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The Hill Life: Keeping In Touch

Belle,

I am finishing my internship and I just wanted to ask you for wrap-up advice. I’d love to work at this office after I graduate–how do I hint to my supervisors and to others around the office that I’d love to be considered if there are any openings? I’ve been advised the best way is to keep in touch with them during the school year, but they are very busy people and I don’t want to be that annoying former intern shooting them too many emails. What is a professional way to keep in touch (ex: how often?) and to keep my name at the top of the list for when they do have an opening?

A.C.

Now that your internship is over, keeping in touch with your former office will be a bit of a challenge.  But there are ways to stay in contact without becoming a crazy stalker.

Social Networking.  Friend a few of your former co-workers on Facebook.  Choose the ones who you were closest to or who were close to your age.  It’s an easy way to keep your name and face relevant to the people who you used to see everyday.  

I would also like the Member’s official and political Facebook pages (assuming he/she has one).  And this would be a good time to create a LinkedIn page.  You might not want to friend the Chief of Staff, but adding him/her on a strictly professional site is well within bounds.

Also, if you are Facebook friends with your former colleagues, be wary of what you add to your page.  Don’t let others tag you in photos without permission and create a limited page for just work contacts. Unless, of course, you want them to know what you did on Spring Break.

E-Mail.  Make sure you get contact information for everyone in the office.  For the people you weren’t especially close to, official work e-mail addresses are fine.  But I’d also make sure to get the personal e-mails of one or two people who you knew a bit better, usually the Staff Assistant or the Intern Coordinator.  You never know who might choose to move on to a new job and leave you contact-less.

Important Events.  It’s always good to check in around an important event.  Did the former Boss get a new committee?  Pass a really important bill?  Win an election?  These are good times to drop someone a line just to check in because it shows that you’re still in the loop and still interested in the work being done.

And it is especially important that you check in as elections get closer.  Why?  Because that is when people switch offices, switch jobs and get promoted.  That means that their old jobs become available.  

Volunteer.  Do you live or go to school in your old Boss’s district?  Wait a couple of months and then write to ask who you should contact about volunteering on the campaign.  The office can’t do much for you due to Ethics rules, but they can point you in the right direction. 

If you want to stay on the policy side, write and ask if there might be an internship available in his district office.  It won’t be as glamorous as working in DC (glamour, ha!), but it will keep you in the loop.  And who knows, maybe it will lead to a paid gig down the road.

Drop a Line.  As a former intern coordinator, I can tell you that I wouldn’t have thought it weird if I heard from an intern three or four times during the school year.  A Facebook message here, an e-mail there, and when you get closer to graduation, something a bit more personal like a phone call.

And if we’re heading in to March or early-April, don’t be afraid to send an updated resume and a request that they keep you in mind for openings in the office or if they hear of something.  Just make sure that the resume isn’t the only contact you have with them since you left.  There are enough fair-weather friends in politics who always need favors, nobody wants another one.

So what say you Hill Staffers, what’s the best way to keep in touch with the offices where you work?  How does a past intern stay in contact without eliciting a restraining order?

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  1. Ashley says:

    I was an intern last summer and followed this guidelines… as soon as a I graduated from college (4 months after my internship ended) I had a job!

    August 24, 2011/Reply
  2. Maggie says:

    I had an intern who came to DC twice the summer between his internship and graduating. He said both times his school had paid for it, because he was doing “research” for his thesis, but it was a great time for him to meet up with old staff, and set up informational interviews. I know this probably isn't possible for everyone, but making a trip out here to see faces is always good I think.

    August 24, 2011/Reply
  3. Lara says:

    I'm sure this goes without saying, but the most important step in all of this is to be a good intern in the first place. I had a terrible intern (always late, blatantly did not do the assigned work, got defensive when given constructive comments) who was big on following up and networking, and it was just futile because it was blatantly obvious that we would not be hiring him anytime soon. Having a humble, professional attitude and not acting entitled and rude will go a long way! Hill staffers spend so much time together – so behaving in a manner that shows you fit in with the group will go a long way!

    August 24, 2011/Reply
  4. Lauren says:

    “…and a request that they keep you in mind for openings in the office or if they hear of something” is the best advice. Be up front about your desire to return to the office/Hill. It's not assumed or obvious. If people know of your desire to return, and you did a good job in the office, it will increase your chances.

    August 25, 2011/Reply