One way to start getting off the sidelines if you are early in your career is an internship with a Congressional office or campaign. While most of what you do won’t be very glamorous, they’re all the things that everyone says about internships—you get your foot in the door, you meet people, you learn how things really work, you figure out if public service is the career you want, now or someday.
Most internships, unfortunately, are unpaid, and, yes, that is a problem for getting more women off the sidelines. If you arrange the internship through your university, you may be able to get college credit and your normal student aid (grants or loans) to help cover the cost of living in DC. An internship with a campaign or in a Congressperson’s district office can be a great way of getting involved closer to home. Paid internships are sometimes available, particularly with campaigns. If you qualify, you might also apply for paid internships through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies or the Native American Congressional Internships. And if you are a graduate student, check out the Congressional Fellows on Women and Public Policy.
When applying for internships, remember that a lot of your responsibilities will be interacting with constituents. Professional presentation is very important to the people who will be hiring you, so have someone proofread your resume, practice your interview skills, and put on your best manners. Deadlines vary widely, depending on the office and the time of year you want to intern, but a brief review of some of the sites below shows lots of opportunities right now. So why not step off the sidelines?
The Congressional Research Service put together this thorough guide to internships across the federal government, and is probably the place to start. The House and the Senate both maintain frequently updated job/internship lists. Roll Call is sort of Capitol Hill’s hometown daily, so be sure to check out their classifieds.
For a slightly wider range of internships (campaigns, public policy groups, as well as some Congressional offices) checkout the listservs and job boards run by JobsThatAreLeft, the New Organizing Institute, JobWonk, and Emily’s List.
Readers, please use the comments to share other good listings, stories about how your time as an intern helped you get off the sidelines, or good advice for internship seekers. One of the great things about this website is the space it creates for us all to mentor each other!
This piece was cross-posted with permission from Off the Sidelines, an initiative of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to encourage women to become more involved in the political process. You can follow them on Twitter at @MoreWomen2012.