10 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO PREPARE FOR A CONGRESSIONAL INTERNSHIP
Written by: Abigail Megginson, C2C Class of 2017
Getting an internship with a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. is a big deal. After the initial screams, smiles, and phone calls to parents, many students are left wondering how they can prepare months ahead of their flight to the capital. Now is the perfect time to begin building your knowledge about Congress so you’re more than prepared when you walk into the Capitol building your first day.
1. Pay attention to the News
Not knowing about current events is going to be a disadvantage. If you’re not already a news junkie, find a reliable publication or news organization where you can get the facts.
Also, think about where you get your news from. Are you a diehard Huffington Post subscriber or do you like to listen to the Ben Shapiro Show? Whatever kind of news you consume, find a way to keep updated. This way, you won’t be lost when the office you’re working with starts talking about legislation related to current events.
It’s also worthwhile to look at a different perspective. If you’re more of a Democrat, try reading some conservative news. And vice versa for Republicans. This will help you understand your friends across the aisle and foster bipartisan connections once you’re on the Hill. People will respect you for taking the time to understand their side of the argument.
2. Follow Hill Politics
It helps to know what’s happening on the Hill before you get there. Subscribe to emails from publications specifically for DC locals and Hill staffers. This includes The Hill, FamousDC, Politico's Roll Call, etc. You can sign up for email subscriptions or follow them on social media to have the news delivered to you.
The big difference between this and other news is its focus on the Capitol. You’ll get to know the names and faces of influential Members of Congress and what they stand for. All of this knowledge comes in handy when you’re on the Hill as an intern.
3. Revise your linkedin resume
LinkedIn is an amazing tool for networking. If you’re not already on LinkedIn, take the time to make an account and feature all of the incredible things you’re doing so Hill employers can see what you have to offer after your internship ends. Showcase any past internships or accomplishments and create a stellar summary. As you meet people during the summer, add them on LinkedIn so you can keep up with them and their accomplishments. They’ll also be able to keep up with yours.
4. Start saving a little money
With a program like C2C, you won’t have to worry about necessary expenses like housing and food. Our interns even have a clothing allowance! Still, relatives and friends are going to be expecting a couple souvenirs and you’ll want a memento to remember your summer, too! Stow away a few bucks to spend on some fun.
5. Read books (not textbooks!)
One of the best ways to prepare for a Hill internship is to expand your knowledge and dive deep into a subject with a good book. Find one that focuses on an election, policy issue, or historical character. Not only will you have something to talk about with fellow DC political nerds, you’ll be a bit more informed about how America’s political system operates.
6. Find a great podcast
Every college student should be listening to some kind of podcast on a regular basis. This serves as a great conversation piece that also expands your political knowledge. Find something that interests you that’s somewhat related to politics. This can be NPR’s Politics podcast or something more in-depth like “Vox’s In the Weeds.” There are a lot of fun podcasts. I promise you can find one that fits your interests! (P.S. - Lovett or Leave it is perfect for left-leaning students.)
7. Get on Twitter
And not just to follow C2C! Twitter is where a LOT of things happen in the political scene. One of the great things is how immediate it is. I once asked a journalist where she got her news, and she said Twitter! Twitter is often where news begins, and you can easily follow current events through hashtags. However, be careful about tweeting out your political opinions if your account isn’t private. Believe it or not, offices might not hire someone who shares views that are too controversial. Which leads to the next topic...
8. Stop writing about politics
You don’t know if your office has a strong position for or against a certain policy. It could hurt your chances of being accepted if they find you’ve written something too controversial. Writing an objective piece for your school paper can show your ability to see both sides of the story, but editorials and opinions might tarnish your reputation on the Hill. Best to shy away while you decide what you want to pursue after graduation.
9. Ask professors for advice
Your professors are always there for you. They’d be thrilled to hear you have an incredible internship and probably have plenty of advice to pass on to you. Set up an appointment and ask them questions about how to prepare. Their insight is priceless.
10. Enjoy the “now”
When I found out I was leaving to go to DC for a summer internship, I spent every day wishing I was on the airplane instead of studying for exams or sitting in class. Looking back, I wish I had appreciated where I was then and there. Take a late night trip to your favorite 24-hour food place with your best friends while you still can. Enjoy the moment and realize that in time, your internship will come. And soon enough it will all be over. It happens faster than you’d think!