This Is How You Survive Being An Intern On The Hill

Flickr / Elliott P.
Flickr / Elliott P.

So you’re an intern. You think you’re hot stuff back home because you get to work in the nation’s capital with actual lawmakers. And you are hot stuff. Sort of.

The best thing about being an intern is that you’re a newbie. So if you make a mistake no one really cares because you’re so low on the totem pole, mistakes are slightly more forgivable.

On the other hand, you may not even be on the totem pole altogether because you are just an intern…I’ve heard it all.

If you’re an intern, you’re still a vital part of the office even if you aren’t getting paid – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

As an intern for about 7 months, I picked up what worked/did not work as an intern:

Dress the part

  • Interns don’t have to dress as well as superior staffers because you may not have the money to buy all the business attire you wish, but keep in mind you’re a representative of the office at all times.
  • Buy/borrow an iron! Iron your shirts and pants. It makes a difference.
  • Girls – no cleavage, no miniskirts, no super-tight shirts. If you think it’s inappropriate, it probably is. If you think you can’t help it because God endowed you well, you CAN help it as far as cleavage is concerned. Look at Joan from Mad Men for tips because I love her.
  • Guys – SLACKS. Always slacks. Don’t think wearing dark jeans will do the part because it won’t. The easiest thing to improve your look is to shine your shoes. If nothing else, shine your shoes.
  • Smile through the sucky parts
  • I KNOW. It sucks being an intern. The excitement of going to work on Capitol Hill wears off after a few months and you’ll know if you do
  • Be a YES person! Say yes to every request and be readily available for literally anything. Having to give two tours in a day? Even if you are dying on the inside, you’re putting a smile on your face because you don’t want to seem ungrateful for your job. You’re easily replaceable.

Eagerness trumps competition

  • I loved the other interns I worked with and we had a good relationship going. In the likely chance that you dislike the other intern and/or are competing with him/her, it’s best to put your best foot forward and know that you DO have to be a little bit more aggressive in quest to stay on as a Staff Assistant or LC. BUT don’t be stepping on anyone’s toes! Don’t be that annoying intern who thinks he or she is the boss. You are not the boss. But if you are a hard worker, this will be duly noted.

On time is five minutes late.

  • The intern that is there early will impress. Trust me on this one.

What happens in the office stays in the office

  • As an intern, you’ll hear a lot of things you cannot repeat because it’s in bad taste if you do. Even if it’s as small as a staffer not wanting to go to a certain reception because of so-and-so.

Be careful what you say when you pick up the phone.

  • Every office has a protocol. If you’re unsure as to what to say, talk to one of your superiors in the office. You never know if someone is a reporter or something and you accidentally say something you shouldn’t.

Go to informational interviews if you plan on staying on the Hill.

  • These are basically meetings to ask fellow staffers how/why/where they got started. There are so many great people working on the Hill willing to offer you helpful advice.

Keep a good relationship with your Staff Assistant/Office Manager because they’ll most likely be recommending you to the boss.

  • Don’t understand something? ASK! ASK! ASK!
  • The policemen are SO nice. They are so helpful as well as pretty much any informational desk. Also – the Staff Assistant and the Office Manager are there to help you, too!

Don’t be stupid & post something on social media that will get you in trouble.

It’s best not to go drinking by Capitol Hill altogether unless it’s with your office because there are always eyes watching.

  • If you’re going to do something stupid, there needs to be no evidence of this…safe bets are trashy bars in Dupont/Adams Morgan where you’re less likely to run into a superior coworker..

There are so many more valid points, but you get the gist. TC mark

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