Capitol Hill Intern, Washington D.C.
I interviewed for an internship in my own congressman’s office last summer. Despite the stuttering, sweating and choking out my words, I somehow did well enough to get the internship with Congressman Pat Meehan’s office on Capitol Hill. I had no idea what it would entail, but I assumed it’d be a big boy job considering a jacket and tie were required. When discussing being an intern for a congressman, I received two different reactions. While talking to someone from D.C., they were very nonchalant about it. Interning on the Hill when you go to school in D.C. is equivalent to waiting tables. Everyone does it at least once; it’s a coming-of-age story. On the other hand, my parents were shocked. They didn’t even know I was doing well in school, let alone getting a high profile internship.
WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE
Being able to see and contribute to the United States government’s work feels captivating. But not many interns are doing the dirty work or the heavy lifting when it comes to law making. Instead, many interns are tasked with briefings, constituent correspondence and running documents all throughout the House and Senate. “Being surrounded by young, passionate and intelligent people was the most rewarding part. Every congressional and senate office has interns, so you see a lot of 20-somethings in work apparel around the Hill. It’s a powerful image and reminder that we’re the next wave of people in charge,” recent Hill intern Gabi Gaujean stated.
These unpaid employees are also in charge of answering the phones. Many times calls are the ordinary constituent calling to complain about this or that. But, and this is a true story, I had someone call and tell me it was my responsibility to, “kill the Jews because they bombed Arizona.” No joke. That actually happened. She and I must’ve read different textbooks in school.
COOL STUFF YOU GET TO DO
For history and political nerds, just roaming the halls and embracing the importance and power of the building makes all the hard work pay off. You can walk through the breathtaking Capitol and just imagine the extraordinary decisions that extraordinary people made there. Going through those halls by yourself or while leading a tour is a learning experience. Leading a group around the Capitol offers a couple perks because you get a break from the office and you can meet people from all over the country. Another fun part of being on the Hill is going to briefings. There are briefings about every topic someone can imagine, and they happen daily. Get the chance to hear experts talk about problems throughout the world.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
Most people know how a bill becomes a law, but interns have the unique opportunity to see the nitty gritty aspects of that process. Interns might even have the opportunity to contribute to a bill. Between answering constituent phone calls and giving tours around the Capitol, interns’ personal and communication skills improve dramatically. Government officials are in the people pleasing business. If the people aren’t satisfied, they won’t vote for that incumbent official. “Working on Capitol Hill has been a profound experience for me to really get a better understanding of how U.S. politics work at the larger scale. It was really fascinating to be able to attend different congressional hearings and give tours of the U.S. capitol tours,” former Congressional intern Daniel Way said.” I [managed] to learn a lot about how laws are made in the United States and the process that they go through, as well as the role that our politicians play in help making them.”
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR APPLICATION
According to Roll Call, the best place to start applying is your home state. Whether it’s applying for senatorial or congressional internships, offices usually prefer to hire people from the congressman or woman’s area. When applying to internships, make sure you’re aware of the congressman or woman’s political affiliation. If your views line up, the job becomes easier. If both views don’t, then the line between professional and personal becomes even clearer. I knowingly chose to intern for a republican candidate while my views did not exactly alin with his.
SKILLS THAT IMPRESS THEM
One of the most important things to include in a cover letter or in an interview is an intrinsic love for politics. If you get bored during political discussions then this isn’t the place for you. Other essential skills include excellent verbal communication. I heard “we’re in the customer service industry” hundreds of times while interning. Being able to respectfully and politely talk to constituents is of the utmost importance.
Interning on the Hill is a great way to get your foot in the door if you hope to one day work within the government. More short-term benefits include the excitement that comes with preparing and helping a Congressman or woman fulfill their duty to the constituents.
Each Congressman or woman’s office has different expectations for their interns but most require two full days a week during the school year. Their internships are usually divided into fall semester, spring semester and summer. To apply, go to specific congress members’ websites and follow instructions from there.
Ready to start your career journey by nailing that summer internship? Check out four steps that make it easy here.