How My State Assembly Internship Helped Me Become An Empowered Professional

Applying for your first internship is extremely nerve racking. Questions such as, "Where do I even apply?" to "I have no work experience, what do I put on my resume?" to "Will I be getting people coffee all day?” are all common thoughts you may have during the application process. So, don't worry. You are not alone. I had those same exact fears and questions coursing through my mind as I applied for my first internship this past spring. I really did not know what to expect and I did not have anyone to turn to, besides the friends who were going through the same exact experience as me. Luckily, I write to you now as an experienced summer intern. Although I am still new to the this whole ~intern~ thing, I have learned so much this past summer as a state assembly intern! Listed below are some worthwhile tips that I have collected and hopefully they will prove useful to you when you apply to your very own internship! 

As a Political Science major, I am inherently intrigued by the day in and day out workings of government. However, before this summer, my only experience with government resided in watching political dramas such as The West WingMadam Secretary and House of Cards. Hardly sufficient real world experience. I knew I wanted a government internship to truly see the REAL LIFE inner workings of a government office. Coming home to the Inland Empire, I especially wanted an internship in which I could learn more about my community. I decided that I would apply to my local Assemblymember’s office because unlike a state Senator or D.C. representative, a state Assemblymember covers a much smaller constituency area and is much more active within my hometown.

If you are just about to apply for an internship, remember that you need a PURPOSE! What do you want to get out of this experience? You should have articulable reasoning, otherwise an internship ~no matter how interesting~ will not be worth your time! In addition, landing an internship often means going off the beaten path and searching for opportunities rather than waiting to be handed one. If you are interested in a particular program or office, it is up to you to apply. And, don’t be discouraged or afraid to email asking if there’s a position available. 

After you have applied, it’s time for the interview!! Not only will you have to communicate why you are interested in a particular internship, you will also have to show interest and familiarity with the company you are applying to. If you are applying to a local state office, definitely know the cities your office represents and the services it provides. Being familiar with events that a local representative has held definitely gives you some extra brownie points as well! 

Hopefully you just have landed your internship! And if not continue to APPLY, APPLY, APPLY! 

Before you even set foot in the door, it is extremely important to realize that being an intern is not at all glamorous. If anything, it is the complete opposite. Anyone who espouses the idea that being an intern is a breeze is giving you unrealistic expectations that do a disservice to the whole purpose of an internship. The purpose of being an intern is to discover! As an intern you will discover what being a professional means. You will discover your career interests and desires. Maybe you will even discover the legislative process. No matter what, you will definitely discover that the work that you do often is comprised of the work everybody else doesn’t want to do. As an intern, I have cleaned closets, organized pamphlets, inputted business cards into Google sheets and talked to angry constituents on the phone. My work is oftentimes monotonous. And, that's okay because with the drawbacks comes the valuable opportunity to observe professionals at work. 

As an intern, I have learned to observe and understand the elements of professional success. Whether you are interested in government or not, here are some quick and dirty tips that apply to any woman seeking to become an excellent intern and high-achieving business professional.

1. Talk

Being a successful intern means that you communicate and get to know your superiors. The only way to be memorable is to let the people you are working with truly get to know your personality and career interests. If you simply get the work done, you are not taking full advantage of being an intern. Developing a personal relationship with business professionals who can mentor and provide valuable advice is an essential aspect of interning.

2.  Network 

NETWORK!! As a government intern, it has been emphasized to me that getting a job in government really depends on who you know. Elections come and go, and sometimes the winds of fortune aren’t on your side. Getting your dream job means relying on the network that you have developed as a young professional. 

3. Ask Questions 

If you are unsure about how to do a certain task ask questions! If you want to know more about a certain topic ask questions! I have been extremely lucky to intern in an office where questions are encouraged and valued! Government can get tricky very fast and questions not only make me a better informed citizen, but also a informed intern who is in turn more employable and hirable! 

4. Be Introspective 

It is important to reflect on things that you could work on and strengthen to become a better professional asset. Personally, I struggle with communication. To be more communicative, I put myself into positions in which I cannot help but talk with professionals that I am unfamiliar with. Don't shrink from your weaknesses but face them head on!

5. Be Kind To Yourself 

We are all human, and is important to remember that as an intern you are going to constantly make mistakes. The whole point of an internship is to correct your mistakes and form good professional habits. Check your email at the start of the day! Don’t worry if you messed up a particular print job! Learn from an awkward interaction with a constituent. What is important is that you grow throughout your internship.

Being an intern is a wonderful, amazing opportunity that you shouldn't miss out on during college. College is the time to explore and assess where your interests and professional desires truly lie. Knowing the key to being a successful intern will bounce you light years ahead in your journey towards becoming a professional and successful GIRL BOSS! Good luck on your journey!