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What some interns are saying about their internships in Washington D.C Metro Area. (The good and the bad)
February 2016 –
Department of Justice: “Seemed very unfair to women in the workplace”
Nation Archives: “This is more of a job than a internship, but you had a lot of time to do your homework or spend time talking to other workers, but it is great pay and easy work.”
AARP: “There were a lot of tasks that were very simple and very repetitive. Typing names and making copies were a big part of my job description. I feel as like I didn’t build many skills there.”
Office of Congressmember Kevin Yoder: “The staff in Yoder’s office was incredibly friendly. However, I feel as though the office was a little understaffed on interns. I was scheduled nearly every day of the week, and had to cut back a bit to maintain my academic curriculum. Besides that, the other interns in general were just kind of lazy and preoccupied. It definitely appeared as though there was a last minute shuffle to find able bodies. But the work there was pretty fun. Answering phone calls, emails, letters… That’s the bulk of what you’ll be doing. Sometimes the LA assigns form letters for you to draft. About once a week, Kansas constituents fly out for a DC trip & expect a tour- it definitely cuts up your day. As for Yoder? I saw him maybe 5 times and talked to him twice… But the other staffers are totally cool, and you’ll really enjoy their company (and snacks).”
Pricewaterhousecoopers: “To sum it all up, the internship experience I had while interning at PWC in DC was freaking amazing. They provided a competitive pay, real world experience, and motivating people to help me.”
American Foreign Service Association: “Everything about the internship was great but my boss wasn’t proactive enough which led me to not being enthusiastic enough about the internship and taking enough advantage of the great connections and outreach activities they had.”
Department of Education: “The office I worked for really worked with me in terms of making my internship experience the most meaningful it can. The projects assigned to me was really hands on. It was good that I did more than office work like other internships.”
Hudson Institute: “The Hudson Institute has provided me one of the best internships I ever had. I gained valuable skills through the assignments given to me. I worked on analyzing international regulations, laws, US interests with other countries, and issues affecting other countries besides the US.”
Congressmember Mike Honda: “Overall great experience, except for the harassment by a staff member who is no longer with the office.”
Cato Institute: “Beautiful building, very modern. My scholars were great as were the student program coordinators”
Climbing the Hill - Former Congressional Intern
November 2015 –
First off, congratulations. You’ve landed an internship on Capitol Hill and should be proud of your accomplishments thus far. Few young people have the opportunity to intern for the government, let alone Congress.
No doubt, you are excited and probably a bit nervous about your internship. Here are a few tips before you start. Figuring out the hierarchical structure of Congressional offices is a challenge for Hill veterans. Here are some tips to help you succeed.
Most likely, you lack considerable workplace experience (hence you’re an intern). As such, you probably will want to assimilate into your office as much as possible. Let’s be honest, you don’t know much, even if you think you do. Therefore, assimilating to your workplace environment is crucial. At the very least, this means following the office’s dress code and arriving on time.
Give yourself a bit more time in the morning than you think you will need. DC’s metro and buses are notorious for their delays, and the security lines into the office buildings are sometimes longer than usual.
You should also make sure to maintain good hygiene. You may not notice the smell of last night’s beer on your breath, but your coworkers surely will. After all, Hill offices are tiny and you don’t want to be remembered as the hungover intern in your recommendations.
Listen more than you speak, but ask questions
This one should be a no-brainer. As an intern, you may be expected to stay in the background. During your first week, you should get a sense of your office’s culture and model your behavior accordingly.
Hill offices vary widely in their attitudes toward work. Some congressional offices are formal and strictly business, while others are more laid-back.
If you find yourself in a more casual office, it might be appropriate to join in the office banter. However, you should generally keep your political beliefs to yourself. Frankly, few people care what the intern thinks. This proves especially true when talking to constituents.
Sometimes it may be tempting to correct a constituent when they are wrong on an issue. The 24-hour news cycle often means that constituents receive sensationalized clips about what’s going on in Congress. You’ll likely have constituents call in and reference a news anchor’s opinion when expressing their concerns. Others are simply misinformed. Your job is to listen to their concerns and pass along their message to the boss.
You may think that you are being helpful when you correct a constituent on an issue. However, you may come across as condescending and the last thing you want to do is upset a voter. Remember, the constituent probably knows how they feel about the issue if they are calling in. You are unlikely to change their mind.
Read to Succeed
You should remain up to date on current events while interning on the Hill. Download a couple of news apps and allow push notifications for any breaking news. You’ll likely find it easier to stay up to date when you are surrounded by news junkies.
Roll Call and The Hill are both excellent sources for Capitol Hill and political news.
The glamour of interning on the Hill will likely fade much sooner than your internship ends. Maybe your internship is not like how you imagined it would be. Or maybe you are sick of answering phones about Obamacare. Whatever may get you down during your internship, it is paramount that you stay positive. A bad attitude won’t get you anywhere with your coworkers and will make your internship miserable. Do everything to the best of your ability. If you are folding letters into envelopes, they better be perfect.