Chronicles of a capitol hill intern

Law students are constantly asking LegalJob for advice on summer jobs, and in particular, how to break into the Hill world where jobs are seemingly difficult to secure.

Chronicles of a capitol hill intern will be a series of posts that track one or more interns and highlight the helpful steps taken to go from intern to full-time position on the Hill.  The first intern chronicled is not a law student (or a lawyer) so LegalJob followers already have a leg up.  Moreover, the advice provided can be applied to secure positions off the Hill as well.

This post discusses the benefits of aggressive networking.  Future posts will follow up on these comments (in a Q and A format) and dig a bit deeper to determine specifically why the intern was successful.

"When I arrived to start the Hill internship, I knew that I wanted to find a permanent job.  My problem revolved around how to go about finding one: the majority of Hill jobs are not posted on any job boards or list serves.  The good majority of jobs are circulated internally, with offices often hiring from previous years’ interns.  I knew this was not an option with the office I had worked with the summer before, so I needed to start introducing myself to people.  I started sending emails and asking for informational interviews.

The way to get a job on the Hill is to be “in the right place, at the right time.”  I have learned that the way you increase your odds of being in the right place at the right time is to spread your wings and meet with as many people as possible.  I started by simply asking for informational interviews with people for advice and to talk about their job experiences.  Exploit any possible connection you might have – ties to a particular state or district, mutual connections, even alma maters – in order to meet and talk about their careers.  More often than not, staffers were more than happy to meet with me.

Moreover, every interview is important.  I learned how to make my resume more specific and effective, what people in the positions I’m looking to apply to actually do, and, most importantly, to be fearless in making professional connections.  After meeting with a staffer who encouraged me to do so, I started reaching out to chief of staffs, and got favorable responses and meetings.  I would never have started reaching out to chief of staffs if I had not had that one informational meeting with that particular staffer.

What I’ve learned from this whole process:  Make those all-important face-to-face connections.    A face-to-face contact is a hundred times more important than what’s on-paper. Do not be afraid to reach out to anyone, no matter his or her job title.  Each interview is important; you’ll gain advice and tips from each interview.  Better yet, make a good impression, and you never know what good things will come your way.

I arrived with a mission – to get a job.  Through “fearless” networking and informational interviews, I’ve now had two job interviews, and secured an internship if neither of those interviews works out.  I still haven’t received any responses from resumes and cover letters I’ve sent in blindly.  I know which method is more valuable."

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