Archive for December, 2012

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Alex, Class of 2013
(originally posted December 13, 2012)

Greetings from the Republican National Committee!

Today marks my last day as an intern at the RNC. I can hardly believe how quickly these last few months have gone by. It does not seem possible that I started this job three months ago as a timid, yet eager intern, and today I am leaving as a more confident and enthusiastic version of myself. Please excuse the rather sentimental nature of this post, but I simply cannot express in any other way just how thankful I have been for this experience.

The other day as I was writing an internship evaluation paper for my class, I decided to look back onto some of the weekly journals that I had been required to keep throughout the semester. It was great to see just how much has happened in my time here. Here are a few snippets that I think really sum up my experience:

Week 1:“My first day was not quite what I had expected.”  
When I came across this one I chuckled. I will never forget how incredibly bored I was on my first day. I literally sat at my desk for 6 hours doing nothing by read over the 10 page intern handbook I had been given. It was that day that I seriously started thinking I had made a mistake by coming to Washington. I was terrified that my entire semester was going to be like this. Glad to see I made it look like much more of a positive experience when I wrote about it in my journal!

Week 2: “Whether it is going to lunch with people in my division, grabbing a drink after work, or just taking a break in the middle of the day to chat, it is apparent that politics is truly about who you know. This has come into play outside of the office as well. I have learned that it is to your advantage to carry around a few business cards at all times. You never know who you might meet!”
I am so glad to see that I learned this lesson early on! Looking back on it, I do remember just how apparent it was to me right from the get go. I am also glad that I carried this lesson throughout the semester. As I clean out my desk and look at my collection of business cards (who knew just how vitally important these little pieces of paper would come to be?!), I can see that this really did pay off.

Week 5: “By the end of the weekend, I had made over 500 phone calls and knocked on over 150 doors. Needless to say, it was exhausting yet very rewarding.”
I wrote this in a journal entry that I made right after coming home from a campaign trip to North Carolina. It was over the course of this weekend that I decided I absolutely love political campaigns. It was great to see all of the strategy my office had been working on actually implemented in the field. Befrore coming to Washington, I was not entirely sure campaigns and elections were of interest to me. However, after I spent a weekend working in a victory office and getting involved with the ground campaign, I decided that campaigns are where my passion lies. This such a rewarding weekend.

Week 6: Not only did I have the opportunity to spend the debate with fellow republicans, but I also had the opportunity to meet Karen Hughes.”
Alright. People may laugh at me, but I am still star struck when I meet certain people in Washington. Karen Huges was the first ‘important’ political figure that I truly had the chance to meet and interact with. The Republican Party of VA had brought her in as a special guest at the Arlington Victory Office debate watch party. In fact, I sat right next to her during the debate, and we chatted throughout. This was a major turning point for me. Before meeting her, these ‘important’ political figures almost intimidated me. After I met her, I realized that they are just people like you and me. In fact, there is nothing at all intimidating about them, and they like when you approach them and strike up a conversation!

Week 7: I thoroughly enjoyed my opportunity to take on this leadership role, and I look forward to do more with volunteer coordination for many elections to come. “
Perhaps the most amazing opportunity I had while in Washington, was leading a campaign trip to VA. Just as meeting Karen Hughes was a turning point, so was this. This was when I realized that I was capable of taking on this leadership role, and pulling together a fantastic weekend of campaigning. I was thrown into taking on this task, but it could not have been a better learning experience.

These are just some small pieces of my journals that really stuck out to me. They each tell a bit of my own DC story. However, I think that one quote in particular truly sums up my experience.
“After the election, people asked me if I regretted doing an internship with the RNC given the results. I absolutely do not. Just in my short time in this office, I have been able to learn a lot about elections and the campaigning process. The results last Tuesday may not have been what we were looking for, but there is no question that the experiences I gained working on this campaign are invaluable.”

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Alex, Class of 2013
(originally posted on November 28, 2012)

It seems that each time I have a conversation with someone they ask me what I have learned since being in Washington. Given the broad nature of that question, I never know quite how I should respond. I have learned quite a bit in my time here! Therefore, I have decided to compile a list of the top 5 most important life lessons I have learned since being here:
1)      Happy Hour is the most important hour (…or 3) of the day!
 This is actually one of the most important lessons I have learned since being here. The one word that you will hear over and over again in Washington is ‘network’. When and where does a good amount of this networking occur? Usually between 4:30-7:00pm at a bar in Washington, DC. Living and working right here on Capitol Hill, I have a lot of great opportunities to network with Hill staffers after work at local bars.
2)      Always carry your business card…you never know who you may meet!
This one kind of goes along with the above mentioned importance of networking. Working at the RNC, there are always important people coming in and out of my office. My first few weeks I was star struck every time I saw a Congressman or Senator come through our doors (Who am I kidding..I still am!). However, I quickly realized that I should take these opportunities to put myself out there and start conversations with these people. How often does Michele Bachmann tap you on the shoulder to ask how to get to a particular person’s office? How many people can say they had a one-on-one conversation with Paul Ryan in an elevator? I have learned to seize these opportunities, and strike up conversations. Then, I am always sure to close the conversation with a firm handshake and a business card.
3)      There are two types of people in Washington: Those who are here to advance themselves, and those who are here to help advance you.
I must admit, someone gave me this little bit of information in one of my first weeks here. I did not quite understand it at first…but I certainly do now. I have had the opportunity to meet literally hundreds of people in my time here. However, it is apparent that many people in Washington are here to advance their careers, and not to be friends with you. That’s not to say people aren’t nice. In fact, the people here are very nice! (After all, they are looking to make connections that lead to jobs!) However, you will stumble across someone once in a while who is legitimately willing to help you get your foot in the door here. These people are usually veterans of their field. They have already advanced themselves, and now they are more than willing to help the young, eager job seekers start their careers here.
4)      Fake it ‘til you make it!
This is another borrowed piece of information. However, I have discovered that it is a very important thing to keep in mind. Becoming successful in Washington really all comes down to how you present yourself. I don’t just mean how you dress, or what kind of a car you drive. It is all about how you present yourself as a whole. Walking into a room with confidence and purpose, simply commands attention. You may be nervous when you walk into your first networking event, but walking in with a smile on your face and an air of confidence is the best thing you can do. I have learned to embrace this ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ motto. I was thrown into leading a campaign volunteer weekend in Virginia. Of course, I was terrified that I was going to mess something up. Then I realized that I was in the position of leadership, and I had 30+ volunteers expecting me to pull things together. So, I got up in front of them and introduced myself as the one in charge for the weekend. Our Political Education director (the one who put me in charge of this group) clearly had more faith in me than I had in myself, and she was thrilled with the way things went!
5)      Smile!
This one seems simple, but don’t take it for granted. I have learned that a smile can get you places in this city. Ever since my first day I have been sure to smile and say hello to the security guard at the front door of my office. It paid off one day when I forgot my ID and he swiped me into the building. When I lead the trip to VA, our bus driver was less than friendly at the beginning. Then towards the end of the trip, I needed him to take a detour to another Victory Office to pick some people up. I was sure he was going to give me a hard time and let it be known he was not happy about doing it, but he told me that because I hadn’t stopped smiling since he met me, he would do it (I then saw him smile for the first time!). These things seem trivial, but something as simple as a smile really is important.