Looking for Lost References
A great internship experience can lead to valuable references, which is one of the myriad reasons interning on Capitol Hill is often the best way to secure a full-time job there. But what if those valuable references aren’t in the same position anymore? Hill Navigator discusses how to track them down.
Q: I interned for someone in the House a year ago, then came back to my home state to finish my senior year of college. After graduating, the district office of the congressperson I worked for strongly encouraged me to apply for an opening in the district. I was told that staffers in the D.C. office spoke well of my work there — hence the recommendation. I was unable to accept the offer at the time but indicated my level of interest.
Fast forward a few months, and I find another opening for the same position at a district office closer to my hometown (different member). I’m dying to stand out from the crowd for this job, as it was on the House listserv and is obviously more likely to cater to an insider.
Many of my contacts from my former office have gotten new jobs and therefore new email addresses unbeknownst to me, but my question is, what would be the best way to obtain a referral, written or otherwise, in order to stand out for the position? Too much to ask the district office if the member could give the hiring office a ring/drop a line?
A. If you, savvy Hill intern that you are, were clever enough to submit a question to Roll Call’s Hill Navigator, I have the utmost confidence that you can find a few of those moved-on staffers you mention that would be likely to give you a stellar recommendation.
Hill staff, with some exceptions, tend to make many job changes. And news outlets, CQ Roll Call included, tend to document the job switches. And there is always LinkedIn or LegiStorm, quick ways to find someone’s latest job news.
Even if all of these prove to be dead ends for the handful of staffers you’d like to seek out, take the initiative to call the congressman’s office to ask if they have any details about the staffers who left.
Most staffers aim to leave on good terms. Many offices do stay in touch. Even if there is an errant bad apple in the bunch, you’re likely to have a few names you can track down to secure an eager reference-to-be.
And you are indeed correct, the best way to get your resume to stand out of the pack is having someone vouch for your good work, especially if that person has an existing connection to the neighboring congressional district.
Start with the staffers who worked closely with you and see if they can put in a good word with the people doing the hiring, or see if they’d ask the member of Congress to reach out directly. Some members are more hands-off than others when it comes to hiring, particularly for junior positions.
And many members of Congress often cannot speak to the specifics of an intern’s good work with the same certainty that a staffer can. Either way, this is an ideal situation to utilize your positive intern recommendations.
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