Written by Joseph Starrs, Director of U.S. Summer Programs and Institute on Political Journalism
The campaign signs are coming down, the constant political ads are no more, and those annoying ‘robo” calls will no longer interrupt dinner time. If you are a member of the “blue” team you’re probably still feeling flush with victory. Folks on the “red” team…well…there’s always next time. The campaign of 2012 is now history and Americans of every political stripe are looking forward to 2013 and wondering what the New Year will bring.
For college students, the coming year could be summed up in one word: Opportunity. This can refer specifically to the many new and exciting post election opportunities now available in Washington, DC.
Regardless of what political party comes out ahead, there’s always a great deal of movement in Washington after an election. There are new House and Senate offices to be staffed, new political appointments to be made, and new vacancies on Capitol Hill made available from staffers moving to more lucrative lobbying jobs on K Street.
All these changes mean that now is the perfect time for students looking for an internship or for full time work in DC.
Where to Start?
If you worked on a particular campaign and your candidate won then your first stop is obvious. If it’s a new candidate try and find out who has been appointed the Chief of Staff. That person usually does most of the hiring. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear from anyone right away, setting up shop first time on Capitol Hill takes some time. Start with a letter and email followed up by a phone call after a few days. If you didn’t work on a campaign you still have a decent chance of finding an internship for the summer. It will take persistence and more than a little patience. If you didn’t work on a campaign, start with Representative from your home district.
If you are hoping to work or intern for a political appointee at a federal agency, you’ll need to have patience while that person is confirmed by the Senate. Some political appointments don’t require Senate confirmation, so you’ll need to do your homework. Use any and all connections you have: family, friends, neighbors, professors, and former employers. Make sure your cover letters are tailored to the specific position and highlight why you would be a valuable part of the team.
If you’d like to work or intern with an organization or company that has a lobbying operation in Washington, DC you’ll need to know the following- most lobbying shops want people with Capitol Hill experience. Full-time, paid positions usually go to folks with a minimum of three to five years experience on the Hill. If you’re open to an internship then your chances are much better.
Your Best Bet
If you’re looking for a DC internship then The Fund for American Studies is the best all around option. Not only do we guarantee you an internship, but we also provide classes for academic credit at George Mason University, countless networking opportunities, housing 10 minutes from the White House, a mentor program, site briefings around the city and much more. Check us out at www.dcinternships.org and start an online application today.
A Winning Strategy
If the campaign of 2012 proved anything it’s this: Candidates that had a solid ground operation communicated their message effectively, and never let up for a minute ended up on the winning side. The same can be said for seizing opportunities here in DC. Cover all your bases, learn how to sell yourself and don’t stop until you land the job or internship you’ve always wanted.