5 Insider Tips and Tricks for Capitol Hill Internships

Just landed an internship on Capitol Hill? Congratulations! Read my tips and tricks below on how to maximize your summer on the Hill! This article will contain everything from advice on networking to learning how to manage your finances!

Just a little background on me: I’m Taylor Trimble, a current senior Politics and Public Affairs major and Educational Studies minor here at Denison University. This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern in a congressional office in DC. Here’s some of the things I learned during my time on the Hill:

  1. Coffee chats, brunch, and lunch are key in DC! Networking is important in any internship, but especially in fields such as politics, law, and government where interpersonal communication is the foundation of these professions. Do not be afraid to ask out fellow interns, colleagues, and office employees to get coffee or lunch! Focus on building genuine relationships with people as it can only benefit you and others in the future. Key tip: do not simply network with people who are directly aligned with your specific interests. Although that’s wonderful, it’s also limiting, especially as a college student. Explore all options and don’t be afraid to connect with people who are in fields that you have not taken the time to consider a future in!
  2. Save, save, save! DC is expensive and Capitol Hill internships tend not to play very well. If you are planning to apply for internships on the Hill or simply in DC, save! Don’t be afraid to cover those extra shifts of your campus job. Housing, travel, and networking are expensive. Surprisingly, getting just coffee with three colleagues a week adds up very quickly. To alleviate the stress of finances, start saving early, even if you’re just in the process of thinking you may want an internship in DC or the Hill. Key tip: in addition to saving, use Denison’s resources such as the Denison Internship Program and Career Support Fund. Also be on the lookout for Dension-specific fellowship applications like the Crown Fellowship. These are great ways to keep yourself financially afloat during your time in DC.
  3. Always, always, always make yourself available to extra projects and work on the Hill alongside excelling in the tasks you’re assigned. Capitol Hill internships are pretty standard in the task they assign interns (i.e., Capitol Hill tours, escorts, telephone services. etc.). Although this initially sounds mundane, nothing impresses a Hill supervisor more than excelling at the tasks that you’re assigned without complaint. However, internship supervisors generally like interns who excel in assigned tasks but also reach out to them and other colleagues in the office and see if they need help on ongoing projects. This shows demonstrated interest in the office/company and initiative. Key tip: productive and healthy initiative goes a long way on the Hill as most interns’ day-to-day often looks the same. You want to stand out!
  4. As you approach the end of your internship, it is a nonnegotiable to write handwritten, personalized thank-you letters to your internship supervisors, other employees, and especially the Congressional member. This shows an in-depth, personalized appreciation towards the opportunity that an email or generic “thank you” cannot emulate.
  5. Have fun! You’re in DC! DC is an amazing place to be for young professionals. Take the time to explore with your co-workers and peers. There are many free museums that one should definitely check out if on the Hill. My personal favorite was the National Gallery of Art! Balance is everything, particularly during internships on the Hill. You’ll be working long hours when Congress is in-session, constantly networking, and going to several briefings and receptions. It’s crucial you take time to actually explore the city. Find out if you can actually envision yourself kickstarting your career and life there!
By Taylor Trimble
Taylor Trimble Peer Career Fellow: Social Impact, Education and Government