How to Find an Internship

By Alex Shoucair

We hear it all the time: one of the biggest advantages of going to school at GW is the litany of field-contextual internship opportunities, especially for Elliott School students.  But even in a city with such limitless possibility as Washington, D.C., it can still be difficult to know the right path to take when it comes to finding the perfect internship.

Based on my own experience there are a couple things that every student should know about getting an internship in D.C.

First, if you’re a freshman or a sophomore, you’re probably not going to be able to get your ‘dream job’ quite yet. The simple fact is that employers are often looking for upper-classmen for the better positions if they’re even looking for undergraduates at all. However, this is not a reason to lose hope. We may joke about it here at GW, but Capitol Hill truly is in many ways a pre-requisite for higher positions in D.C. Getting an internship in your Congressman’s office is often possible regardless of what year you are as a student.  It gives you a solid base of experience from which you can build, a good reference for future positions, and something to fill up your resume.

Once you can establish your ability to hold down a job somewhere like a Congressional office, it greatly increases the chances of getting an extended look from other employers later on. I’ve found that some of the best opportunities an international affairs student can find in D.C. are with any one of the many think tanks that base their operations here. No matter what you’re interested in, D.C. will have a think tank specializing in it. This is a fantastic way not only to work in an area you are genuinely interested, but it also gives you field-contextual experience and contacts that could prove to be invaluable later in your career.

Different think tanks will have different application procedures and duties, but a quick visit to their web sites and maybe an e-mail or two here and there can have all your questions answered in no time. Seek out the ones that deal with subjects you are most knowledgeable and interested in (presumably the field that you’re studying). These organizations are always looking for a smart and enthusiastic helping hand, and will almost always be quite flexible with scheduling.

Starting with something small and menial like an internship on the Hill might seem boring or not worth your time, but just remember that everyone has to pay their due, and everyone has to climb the same ladder. Going from something like the Hill to a think tank can then lead to that phenomenal government agency or consulting firm job. The key is to always think with the future in mind.

Alex is a junior majoring in International Affairs and Asian Studies.  He has studied abroad in Beijing, China, and hopes to continue studying East Asian relations in graduate school.

Ed. Note: For more information about internship and job opportunities available to Elliott School students, visit the Career Center.

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