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Top Skills Political Interns Must Have to Get Hired
July 12, 2017
Political interns are very busy in Washington today

Political interns are very busy in Washington today. Demand is high for intern support in Congressional, legal, media and advocate groups. Competition is also fierce. What skills does it take to get hired as a political intern today?

6 Interns who changed the world

It was a group of 6 interns who did a lot of the grunt work for the Senate committee investigating Watergate and changed politics forever. And their lives. They attended the hearings, wrote subpoenas, organized letters and much more. Reminder: This was all done without Google. You bet they had all the qualities and skills listed here. Read their amazing story

1. Critical analysis

As a political intern, you’re going to be asked to provide critical feedback and analysis on a variety of written material and oral presentations. Be prepared to speak frankly and intelligently about your findings, even when it’s not exactly the popular opinion. This is very valuable to your team.

If you want to hone your skills even further and add some cred to your resume, take a class or workshop on how to do it before your internship begins. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Fact-Finding

In politics (and in life), the ability to separate fact from fiction is an invaluable skill. Like most things. Ask questions, but withhold judgement or decision-making until you’re sure you have the facts. Be willing to do your research, and stay committed to evidence-based answers. If you do pursue a career in politics, these habits will serve you incredibly well. Unlike the 70’s, today we have computers to help, but just because it’s on the Internet does not mean it is accurate. To separate truth from lies, check and recheck.

On my first day, they had just discovered there were tapes from the Oval Office. I ended up reading a bunch of transcripts — the famous ones where Nixon’s secretary said she erased several minutes.
Lee Cory, Senate Committee intern during Watergate

3. Problem-Solving

Problem-solving. It’s so cliché, isn’t it?

Well, in any case, you’re going to need this skill for everything from making sense of seemingly random information to solving the world’s greatest social issues (and we know you will, someday).

It’s not as straightforward as it seems, though. There’s a lot that goes into being a good problem solver.

The ability to put the pieces together the way Rachael Maddow does is a huge skill.

Clear thinking requires that you take excellent care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise when you can, and manage your stress to the best of your abilities. You can also challenge yourself with Sudoku, chess and other brain-stimulating logic puzzles. You might be surprised by what a difference it can make.

4. Cultural adaptability

In Washington, we have the privilege of meeting people from all around the world and from all walks of life. If you approach them with a “when in Rome…” attitude, you’re missing the entire point of the American spirit. Don’t be that guy. Team up.

You will have a richer experience and gain knowledge that will be essential to your current job and future career. If you want to thrive in your political internship, come to D.C. ready to adapt your communication and interaction styles in an appropriate, respectful manner. Curiosity does not kill the cat in DC!

5. Persistence

Check and recheck facts, keep digging, go the extra mile in your research. Never quit. Persistence often leads to a new level of information and truth. Go the extra mile.

…there were just mountains and mountains and mountains of subpoenaed boxes. Coming in from all over the place. Our job was to log them, open them, and see what was inside.
Elisabeth DeMarse, Senate Committee intern during Watergate

Do you think you have what it takes to be Washington D.C.’s next best political intern?

I am convinced that every lawyer job I ever got for the rest of my life — I am convinced that Watergate opened that door.
Lee Cory, Senate Committee intern during Watergate