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Empty Promises From the Lobby Shop

Few things hold more promise than that coveted Washington, D.C., internship. Whether it’s on Capitol Hill, K Street, or even the White House, your internship badge often marks the foray into the much-discussed, overly analyzed, and difficult-to-access world of Washington politics. But what if your internship isn’t taking you where you want to go? Hill Navigator discusses.

Q. I’m currently in my last semester of college and I’m spending it interning at a lobbying firm in DC. It’s always been my plan to move to DC after graduation and work in a Congressional office or something. The firm had made it sound like they would be able to help me find a job in a Congressional office, but now that I’m actually here it appears as though that may not be the case. I keep being told that if I want a job in a Congressional office that I’m going to have to intern in one first. Do you think this is accurate or do you think that I might be able to at least get an entry level position?

A. Hmm, a lobbying firm making promises they aren’t able to keep?  

So without knowing the details of your internship or your lobbying firm, I can’t exactly break down what went wrong if you had thought you’d get help with your Hill job quest and now it’s not the case. But Hill Navigator can give you some steps for making the best of your situation, which include: 1) Start networking. If the lobbying firm is worth its salt, they’ll have Capitol Hill contacts you can meet with and discuss finding an entry level position when you graduate. Also, call your local House members, even the one of your university town. When you meet with each person, ask for the names of someone else you can talk to, and always follow up with that handwritten thank you note .  

2) Do a phenomenal job. Even if this is not the job that will catapult you to Capitol Hill, these lobbyists have more connections than you do, and if they see you sulking, they’re less likely to help.  

3) Apply now . Yes, interning on Capitol Hill is a common route to a job, but you have experience in Washington and some familiarity with the legislative process. Apply for entry level jobs and keep looking for internships that may be paid. And each time you apply for something that might be a good fit, let your lobby firm know. They should be able to help ensure your application doesn’t get lost in cyberspace. Remember: It’s to their benefit to see you land on the Hill, one more contact they will have on the inside.  

4) Get to know the other interns. Hill Navigator was an intern once and is very familiar with the frenetic intern culture that pervades D.C. Those people on your softball team won’t be interns forever. Connect with them and see if they have inroads to Capitol Hill. And if you beat them to it, be the decent staffer who helps others find a paying job. Because you now know what it’s like to be the one looking for it.  

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