Six Tips for Turning Your Hill Internship Into A Full-Time Job
Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to land a job on Capitol Hill without even trying and here you are on your fourth unpaid internship? What should you do? First of all, before you beat yourself up (and please don’t do that!) know that there’s some luck involved. And some people are just plain lucky. But you need to know how to make your own luck. So what do you do?
1. Show Up on Time. Some things are just basic: show up and look like you want to be there.
2. Dress for the Job You Want. It does sound corny and old-fashioned, but if you want a paid job then decent-looking clothes are a must.
3. Now is No Time to Be Shy. Without being annoying or aggressive, do take the time to let everyone—even the people at the grocery store/coffee shop—know that you’re looking. Even if you’re shy, you need to act like you’re not. True story: I was working in the Statehouse of Ohio after graduating from college and I told everyone in the world that I wanted to work on Capitol Hill (even though I had never been to DC nor knew what Hill staffers actually did). A lady from the State Office of Worker’s Compensation landed my Hill job for me.
4. Ask for As Many Meetings as You Can. Ok, I HATE the word “networking” so let’s just drop that. (It makes it sound like you are using people…please don’t do that.) But do set up as many meetings with Hill staffers as you can. Ask folks how they landed their jobs and what advice they may have for you. Ask them to keep you “in the loop” if they hear of anything that might suit you. How do you find the names and emails of staffers to meet? Research, research, research! At George Washington University, our students are fortunate to have access to directories that list Capitol Hill contacts. If you’re not lucky enough to be at GW or at a school that has similar directories, don’t fret too much. You do need to be on LinkedIn. At GW’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), we expect students/alums to have at least 500 connections. If you don’t, now is the time to get busy.
5. Please, Please, Please Remember to Say “Thank You.” Send an email to everyone you meet to thank them and really mean it (even if you thought your meeting was a waste of time). Generally, I’m a HUGE fan of a written snail mail “thank you,” but in the case of Capitol Hill and the mail “needing to be scrubbed,” don’t worry about the snail mail thank you for the Hill.
6. It’s Better to Staff a Terrible Office than Intern in a Great Office. Don’t think you’re going to start with the cushiest of Hill jobs. My advice is always to get your foot in the door and take it from there. Hill veterans respect people who can stick it out with the notorious “baddies to work for” on Capitol Hill.
7. Good luck!