John Hamre
John Hamre
37 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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  1.  

    Love CSIS, ambivalent about the internship

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    I'm giving CSIS 1/5 stars not because I don't love the organization, but because it has the capacity to do much, much better with its internship program. And an over-riding caveat: EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON YOUR DEPARTMENT/CHAIR, so talk to current/former interns at the department you'd be working for before taking the position.

    That being said, in general, do an internship at CSIS if:
    1. You have an interest in working hard to obtain access to a particular scholar in the organization
    2. You need a prestigious, good-looking internship to do during the day while you network for full-time work elsewhere in DC (it'll really help with that!)
    3. You want to experience what a top-notch, highly professional thinktank looks like
    4. You want one of the above things AND the opportunity to work with highly motivated, intellectual and diverse peers
    5. You are being hired for an internship position with an explicit research-based focus (in other words, you are being brought on to do *this* and *this* project, not just the run-of-the-mill CSIS internship).

    Cons

    Do not do an internship at CSIS if:
    1. You want a work-heavy internship that will push your skills to the max
    2. You want an easy opportunity to forge a personal relationship with your boss/employer
    3. You prefer a fast-paced environment.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Working at CSIS can be an absolute joy in many ways: awesome colleagues, great company-sponsored social outings, sweet office, networking opportunities, debate tournaments, professional clinics, and fascinating projects. That being said, for all of the bells and whistles that CSIS provides, I think that many (but not all, of course!) of its interns quickly become disappointed with the lack of "meat" in the internship. The support structure for the overall internship program is great, but the individual departments which actually hire the interns just don't use them well. There were too many of us, and not much work to do.

    Whether they consciously do this or not, my suspicion is that CSIS departments over-pull from their applicant pools in the interest of having "farm teams" or "reserve units" of interns on hand for moments of dire necessity. Even if they don't use the interns well, the applicant list is endless, so they continue to do it without considering how this tendency affects the interns they do hire. When the moments of "dire necessity" hit, they are exciting for interns and you get to do cool work. However, these times are few and far in-between. Interns in my department asked for more work numerous times, but there just wasn't anything for the scholars or their staff to hand out. We didn't necessarily blame the staff, but it is a situation which slowly leaves interns feeling demeaned or unnecessarily insignificant (because let's face it, you should expect to feel a little insignificant no matter the internship). This situation does not hold absolutely - there are many departments which work their interns to the bone, and they interns loved it. However, there were still way too many departments that did not.

    I don't regret going to CSIS and would do it again, yet I can't say I would recommend it absolutely. CSIS accepts excellent interns who stand out from their grad program/school or age cohort. But it doesn't do much to help them develop further once they've been hired. It's akin to finally reaching the Wizard of Oz, hoping he'll offer you some transformational wisdom, and then realizing that you've already gained all the wisdom he ever could have given you simply by reaching him in the first place. Of course, CSIS can package what skills you've already developed in a great brand-name, so it's a great way to network for jobs in DC. But beyond simply stamping interns with its name, I don't think it does much to train or improve them. Positions at companies, Capitol Hill, and smaller nonprofits will probably afford you more frequent opportunities to develop professionally and feel like you are really pulling your weight.

    I will say this though: CSIS does a great job of enthusing its interns with a sense of mission, and I will never forget the people I met there (in a good way). It is a big organization, and it's fun to be part of it, no matter the role. When we did have work, standards were high and it was exhilarating to do it - you know that it's good work done by good people, and that it will ultimately go towards something awesome. Dr. Hamre is also a superb, humble leader, and I would rate him very highly. He really seems to respect interns and show them kindness.

    Overall, If CSIS could send out a directive urging departments to cut the number of interns they hire, I think it'd do the overall program a great service. Letting more people have internships at CSIS is cool, but not if it is done on the (somewhat false) premise that they are going to be gainfully employed during their time there. Free lunches, clinics, etc. are fun and meaningful only when interns have real, actual work to do when they return to their desks afterwards. The way the program works now, I think it actually just turns off people from the thinktank experience or gives them a negative impression of the pace of activity at these places.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2. 1 person found this helpful  

    Great jumping off point, but no long term prospects

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies

    Pros

    Learn a lot
    Increase research abilities
    Good for networking

    Cons

    No long term prospects
    Depends what program you work for as to how much you'll enjoy it and learn

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Management is stretched thin and on the whole don't have time for junior staff

    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO
  3.  

    Great mission, poor management

    • Comp & Benefits
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Center for Strategic and International Studies full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    Brilliant research directors, fantastic network opportunities, and unparalleled exposure to the foreign affairs community.

    Cons

    Shortsighted management, lack of institutional support for projects and implementation, terrible salaries with little opportunity for advancement.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Provide a medium-term career track for mid level employees, take reviews seriously, and think about how to manage down as well as up.

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  5.  

    Internship

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern

    Pros

    Great way to learn about how think tanks work and non-profits work. Everyone is really nice and helpful and you get the opportunity to attend a lot of interesting events.

    Cons

    Good internship experience but they take a lot of interns to basically fill full-time employee positions and if they take on too many interns, there can be a lot of sitting and waiting for assignments from your supervisors.

    Approves of CEO
  6.  

    Range of projects, some boring and some more interesting

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Intern  in  Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Intern in Washington, DC

    I have been working at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    -Networking
    -High profile organization
    -Interesting projects to work on if you have an advanced degree

    If you meet the right people, this can be a fruitful opportunity. Graduate students will get more use out of the experience than undergrads.

    Cons

    -Work environment not very fun
    -May not be doing substantive work
    -No career opportunities after internship, unless you are lucky

    Daily tasks range from the mundane to the more exciting. Be prepared to take lots of notes and have them read by no one, spending most of your day controlling social media, and the rest of your day doing small jobs for staff. No pay unless you receive a stipend.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Make sure interns are not wasting their time.

    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7.  

    Intern--Didn't have too many responsibilities :(

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    Great international reputation, intelligent leadership, access to so many awesome DC conferences and events held right at the Center, cool experience to highlight on resume

    Cons

    I wanted to take on more responsibilities and projects than were given to me. During the summer DC can become kind-of a ghost town where real work isn't really prioritized. I felt a bit trapped by this and by the fact that there were several other younger interns in my department who got there first and were given more work than me. I just wish I could have taken away more from the experience than I did.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Utilize the interns better. Even if there isn't a current project to do, give them some research work or a small report to write in order to keep on top of current events.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8. 3 people found this helpful  

    A good place to work...for a while

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Research Associate  in  Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Research Associate in Washington, DC

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies

    Pros

    At CSIS, you are always dealing with very interesting and important issues. It is definitely nice getting paid to take an objective look at some of our nation's most important problems.

    Cons

    This is not a long-term career. Unless you have a Ph.D. and are a leader in your field, you will never be a scholar. Basically, you will never advance beyond an assistant position in which a significant portion of your time is filled with administrative work.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Research associates should receive more competitive pay. Also, the organization should better utilize associates' expertise, which is often pretty considerable.

    No opinion of CEO
  9.  

    Great organization overall, but YMMV depending on your program

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies full-time

    Pros

    Hard-working, fast-moving environment that attracts very qualified, capable people. CSIS produces top quality research, attracts amazing speakers, and has real influence in the policy community. Depending on your program, junior/mid-level staff can have a significant amount of research, writing and management responsibility.

    Cons

    Many programs have to work hard to make budget every year, so the financial stress level can be high depending on your program. The operations departments are relatively small, so sometimes it can be difficult to get answers to administrative questions and there is not as much opportunity for collaborative work with different program areas as there could be.

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO
  10.  

    Great place to work, especially for young people

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Research Assistant  in  Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Research Assistant in Washington, DC

    I worked at Center for Strategic and International Studies full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    Work directly with leading experts in your field
    Many opportunities to network and interact with colleagues at other think tanks and in government
    Fairly good young development programs
    Lots of room for advancement if you look for it
    Really smart coworkers

    Cons

    Mid-level salaries
    Lots of turnover with changing administrations

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11.  

    In a bottom up org, it depends on who you work for

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Research Assistant
    Current Employee - Research Assistant

    I have been working at Center for Strategic and International Studies full-time

    Pros

    Depending on who you work for...
    You have the opportunity to do a lot of substantive research, and interact with people at a very senior level. Your ability to influence the actual product definitely depends on who you work for, and what kind of boss they are. Similarly, content is driven by what you get funded for. Being part of the CSIS community means a lot of open doors, both inside the institution (everyone is pretty friendly and willing to sit down for a chat) and outside (given the institution's reputation).

    Cons

    Regardless of who you work for, all junior staff work incredibly hard for not a lot of money (pretty common in DC, and especially in non-profits). The actual environment, though, depends greatly on who you work for, since most of the programs are pretty self-sustaining. The funding model at CSIS means that there isn't really any metric of effectiveness/measure of success/basis of accountability other than raising your own money; this means that the quality of management, the work/life balance, and other things are greatly dependent on your boss and often unsupported.
    There is no training-- just a "buddy system"-- which means you learn most of it through trial and error. It is not a very collaborative work environment, particularly between programs, and can feel isolating.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    - institute a professional development program that junior staff actually feel like they can attend (i.e. don't feel pressure to be working rather than learning and growing)
    - require mandatory 360 degree reviews
    - create a more viable path for junior staff to grow in the organization

    No opinion of CEO

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