I just completed my second tour of duty as a D.C. intern and I feel compelled to share with my fellow Amherst students advice about the job. Here is my first piece of advice: no one cares who your daddy is (except if your last name is Bush and your dad can get you a position as President of the U.S.). We are here for only three reasons: we have rich parents, we have politically connected parents or we are political junkies who have foolishly deluded ourselves into thinking we can make a difference. If you are unsure whether you fit in the last category, I will give you a hint. If you thought Howard Dean made a fool of himself on “Meet the Press,” if you think George Stephanopoulus is hot or if you just can’t start the day without a cup of Starbucks coffee and a glance at Roll Call, then you are one of us.
Second piece of advice: learn how to play golf. The ability to play golf serves three valuable functions. First, you can take a day off of work to play golf on a beautiful, sunny day, and tell your boss that you are engaged in “lobbying.” Second, you can learn valuable inside information on the course. After all, what the hell are you going to talk about for four plus hours? Finally, golfing is an excellent way to network for future job offers. I assure that after suffering through a sweltering round of golf for the whole afternoon, your playing partners will not soon forget you.
Next piece of advice: learn the fine art of bullshitting. The best advice I was ever given was if you don’t know something, fake it. As long as you can throw around some sophisticated wording and some abbreviations, so that no one can comprehend what you are saying, you will be fine. For instance, instead of saying I interned at Physicians for Social Responsibility this summer with a coalition of groups lobbying for stricter gun control, I would say I worked as an assistant legislative researcher at PSR regarding the renewal of H.R. 2038. My colleagues included DAHI, VPC and HCI, and our main foes were the NRA and GOA. However, if you try to be clear, if you hesitate or if you dare to ask questions, you’ll never make it.
Yet another piece of advice: don’t come to D.C. unless you are 21 or over or have a great fake I.D. This is not Amherst College, and you will get carded and thrown out of Adams Morgan, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and other D.C. hotspots. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason you can commit a murder in the nation’s capital and get away with it (you think D.C. reclaimed its title of murder capital for nothing?), but if you try to drink at a bar and you are underage, the police will arrest you.
Last piece of advice: never discuss your relationships with your co-workers. If you think that lobbyists and Congressional staffers have better things to do than talk about intern romances, Mr. Tripplehorn, (like running the country), you are wrong. Washingtonians are concerned mainly with three things: politics, sex and sports, so if you do something great or something stupid in any one of these areas, everyone will know.
If you follow my advice, you might just survive the next summer working as a Washington, D.C. intern. However, if you think you deserve more responsibility than opening mail, answering the phone and listening to constituents complain, while getting paid nothing for your efforts, than D.C. is not for you.