Hi there sweet readers! Before summer comes to an end, Ishani and I thought we’d share with you some of the intern stories of the amazing young women we’ve come to know this past year. (Talk about young women leaders!) We’ve lined up some intern spotlights by young women our age who are doing everything from interning on Capitol Hill to exploring Africa to coding at Microsoft. Our hope is that these guest blog spots will be an honest and fresh look at the intern positions young women all over the country are taking on. We hope you’ll learn a little something about what it’s really like to intern, how the application process actually works, and all the little details and challenges that come along with being that ‘new intern’ in the office. So check back here every Friday to meet someone new :)
And without further ado, let me introduce you to our first of two intern spotlights today: Miss Anna Menzel. Anna was a U.S. Senate intern in Washington, D.C. this summer and what follows is her experience in her own words… Enjoy! – I&I
Cloak Room, Cupcakes, and Constituents
by: Anna Menzel
What do the cloak room, cupcakes and constituents all have in common? Besides alliteration they have been part of my fantastic experience as an intern in DC this summer. I am currently one of hundreds of interns in the senate this summer, not to mention the thousands that work off the hill. DC is THE place to be as a college student or young professional; the amount of opportunities is astounding and rivals New York or Boston.
I initially had no clue what I wanted to do for the summer, and applied for this internship because I had always admired my senator as a role model and someone I aspired to be like. I submitted the application, which consisted of a writing sample, essay, application and recommendation letters. After, I received an interview from the intern coordinator and was thrilled when I found out I was accepted as an intern for the summer. My suggestion for the application process is finding a connection to yourself and the person/organization you are applying for whether that be you are from the same area, know someone in an office, are interested in a policy area that they are on a committee for, etc.
As an unpaid intern it was difficult to find an affordable place to rent, and money to pay for the expenses for the summer. The financial burden is important to consider when deciding whether to intern in DC, many internships are unpaid but you can find some that are paid. Another option is to look into school funding or community sponsors, or perhaps a part time job while you are out here depending on your work schedule.
The best part of my job is the people, hands down. I have loved getting to know my fellow interns and the staff in the office. They have all been so welcoming and great to work with. As interns we get lunch together every day and usually hang out on the weekends and outside of work quite frequently. It’s important to realize that every office operates in a different way; jobs will remain relatively consistent but the environment and access to your representative or senator will vary. The average day consists of reading the news, answering phones, sorting mail, running errands, doing flag runs, give tours, attending hearings or briefings, writing memos, and doing research for LA’s. Some days will be slower than others and days when the health care ruling comes out will be much busier.
Don’t kid yourself to think you are going to walk in the office on the first day and get to write a policy proposal for the senator; you definitely have to put in your time and build trust. Don’t underestimate the position though– you will be doing some really cool tasks by the end of your summer. Do take advantage of all learning opportunities and any task no matter how small or insignificant. Do dress professionally, act professionally, work hard and I have no doubts that you will enjoy your internship. Plus if you ever want to work on the hill in the future, experience is huge, knowing the difference between the coatroom (in the CVC) and the cloakroom (in the capitol, where you drop off bills, amendments, etc.), or where the stationary store is are necessary hill survival skills.
And if you want some pointers of what not to do check out this blog: http://dcinterns.blogspot.com/.
Advice: When contacting an office the best days are Monday and Friday while in session because these tend to be the slower days; otherwise contacting during recess is great too because everyone has more time. Take every opportunity you can to attend events, get coffee, meet people, and learn as much as possible.
P.s. Be back soon with an intern spotlight from Miss Dilia Zwart who interned at the European Parliament in Brussels this summer!