From Applying to Acing The Capitol Hill Internship

scarlett ho in front of capitol

Posing in front of the Capitol

This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

For any Political Science major, working in the nation’s capital is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Getting an internship on the Hill while still in college is not only useful in helping you decide if public policy is your niche, but also helps you get a foot in the door in other federal-related jobs in the field. This past summer, I had the fortunate opportunity to intern for a member of Congress in Washington D.C., and here are a few tips I would like to share to help anyone who is thinking about interning on the Hill.

1) The Application Process and the Interview

Most congressional internships require a standard resume and cover letter, followed by an interview. Sounds like a pretty easy process, but how do you stand out among hundreds of applicants?

  • Email etiquette: Most people think that all you need to do when you email your application package is just to attach the files. But from my personal experience, crafting a short and sweet paragraph in the email containing your brief bio and objective will make your application more personable. Remember, small things matter, so make sure your resume and cover letter are free from typos and grammatical mistakes. One way to ensure that is to ask your professional network, professors and friends to proofread them.
  • Interview: So you have received an invitation for an interview, how should you prepare? Research the office, know your objectives and why you want to intern there. What are your passions, and how is this internship going to contribute to your goal? Since most interview questions always revisit your past internships, be sure to be able to explain every detail you have put down on paper. Rehearse, do mock interviews, and feel confident. Remember, the secret to interviewing is: it’s not “what” you say, it’s “how” you say it.

2) Working on the Hill

Everyone has to start somewhere, and you should come to any job with the mindset that you are starting from the bottom. With that, it means mundane and trivial administrative tasks, such as answering and transferring phone calls, photocopying/scanning, and running errands. But on top of that, you should seize this wonderful opportunity to benefit the most out of it too:

  • Attend briefings/committee hearings: Fortunately for a Hill internship, because you’ll be at the center of politics, interns get the chance to go to different hearings and briefings and take notes. It is a great opportunity to learn more about the issue; and any memos that come out of it will be a great writing sample for the future.
  • Ask questions: Remember: no one knows the answer to everything. If you have questions or doubts, ask your fellow interns or supervisors- they will likely be able to answer them for you. Asking questions demonstrates that you’re proactive and thoughtful- something every employer would value. Additionally, ask for more tasks or offer to assist others in their work when you have completed yours. Your willingness to help others proves that you’re collaborative and are inclined to take initiative.
  • Networking: It’s all about connections, that is the truth. Be active in seeking out intern networking events, or receptions near the D.C. area to talk to people from different fields and offices. Seek out interesting people from LinkedIn, through friends and ask for informational interviews either in person or over the phone. Be flexible and respect people’s time because they are busy but are generally willing to help.

3) Ways to Take your Hill Internship To The Next Level

  • Keep a journal: It is important to keep track of your daily or weekly tasks, because at the end of your internship, you need to have talking points that summed up your responsibilities on your resume. Even if you don’t keep a journal (which is mostly for writing about your feelings and what you have learned), have a small notebook that jots down your tasks to make it easier to keep track in the future.
  • Recommendations: I was advised by a Capitol Hill staff to ask for the letter the last week of your internship, so that you will have the letter in hand on your last few days. By creating a time constraint for the recommender, they will most likely craft a more thoughtful response because you can read it when you are still there. After your internship is over, connect with the staff on LinkedIn and ask to be recommended.
  • Thank you note: A small thank you note for each staff in the office goes a long way. A nice hand-written note makes a lasting impression and you never know who will help you down the road. Therefore, this is a critical step that should not be skipped.

Interested in working in government? Career Development is hosting a Non Profit and Government Careers Forum at 5:30PM, tonight in Raytheon. Also, Thursday, October 16th at 5PM in 12 Stearns: Demystifying the Federal Job Application.

Bio pic_scarletthScarlett Ho is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is a former Capitol Hill intern and will be interning at the European Parliament this fall with NU’s study abroad program. As a trilingual, she is interested in foreign affairs and diplomacy, and is an avid globetrotter. Connect with Scarlett on LinkedIn and follow her on                                                                                            Twitter.

 

Good luck everyone!

Thinking Ahead: An Approach to Getting Your Dream Internship

internship post-it pic

This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

Securing your dream internship- that is the highlight of your college career- can be daunting. It takes years of planning and preparation as well as numerous rejections. Regardless of what stage of the search process you are at, a couple words of advice to heed throughout your search are to be aggressive and to think strategically. With that in mind, below are my tips for being an efficient internship seeker.

1. Plan early

It is never a bad thing to plan early. If you know what your ultimate end goal is, or even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduation, you should at least have a rough idea of the parameters of the areas you want to explore. Thus, it is crucial you create a bold action plan to make the most out of your time here.

As an International Affairs and Political Science major, I might not know precisely what I want to do after I graduate (e.g. lobbyists, diplomat, Hill staffers, think tank analysts, etc.), but I know that these are roughly the options I have, and the goal of an internship is to try out all these areas during my undergraduate years to test the waters and explore my passion. You should have a list of organizations and companies that you are interested in organize it well and create a timeline.  Try jotting down your dream organizations just off the top of your head and see how many you can come up with, then do some internet research to find more organizations that may have internship opportunities and add them to your list. Set deadlines for yourself and hold yourself accountable for meeting them.

2. Create a Comprehensive Internship Database

Although Northeastern has a sophisticated myNEU Cool database that offers numerous co-op jobs, if you are bit more ambitious and are interested in more internship opportunities, sometimes you have to look outward and create your own personalized database. The reason you should do that is being 1. some jobs are not listed on the system/you are not authorized to view them because of certain settings; 2. the school has not yet developed a relationship with the organization (but you should not limit your options because of that). Take note of outside internship search engines like InternMatch.com, HuskyCareerLink and broader search engines like SimplyHired and Indeed to aid your search and build up your database. Also, check out the Internship Guide on the Career Development website for more ideas.

3. Stay Organized

Once you find a list of internships and organizations you are interested in, how do you organize them in an effective and easy-to-read manner that would serve as a roadmap for applying? For me, I create a Google Doc spreadsheet because it is easily accessible everywhere, and I can share the file to multiple accounts. Moreover, I can also make changes easily and invite people to contribute to my list.

Within the document, I categorize the different job natures and put as much information as possible. Using my career interest as an example, in the excel document, I created tabs for government jobs, campaigns, NGOs, think tanks, etc and provided other details such as time of internship, application period, deadline, compensation, location, materials needed (such as recommendation letters, transcript). I would also put a column where I gauge my chances (just like college applications) – safety, match, or dream; and note what year of students the organizations are looking for. And so, even if you were a sophomore, you would be aware of the dream internship that only takes rising seniors, and you can strategize accordingly.

4. Connect with People and Ask Questions

I’ve found that from the objective internship description that organizations usually offer on their websites, it is hard to get a sense of what the job entails and envisage whether or not it aligns with your interests. To save time from applying and interviewing for a job that you might not like, the best way is to ask former interns and alumni who worked there before. Through searching on LinkedIn or Facebook (if you are friends with them), you can target those people and send them a message to meet up for coffee or for general questions. In my experience, it is likely that people would offer help or a piece of advice. The informational interview will help you understand the following things: tips on application process, a day-to-day work schedule, and whether he/she can introduce you to people you should know. Be sure to write a thank you message to the person as a professional gesture afterwards.

Creating an internship database in the form of a timeline goes a long way in helping you navigate the tedious internship seeking process. Be sure to connect with alumni and existing connections on the way to find out about more opportunities and whether or not the job would be a good fit for you! Good luck.

Scarlett Ho is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is a former Capitol Hill intern and will be interning at the European Parliament this fall with NU’s study abroad program. As a trilingual, she is interested in foreign affairs and diplomacy, and is an avid globetrotter. Connect with Scarlett on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.

Photo source: Culpwrit via HeatherRHuhman.com

Work. Location. Culture.

 

image generated by Wordle.com

image generated by Wordle.com

This article was written by Megan Fernandes, a 4th year international affairs student at NU as a guest blogger for The Works.

Work. Location. Culture. Last year, a professor told me that these are the three distinct elements I need to consider when looking for a job. A few years ago, I might have written this off fairly quickly, but after having a few varied work experiences under my belt, I realized they are all equally important to my happiness and success. Between my first and current co-op, I’ve learned what I need in a workplace to thrive professionally as well as what I need in regards to location and relationships to be happy. Like many other NU students- I have definitely learned what I don’t like in work, even before I figured out what I do.

Work. As college students, we’ve all been encouraged to pursue areas of study that we are passionate about in the hopes of finding a career where we feel we are making a difference. However, I’ve learned over time that feeling too committed to any particular job, industry or institution early on can be very limiting. I had my entire college career planned out by the fall of sophomore year, but so many different opportunities and challenges were presented along the way that threw my plans to the wind and changed what I had previously thought was a priority. Neither the work nor the industry I was in were much of a consideration in choosing my past two co-ops (sustainable agriculture in Cameroon and asset management in Boston), but that doesn’t mean I’ve learned any less about the kind of work I want to do eventually. Being able to stay flexible and transfer over as many professional and social skills between jobs, no matter how different they are, will help keep you positive and confident wherever you go.

Location. Because we attend such a diverse school that offers so many opportunities to leave campus, NU students, more than anyone, understand the importance of location. Cities around the world are becoming more international and physically going and living somewhere else isn’t as difficult as it once was. The big challenge is being OK with being uncomfortable and really giving each new place a real chance; keeping in mind that you may decide, despite your utmost respect for their culture and way of life, that it’s just not for you. Cameroon taught me that, specifically by showing me how different cultural values, social and economic factors can directly dictate the population’s lifestyle. Doing two co-ops in Boston has also taught me that I like living in cities and getting to know a city helps me feel at home.

Culture. Nowadays, people are thinking more broadly about what it means to employ people who are good “fits”. Thinking about if you can sit next to someone 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is more of a consideration in hiring than ever before. It works the other way around as well. I have worked for a company whose mission and work I was highly inspired by, but the internal culture was unexciting and stifling. I have also worked for a company in an industry I am not stimulated by and whose work I often find routine, but its internal culture is more open, laid-back, and appreciative than anywhere else I’ve experienced. This combination has allowed me to see that I need a relaxed culture and the encouragement to form personal and professional relationships to maintain my personal happiness and motivation at work.

As much as it goes against my initial view when I started school, simply working on something you love isn’t enough. I always thought that if you found what it is that you wanted to do, you’d be golden, but I’ve realized that loving what is physically around you, both the location and the people, makes your work even more meaningful and makes you even better at what you do.

Megan Fernandes is an international affairs student in her fourth year at Northeastern with academic interests revolving around global poverty alleviation. Megan is originally from Houston, but went to high school in Bangkok, Thailand before moving to Boston. She loves learning about other cultures and would be happy to show new people around Boston! 

Life of a Honors Student

source: ontariojobspot.net

source: ontariojobspot.net

This guest post was written by Katie Braggins, a third year international affairs major.

Being an honors student will enhance any students’ Northeastern experience through cultural events and a plethora of free food.  However for me specifically, it helped me along my academic path to help narrow my focus within my major. The Honors Program offers a diverse range of classes by some of the best professors on campus. First Year Honors Inquiry courses are offered for freshmen, which can fulfill NU core requirements while exploring topics in depth outside of one’s concentration. In my first semester at Northeastern, I had the opportunity to take a class on the conflict in Northern Ireland with Professor Michael Patrick MacDonald, which first introduced me to analyzing the asymmetric relationship between state and non-state actors in conflict.  Spring of my freshman year, I expanded my knowledge of terrorism and violence in “Seeking Peace in Times of Terror.” These classes I took my freshman year helped me to hone in on violence and conflict as an area of study within my major, international affairs.

These classes led me to my first co-op at the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security. As a research associate, I was able to learn about emergency preparedness for natural and man-made disasters through analyzing governmental reports and evacuation plans. This past fall I had the opportunity to take a class on the espionage and covert operations during the Cold War with Professor Jeffery Burds. The interdisciplinary seminar was very interactive, which allowed students to explore topics within the larger theme based on their interest area. I was able to read a book and article to present on the emerging threat of cybersecurity, a topic that is increasingly relevant in today’s national security landscape.

I am currently on co-op for the second time at two NGOs in Buenos Aires addressing the effects of the Dirty War in Argentina. My work at one NGO, Cecreda, is to analyze the economic and developmental progress of the Argentina since the conflict in order to produce reports to be distributed. I will be writing briefs and analyzing the trials for the governmental actors responsible for carrying out and perpetuating the state violence for the other NGO, CODESEDH. I hope to apply for honors scholarships to conduct my own research on these topics in the future. The honors program has had a great affect on my academic career at Northeastern, and will continue to do so in the future.

Katie Braggins is a third year International Affairs major.  She is a guest blogger currently on co-op in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  She can be reached at braggins.k@husky.neu.edu.