How Do You Really Feel About It?

With summertime comes an influx of Capitol Hill internships. For many, the intern experience can be a first foray into the professional world. But what if you land in an office where you don't see exactly eye-to-eye with the boss? This week's Hill Navigator discusses what happens when the interns have opinions of their own.

Q. I am about to start an internship in an office with which my own political beliefs do not exactly align. That isn't to say I disagree with every policy stance, but there are definitely disparities. Is it common to see staffers and interns whose views aren't in lock step with the platform of their respective party, and how do I prevent my dissenting views from ever becoming problematic?

The political spectrum doesn’t run just left to right. There are a host of complicated, intricate issues that require up-or-down votes. Sometimes bosses vote for or support things that we wished they didn’t, but such is life on Capitol Hill. The goal is to find someone to work for whom you respect as a person and can stand behind even on issues you wished they would vote on another way.

And even better news for you: There is an easy fix for making sure this does not become problematic. It’s called staying quiet. I know it’s tempting to voice your opinion in a congressional office, just as it’s tempting to yell at the TV when C-SPAN is on. But unless you are directly asked about a particular issue (and as an intern, you may have to wait until you’re a legislative assistant to get your opinion heard), your job is to support your boss, represent him or her well and learn all you can.

But take heart: Congress is not static. Opinions evolve, votes switch and, believe it or not, staffers change their minds, too. By using your internship experience to better understand the issues and your boss’s positions, you might surprise yourself.

Even if you walk away unchanged on your positions, you will have learned more about the opposing viewpoint. And best of all, you will have practiced being the consummate staffer who does not let his or her personal beliefs cloud professional judgment.