By Dyan Urias
For those interested in interning in either the House of Representatives or Senate in Washington, D.C., here is a list of helpful tips I learned during my time as a congressional intern.
1. Not all opportunities are equal.
Having an internship in the Senate is different than interning at the House, and interning within the Senate or House is going to look different from office to office. Some offices let their interns attend hearings, briefings, or events around Capitol Hill. My office would let me attend as many events as I wanted during the week as long as there was at least one intern managing the front desk. In contrast, other offices were stricter about the number of events their interns could attend in a day or during the week. Depending on the needs of the office, your work schedule might look different.
Always research the office you are interested in working for. Make sure to use networking tools like LinkedIn to reach out to people that have interned at the office or department you are interested in. Ask about the office culture, basic intern responsibilities, what types of opportunities they offer, and what kinds of projects they have gotten to work on.
2. Administrative tasks are a fundamental part of your job.
A big part of your responsibilities may be answering the phone and mail on a daily basis, sorting department letters, and running errands between offices. These tasks help the office run smoothly and lighten staff’s workload. Aim to impress in all of the tasks you are assigned to as this will help you build relationships with staff.
3. Your internship is what you make of it!
Staff can be very helpful, but you have to realize that they won’t have time to keep track of whether you have something to work on or not. Use the fact that staff members are always busy to your advantage. Offer to take up some of their workload.This will help you stand out in the long run. The next time staff attends a committee meeting, they are more likely to invite you over other interns. One other way to help you stand out is to keep track of the issues your congressperson or senator is involved in. For example, if they are involved in environmental initiatives, then offer to attend and write a memo about an upcoming environmental briefing.
4. Exploring DC for free.
While living in DC is in fact expensive, entertainment is largely free and available. There are 19 free Smithsonian museums, 12 of which can be located at the National Mall. Aside from the Smithsonian museums, there are 11 different monuments to go explore. I recommend you visit them during the day and at night as they provide very different aesthetic feelings. Also, there are a lot fewer tourists at night. Lastly, interns get to sit on the steps of the Capitol building for the Fourth of July firework display!
In conclusion, many offices will give you the opportunity to attend briefings, meetings, and social mixers. My advice for you is to attend the events that align with your passions and interests. Take these events as an opportunity to network! Most staff were interns at some point, and thanks to the connections they built on the Hill, they were able to come back for full-time employment. Almost three years after my internship, I still get emails from my supervisor letting me know about job openings in the House of Representatives for when I graduate.