Interning in the D.C. Bubble

By: Jacqueline Pelella | THG Fall Intern 2017

Going to school in Washington, D.C., comes with many opportunities, especially internship opportunities across the city. You can go from the government, to a non-profit, to the corporate side in a matter of minutes. Many freshmen and sophomores, including myself, have their first internship on Capitol Hill, learning the ins and outs of the government, walking the halls amongst many influential people, and getting acclimated to the fast-paced world of politics. Being on the Hill or interning at a public affairs or lobbying firm is almost a rite of passage for many D.C. students—it’s just something you do, like going to class.

Although there are many perks and opportunities, the D.C. bubble can suck you in. Here are five steps to make sure the D.C. bubble doesn’t take you by storm and you succeed.

  1. Never Say No to An Opportunity – Events, meetings, errands, projects, anything: say YES. You never know what an event can entail or who you might meet. There is an opportunity at every corner just waiting for you to grab it. Take up a project you have no prior knowledge about, run an errand for someone in the office, go to an event that makes you go outside your comfort zone. Grow, learn, and absorb as much as you can. D.C. is an amazing place where you come across so many diverse people from all walks of life. Being closed-minded can only hurt you in the end.
  2. Ask Anyone and Everyone for Coffee—There’s nothing that a cup of coffee can’t fix or help. This must be the best thing I have learned since being here in D.C.: everyone goes for coffee. In a simple 20-minute coffee meeting, you can learn about the person, they can learn about you, and you just made yourself another connection. Whether or not they are in your line of work, get to learn what they do. Speak to everyone, not just the people you think you’re going to connect with or those who work in the same field. The more connections, the better your circle becomes and the more well-rounded person you are. You let your mind grow and expand past the circle and interest you have currently.
  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Out—Whatever you do, stand out. Be the intern that goes the extra mile. Be the intern that isn’t afraid to take initiative and make connections in the office. Your colleagues have been where you are, and more so than not, they are going to understand where you’re coming from. I’ve found that many people are willing to help you if you ask. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. The worst thing that can happen to you is they say no, but hey – you tried. At the end of the day, that is the most important thing you can do.
  4. Understand You Still Are Just an Intern – Sometimes the D.C, bubble can make interns think they are one step above where they really are. At the end of the day, interns still must prove ourselves and work our way up the totem pole. Realize where you stand and be respectful.
  5. Take A Step Back and Realize How Lucky You Are—As I’ve said previously, the D.C. bubble sucks you in and sometimes makes you blind to the outside world. Take a step back, even take a walk around the block of your office on your lunch break. Many times you’ll pass embassies, government offices, the Hill, or even the White House. Notice the people around you. Look up. Going to school in D.C. and having the opportunities we have is something that not many people have the opportunity to do.

No matter where you intern or where the D.C. bubble takes you, make the best of every opportunity. We are in the center of it all.