How To Get (And Succeed In) An Internship on Capitol Hill

In the Spring of 2020, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to intern in the United States House of Representatives. It was an experience that I will never forget, and it certainly helped me grow as a young professional hoping to pursue a career in the field of politics. Often, I get asked by other college students how I got this internship. There’s a misconception that you have to “know people,” to get anywhere near the Hill. While connections definitely help, prior to going to DC, I did not know anyone who worked there. These are a few key elements I found to be helpful in my success on the Hill. 

 

Connections

In this context, “connections,” doesn’t always mean who you know. Many congressional offices look for interns who live in or have a connection to the district they represent. For example, I went to high school in my member’s district. However, if your representative is a member of the opposite party, don’t sweat- I interned with two people from a completely different state! I would definitely suggest sharing your connection in your cover letter, if you have one.

 

Communication Skills

This is huge. Part of your job will be to answer calls from constituents, and you have to be ready for anything– shouting, cursing, you name it. You will learn how to deal with this during your first few days, but having some customer service experience does not hurt. While it is good to have a basic idea of what your member stands for, do not worry about memorizing their policy positions word for word– typically, any complex questions will go to the staff.

 

Understand the Legislative Process

Being a political science major is not required to intern on Capitol Hill, but knowing how the legislative branch works is a must. Some interns are assigned to give tours of the Capitol to office visitors. While tour training is offered, it is never a bad thing to bring some basic knowledge on day one. For an easy-to-understand crash course, Google “How a Bill Becomes a Law” from Schoolhouse Rock!

 

Writing Skills

I made writing its own separate section because being a strong writer is essential in a congressional internship. You will be asked to write form letters, co-sponsor requests, and take notes at briefings. In some cases (like mine), you will be asked to submit a writing sample in the final round of interviews. If you are able to take a course in professional writing or political communications, I would highly suggest doing so to prepare for an internship in Congress.

 

I hope these tips are helpful to anyone hoping to intern on Capitol Hill in the future. It is certainly a valuable experience for anyone who wants to pursue a career in politics. While politics does not have to be your end-all, be-all, the skills you learn on the Hill will translate to any career you pursue, and the connections you make will be helpful when it’s time to look for jobs.