Hi, all! I’ve come to the end of my first summer internship, and I’m starting my second internship tomorrow. With that said, I’ve already learned a ton about interning and how best to be successful, as well as some things to avoid. I’m a hilltern (i.e., an intern who works on Capitol Hill), so some of my tips are going to be fairly Hill-friendly/specific. I’ll do my best to make them applicable to as many of you as I can, though. If you have any thoughts, ideas, comments, or push-back, feel free to let me know!

Tip #1: Just Do It

This is a tip that I have a feeling is going to be applicable in the vast majority of places. I put it first because in many ways, it really is the most important. If you can master this and you screw pretty much everything else up, you’ll still be doing okay.

If your internship is anything at all like mine, you’ll have some routine stuff you’re working on every day: data entry, admin stuff, research, press clips, etc. Maybe you’ll also have some projects or emails to send. Probably most of this work is going to be on the computer, and a lot of it isn’t going to have any hard deadlines.

What you will find is that invariably, someone on staff will come back to where you and the other interns (if there are any) are working and say some variation of “I need an intern!”

When I first got to DC, I was never sure what to do with this. If I’m working on a project for a staffer, do I just put it off? Should my other projects take priority?

Here’s what I’ve learned. If someone comes back and needs help with anything–answering phones, delivering something, getting coffee, whatever–get up and do it. Be the first to volunteer whenever possible, and take whatever job it is, no matter how trivial it seems.

There are a bunch of reasons why this is a good idea:

  • You’ll get to know the building/area/staff, thus meeting more people, getting off your butt more, and becoming better at your job.
  • These random assignments are, often, more helpful to the staff than the routine stuff you can work on later.
  • People will learn your name and notice you’re willing to be flexible and helpful.
  • It provides some spice in your life!

Being the first to volunteer won’t always end up fun, but it often ends up an adventure. I’ve helped give a 66-person group a Capitol tour (and subsequently gotten out of my tour quiz), run around all of the Hill getting signatures for a letter, met staffers in other offices, and become better at navigating the other buildings than almost any of the interns in my office.

So, in your quest to be as helpful, hard-working, and noticeable as possible, volunteering for all the random assignments can go a long way.

Stay tuned for tip #2, coming soon!