Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Getting Your Ideal Internship

Fox News asking for my take on Herman Cain's Speech at the National Press Club

Like I had mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to share my experiences with future TWC interns regarding how TWC Program works. The following is an account detailing how I was able to land my “dream” internship. It’s some very basic tips that I feel can be of use to future interns when they first navigate this amazing opportunity.

When I first filled out my TWC packet, they asked me to list a few organizations I hoped to intern with. From the beginning, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was always at the top of that list. The NRCC is the “nerve center” of the Republican Party’s campaigning operation for the House of Representatives. Since I know that working on a federal level campaign is one of my short term goals, this is as good an internship as it could get.

My first piece of advice to future interns is to have a general idea of what you want to do professionally, before the process begins. TWC will send your resume packet to sites they think may interest you, but they are extremely busy and cannot read your mind. Reach out and ensure they know where you want to end up exactly, and then follow up with calls and emails until you know your resume was sent to those locations.

I emailed TWC a list of House and Senate members that I would have liked to intern with, plus some other organizations, and then called to check that my packet was sent to them. My experience with the process was nerve racking, but my persistence paid off.

In July, I began doing phone interviews with various offices and organizations. One was with an Arizona Congressman’s office; working in Congress was my second “dream” internship site. I interviewed that morning over the phone. At the end, I was told they had twelve more people to interview and I might hear back. I was then offered the position that afternoon.

I attributed this, and the six other offers I eventually received, to the multiple mock interviews Kimberly Lopez conducted with me in the career services office at Rogers State. TWC offered a class by telephone-conference over the summer as well: How to Conduct Effective Phone Interviews. Take advantage of these resources.

Anyway, I did a few more interviews, some offered, some never called back, and some I declined.

The AZ Congressional offer was the only one, thus far, I had seriously considered. What if I turned it down and no more offers came along? Where else did they send my resume? What about the NRCC? These questions were all going through my head in early August. My advice in this area is to let TWC know exactly what you want and bug them until your satisfied.

I declined the AZ offer thinking that if I was going to intern in the House, I should do it with a member from Oklahoma. TWC actually guaranteed they would place me with an OK office after I called to express my concerns. An offer did come and I accepted, even though it wasn’t the NRCC, but time was running short and I had gotten my second choice.

The second week of August I was listed as “placed” by TWC. Their effort on my behalf was completed and I was complacent. Then the NRCC call came, asking for a good time to contact me for an interview. I emailed my available times and a message about how passionate I was to intern with them; always include a few lines on what a great intern you would be. The next week came and went, with no call! What to do, I wondered?

Email them again! I reminded them of their interview offer, another set of times for the next week, and another note about how great an asset I would be. Getting no reply I was disappointed, but at least I had gotten my second choice, interning with Congress.

Out of the blue the following week, I got the NRCC call and did an interview; I was completely unprepared and didn’t feel great about my performance. I sent a follow up email that evening, listing what an asset I could be if offered the position. They offered and I accepted!

It all came down to letting TWC know what I wanted and following up with them. The same goes for everyone else who may have a hand in determining where you end up. It has been my experience that most everyone will go out of their way to help you, just don’t be afraid to ask!

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