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Can I Skip the Intern Route?

Can you land a job on Capitol Hill without going the intern route? Hill Navigator discusses. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Interning may be the common way to get a job on Capitol Hill, but what if you’ve got the political experience and are ready to work full time? Do you really need the Capitol Hill internship? Hill Navigator discusses:

Q. I recently graduated from a small liberal arts college. I am really interested in working on the Hill. I have had internships in Scottish Parliament and for a lobbying firm in DC and I was a field organizer on a congressional campaign in 2014. I have never been an intern on the Hill and I wondering if it is possible to start as a staff assistant. I am not opposed to interning, but am concerned about being able to afford it.
A. It sounds like you have relevant internship experience already, so it is possible you can skip the Capitol Hill intern route and start applying for staff assistant spots now (especially as many new offices are looking to staff up ). But how do you get your résumé to the top of the pile? Start with your existing connections — do you have contacts from the Scottish Parliament or other internships in D.C.? Talk to your campaign or former lobbying firm to see if they can make some introductions for you. Informational interviews are one of the best ways to meet people on Capitol Hill who can help you land a paying job.  

But say your contacts aren’t so well connected, or are less likely to know people in key positions to help you. That is where interning on Capitol Hill can be useful. You’ll be making active connections with people who are in positions to hire and/or recommend you. Many internships are unpaid , but some offices offer compensation and others allow interns to work part-time so they can take on paid work elsewhere. It can be a tough go initially, with long days if you’re trying to juggle both a paid job and unpaid internships. But many people — Hill Navigator included — started out this way. Hopefully you’re in an office where they can appreciate your work ethic and within a matter of weeks you’ll be in the staff assistant spot. Good luck!  

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