By now, summer interns coming to Capitol Hill have gotten plenty of advice on what to do in Washington. Visit the monuments! Watch a debate on the House floor! Marvel at the majesty of it all!
But perhaps its time to discuss a more important topic: what not to do. As an author of Roll Calls gossip column, Heard on the Hill, Ive written plenty about interns and young staffers gone wild. Puking on ones boss, e-mailing inappropriate messages and getting embarrassingly lost are among the sins committed by young Hill denizens that have landed them the dubious distinction of a mention in the column. I suppose this makes me an expert on what not to do.
The best advice I can give interns is simple. Dont wind up in HOH.
But that advice benefits the interns, sparing them from shame, ridicule and possibly getting fired in disgrace. What would actually benefit me, as a journalist and chronicler of poor behavior, would be for more interns to behave badly, making for juicier fodder for the column.
Better yet, if I were truly an evil gossip columnist, I would urge the college-age set invading the Capitol this summer to make sure that their antics are grander and more public. (Why not cc the entire committee staff on that e-mail screed? Why not announce which Member of Congress you work for while doing drunken karaoke?)
But I take no delight (OK maybe just a little) in seeing well-meaning young people publicly eat crow.
To that end, here is a nonexhaustive list of things not to do:
Dont hit reply all to an e-mail without thinking. Hard. Better yet, dont put anything in an e-mail that you wouldnt want your boss or your mother to see. Phone conversations might be sooo 2002, but at least they dont leave a paper trail.
Dont think your badge is magic. That flimsy intern badge might get you into a hearing room or even lobbyist-thrown receptions where you can inhale mini-quiches for free. But it doesnt entitle you to cut in line, get faster service or get special treatment.
Dont wear said badge outside the Capitol complex. Ever. It doesnt make your navy blazer look any cooler.
Dont believe the maxim, There are no dumb questions. There are loads of dumb questions. Show how resourceful you are (a trait that always impresses on Capitol Hill) before asking a question by doing a little research of your own, even if thats just a quick Google scan. That way, youll avoid the embarrassment of asking a chief of staff what reconciliation means.
Dont start your job before reading the Spotted: DC [Summer] Interns blog (dcinterns.blogspot.com). Consider all the stories to be cautionary tales. And remember, that could easily be you.
And lastly, dont forget for a second that there is no more mockable figure in Washington than the lowly intern. Sorry, kids, thats just the way it is. Sure, it might not be entirely fair, since Ive written about plenty of Members of Congress behaving poorly, too. Someday, you might graduate from wearing an intern badge to wearing a Members pin.