The Millennial Resume: Taylor Interns on Capitol Hill
As a senior in high school I applied to a college in the heart of Washington DC. As a Floridian, I got into the typical Florida colleges: Florida State and the University of Florida, but I truly wasn’t interested in attending either school.
For some inexplicable reason I had a gut feeling that I was meant to be in DC, wearing business attire, and becoming a career woman in a like-minded city.
My dream quickly became a reality and I ended up getting into the DC school of my choice. I was psyched and promptly paid my deposit, but my debilitating anxiety crept in and superseded my excitement, so I backed out. I ended up staying in Florida for college, but my dream of moving to DC was still very much alive.
Three months after earning my Bachelor’s Degree I moved to Washington DC to begin my Master’s Degree program. My life had come full circle! I was going to the school I applied to 4 years ago, I was more mature, and I was on top of the world!
After landing in DC I was full of hope and excitement, but also a good amount of fear was coursing through my veins.
I decided that I needed to start looking for a job immediately. As a Graduate student your schedule is very sparse, so having a full-time job while also being a full-time student is easily attainable. I wasn’t in the least bit opposed to having an unpaid internship because I truly saw such an opportunity as an investment into a potentially paid gig.
So I started looking for some paid jobs, some unpaid internships, basically I was looking for anything that would occupy some of my time, help me network a little bit, and make me feel like a real Washingtonian!
One of the first jobs I thought of was an internship on Capitol Hill, aka ‘The Hill’.
I quickly learned that there is no shortage of internships on The Hill. Think about it: There are 435 House of Representatives and 100 Senators, and each one of those Congressman typically has at least 2 interns. That’s a lot of jobs!
So I got to looking up Floridian Congressman (you have a much better chance of getting hired if you are from the representing state), found one that was hiring, and went in for an interview.
I was in a real House of Representatives building, walking around The Hill, and I could potentially work here! I had to pinch myself for real. I was fulfilling my dream.
I don’t remember too much of the interview except that I was interviewed by two of the Congressman’s aides and asked a lot of questions about Florida. What I definitely do remember was being told the position was Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm, and unpaid.
I was definitely expecting the unpaid bit, but the fact that this position was as full time as full time gets and I wouldn’t be making a single penny was a tad bit worrisome, to say the least.
I decided that this was what I needed to do, so I took the position.
I’m pretty sure I lasted a whole week before I quit.
The first day was daunting. I was 22 years old at the time and the other intern was a 17-year-old high school student. Experience really isn’t a requisite for sitting at the front desk in a Congressman’s office, so I was already feeling a little weird, but I was still excited.
I did some computer work, read through my intern manual, and tried my best to sit still for hours on end. Then the phone rang. Interns are in charge of answering constituents phone calls and that experience is one I wish I could erase from my memory.
Then the phone rang. Interns are in charge of answering constituents phone calls and that experience is one I wish I could erase from my memory.
Interns are in charge of answering the phone calls of the congressman’s constituents and that experience is one I wish I could erase from my memory.
I answered the phone with, “Congressman so and so’s office, how may I help you?”, and the person on the other end just went to town. Typically the constituents that call are frequent callers, and they are not happy with something that is going on in their district. I realized instantly that this was not glamorous in the slightest.
I literally received an email about a man blaming the Congressman I was working for his washing machine not working.
I was already feeling really discouraged, but I was taught to let the person finish, then say “I will be sure to pass your message along to Congressman so and so. Thank you.” But in reality, the message wasn’t passed along unless a significant number of people called about the same issue.
After a week of sitting at this desk on Capitol Hill, with none of the other employees in the office even looking at you in the eye, let alone learning your name, I left.
This wasn’t the Washington DC I dreamed of.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not opposed to putting in hard work and unpaid labor in order to work my way up, but when I looked around at the other people in the office whose jobs were the next rung up the ladder, I definitely didn’t want their jobs either.
I wanted no part of this world, but unfortunately it was only the first month of a two-year program…
My time as a Capitol Hill intern was short lived and fun for the first day, but I am so unbelievably thankful that I had that experience, because If I had never done it I would have lived the rest of my life dreaming about what it would have been like to work on The Hill.
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