One of the biggest lures of D.C. is that bastion of political power, Capitol Hill. The place where the laws of our country are debated, interpreted and made will be a constant source of activity this semester, especially with November’s midterm elections. Most representatives and senators all offer semester-long internship opportunities to students. For those of you unsure of how to find or obtain such a position, our how-to guide can answer your most pressing questions:
How can I find out about available internships on the Hill? Some lucky individuals have connections by which they can fast-track their resumes to the right desks. For the rest of us, there are still several options. Representatives and senators post applications on their websites (http://www.house.gov or http://www.senate.gov), usually under ‘constituent services’ or ‘student resources,’ that can be filled out and returned to their offices with a resume and cover letter. Chris Hughes, the School of Public Affairs Career Adviser in the AU Career Center, also recommends hillzoo.com as another resource for finding Hill internship listings. AU’s Career Center also lists internship postings on AU CareerWeb, where you can find contact information and directly upload resumes and cover letters for opportunities of interest. The Career Center, located on the fifth floor of Butler Pavilion, also offers advising appointments where you can meet with career advisers for more in-depth advice.
For more information about the Career Center, visit http://www.american.edu/careercenter.
Is it better to apply to a representative/senator from my home district or just see what is available?
Sometimes Congressional representatives tend to favor applicants from their districts, although opportunities in their offices are not limited to those individuals. Interning for your representative also offers better insights into how the workings of the Hill can impact your hometown. However, working for a Congressional representative that prioritizes issues that are important to you can be a great opportunity to learn more about those issues.
I’ve found the application and filled it out – now what?
Before submitting your application, we recommend updating your resume and writing a cover letter explaining your interest in the position you’re applying for. If you don’t have a resume yet or have no idea what a cover letter is, the Career Center offers a Resume Builder program that can easily help you format one from scratch, and several other resources are available at the Career Center or on their website to help refine your existing document. Some research into the views and agenda of the Congressional representative you’re applying to is highly recommended before writing your cover letter – the more knowledge you can demonstrate about the position, the better your chances.
Hughes also recommends that first-semester freshmen wait until the spring before applying for a Hill internship, in order to get acclimated to the university environment before diving into the world of politics. However, these internships are not only a great opportunity in and of themselves, but also serve as stepping stones to future political internships in think tanks, the White House and lobbying firms.
“Many experienced Hill staffers will tell you that it is a must to have at least some internship experience on Capitol Hill in order to be hired for a full-time position there after graduation,” Hughes said.