The Hill Life: Expressing an Interest

Dec 5, 2012

Dear Belle,

I’m starting an internship with a committee in January and I’m very interested in staying on the Hill after I graduate (in May), ideally with that same committee or a similar placement. I’d like to make it clear that I’m actively job searching and interested in staying on the Hill from the beginning of my internship so staff keep me in mind, however I don’t want to come off as pushy, self-centered or any other negative adjective. Do have any advice as to how to position myself well for any openings without putting off my supervisors?

Lauren

Having been in this exact situation myself some years ago, let me say this: The topic of your future career plans will come up naturally while talking to your office colleagues.  So there’s no need to bring it up directly, unless it does not come up during the first month.  Though it probably will.

As for how to discuss it without seeming pushy or overeager, I think there are two tactics to employ.

First, ask the staffers in the office how they got to where they are.  Let them know that you’re interested in staying on the Hill, and they’ll be more than happy to tell you the story of their rise to power as the greatest legislative assistant in all the land (*wink*).  This is a great way to learn how the system works, but also to learn more about the established networks that could help you find work later.

Second, ask for work.  After you get your sea legs (that’ll take a month or so), ask your supervisors for other tasks.  Tell the LCs that you’d like to learn more about the process of writing letters, and ask if they have one you could work on.  Ask your committee bosses if there is some research you could do to learn more about an issue or the work of the committee. 

Let your supervisors know that you’re trying to build a portfolio of work and learn the ropes, and most will be happy to toss a little bit of work your way as long as you don’t expect them to hold your hand while you do it.

Also, if you want to ask for work, always make sure that all your other tasks are complete first. No work is beneath you when you’re coming up, remember that.  So if the mail needs sorting or an errand needs to be run, make sure those tasks don’t fall by the wayside for more interesting work.

Staffers assume that most interns are looking to stay on the Hill, or are at least thinking about staying on the Hill, so you don’t need to be overly aggressive.  Just work hard, hustle and spend some time getting to know the people around you.  Being collegial with the staff should present you with multiple opportunities to make your desire to work in the marble halls known.

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  1. cheers says:

    Good luck! Have a great time with it.

    Committee internships are an awesome launch pad. All Belle's advice is right on.

    Off hand….Call up relevant staffers in your committee's personal offices to get coffee. Go ahead and call right through the whole list if you want over the course of the spring.

    The staff will probably encourage you totake your little notebook go to events outside the office periodically for your own education. Briefings and brown-bag lunches that are put on by external groups are often great both in terms of content and opportunities to meet other staffers in your field, so those would be good to jump on. Going in person to other committee's hearings, often less helpful. You can stream those from your desk if you're interested in something.

    Be nice to your fellow interns and get to know them too. You'll be working with some for a long time.

  2. MM says:

    I just want to add that when approaching staff for advice, networking, etc., be cognizant of how busy they are – most will be happy to help you if you ask when they're not swamped. Ask on days when Congress isn't in session, when the committee isn't holding a hearing or a mark-up, or an a slower Friday afternoon. You'll get much better results asking then, than on a day when the staffer has been running around after the boss all morning – and you'll look like you're paying attention to what's going on around you, as well.

  3. Jay says:

    Co-workers & supervisors will ask you what your future plans are or career goals & you can state, “To stay on the Hill (Committee, etc.) after my internship.” Being proactive gets you noticed. Also, be nice to the secretarial staff & strike up brief conversations with them from time to time. Compliment them (and anyone else) when they do a great job. They are the gatekeepers & they are surrounded by the higher ups information (confidential, private, etc.), plans & thoughts. If you are friendly with the support staff, someone might give you information on a opening or put in a good word with their boss about you. I knew bosses who valued their secretaries input & considered it when making a decision. Good luck.

  4. Lauren says:

    Thank you so much, Belle (and all of the commenters)! Coming into this as someone who doesn't know anyone with Hill experience it's great to be able to get a sounding board for this kind of stuff.

  5. As a student trying to navigate the internship world, this is awesome advice. When I'm interning, I always try to make sure I'm working twice as hard as I would for myself.

    Thanks for this!

    Alex

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