Capitol Hill Staffers Describe Role of Congressional Interns
Two Congressional aides with wide experience on Capitol Hill presented a candid picture of the life of a Congressional intern at an Institute of Politics study group session at Winthrop House yesterday.
Richard Conlon, an Institute fellow and executive director of the Democratic Study Group in the House of Representatives, hosted the session that featured Robert Francis, administrative assistant to Rep. Gary Studds (D-Mass.).
Discussing the experiences of college students who spend the summer in Washington as interns, Francis said, "the frustrations are many, and the gratifying moments are few and far between."
Conlon agreed with Francis, adding, "Many interns come back from a summer on the Hill with a sour taste in their mouth." He attributed such unfavorable responses to what he called the interns' "unrealistic" expectations about the work performed in a congressman's office.
"The main task of an intern is the answering of constituents' mail," Francis said.
"The overriding factor in selecting interns is the ability to write," he added.
Francis advised students applying for Congressional internships to prepare resumes of past experience and enclose a writing sample. Conlon agreed, saying "What I keep seeing in resumes is an elaborate rundown of grades, hobbies, and other irrelevant info. What I'm interested in is relevant past experience, such as work in a political campaign."
"The Lyndon Baines Johnson internships are the most popular," Francis said, noting that these are the only salaried internships available. Because there is intense competition for these positions, Francis told the assembled students they should apply to their own Congressmen.
When deciding which Congressman to write to for internship information and applications, Francis said to "look at people with whose positions you'd feel comfortable." He also recommended an interview with a member of the Congressman's staff during the upcoming recess.
"Above all, apply as soon as possible." he said.