This might seem like a sort of broad tip, but it’s all in the way you approach the internship. You may have heard recently about the lawsuit that ended in a ruling reflecting strict guidelines for unpaid internships. Basically, your internship has to be for your benefit, not just the company’s. Now, there are plenty of loopholes built in there, but this does means that you should be able to find some cool opportunities where you’re interning. And if you can’t find them, start asking people. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Find out what you should leave with. Talk to your supervisor or another employee about what you should have in your portfolio before you leave. The LC I was working with told me to make sure I didn’t leave without having written a memo and a constituent letter. Make sure to save whatever written work you do and keep it for writing samples later. (Unless this violates policy. Then don’t.)
Go to the lectures. Some programs will have lectures or events for their interns. If you’re interning in the Hill, there’s a special intern-only lecture series with a lecture almost every day. Go to these. It isn’t practical to go to all of them (unless you’re expected to), but scope them out beforehand and figure out which would be most interesting or useful to you. A smattering of the lectures I’ve seen: Chuck Todd, Gen. Hayden, Stephen Forbes, Kevin McCarthy, and Senator Bennet. Stephen Colbert is the lecturer on Friday!
Listen to everyone you can. The people you’re working with have a ton to teach you. If someone you’re working with tells you about events to go to, things to see, or professional organizations to join, listen! These people have been around longer than you, and, hopefully, are working somewhere you want to work someday. They’ve gotten somewhere you’re trying to go. Find out how they got there.
See if you can set up meetings. This will depend on your office, but in some offices, they’re pretty open to their interns. You may not be spending much time with the more senior members of the office, but find out if they’re open to meetings with interns. You might be surprised. More people than you might think like to share the secrets to their success with ambitious young people like you! And it never hurts to ask. If the person you were hoping to meet with can’t or won’t, find out if anyone else will. Everyone here has something to teach you.
Exchange phone numbers. Sure, the employees you’re working with are valuable resources, but so are your fellow interns! Get their contact information and keep talking to them. They might just be great new friends to make in your new place. Plus, you’ll be glad you have their phone number the one day you lose a tour group trying to direct them to the office… Not that that’s ever happened, of course.