5 Things You Learn During Your First Few Weeks of a DC Internship

July 22, 2013 | By Katie Johnson

Intern season is here again in the DC metro area!

During the summer students and young professionals from across the country and all over the world descend upon the District, a.k.a. Hollywood for political junkies, hoping to jump-start their careers.

Thirteen lucky interns, me included, have the opportunity of a lifetime: interning with the Leadership Institute this summer!

No matter what organization interns work for in the DC metro area, whether it be on the Hill, a non-profit, or a private company, interns are sure to learn a great deal during their time in the DC.

Working at the Leadership Institute has been no exception.  Below are some basic things I’ve learned during my first few weeks as an intern!.



*Be prepared to fail, but learn your lesson and don’t make the same mistake twice—Interns are new to the office. They can and will make mistakes.  During one of my first weeks, my supervisor gave me directions on how to refill the coffee maker, which I completely forgot.  Later a fountain of coffee came flowing out of the coffee pot and all over the kitchen counter.  Always listen to your supervisors: the advice and directions they give are there for a reason.

*Stay optimistic and have a can-do attitude— Sometimes you will be put in high-stress situations and will certainly be required to multitask and juggle directives from several different bosses and intern coordinators at once.  Don’t be afraid to lighten the situation with a joke or two (appropriate, of course). Always make the best of your situation and stay positive! Be willing to face challenges head on; don’t complain, and your hard work will pay off in the end.

*Social media: it’s a blessing and a curse— Some jobs, including mine, require the use of social media. That’s awesome! Young people today are all about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  However, you are still working so be sure to balance your social media usage with time delegated to other tasks.  Prioritize—some tasks need to get done immediately, while others, such as a Facebook post or a tweet, can get done later, or can be scheduled ahead of time using awesome programs such as Hootsuite or Buffer.

*Watch your spending – This applies to internships in any city, not just DC. When you’re not working, you have a vast array of entertainment choices: events, concerts, restaurants, shopping, food trucks, museums, etc.  However, city life is expensive! Know your limits when it comes to spending and also take advantage of discounts whenever possible. In DC there is always another happy hour, intern appreciation week, or free networking luncheon. Take full advantage of these free and inexpensive events and be smart with your finances.

*Be Concise and Direct—Know what you want and ask for it in the shortest and most concise way possible. People are willing to help you if you ask for help, but you need to do it in a way that isn’t verbose.  This applies to everything from writing e-mails to co-workers to asking for an extended lunch so you can attend that policy briefing. Just remember to keep it simple.