April 16, 2024

CultureProfessional Development

Capital Gains: 5 Strategic Moves That Shaped My D.C. Internship Success

By: Remso Martinez

Interning in Washington D.C., a city pulsing with political fervor, historical significance, and endless professional possibilities, was a transformative experience for me at 20 years old. 

As I navigated through this high-stakes environment, certain decisions not only enriched my internships but also laid a solid foundation for my future career. 

Here are five moves I’m especially grateful for making: 

Embracing the Unwanted Tasks 

You know why at FreedomWorks I was nicknamed “closet guy”? Because my first three weeks I spent four hours a day cleaning and organizing the closet which hadn’t been organized, like ever. 

Volunteering for tasks that others avoided was a game-changer, even if I didn’t see it that way at the time though and just wanted to make my boss happy. Whether it was organizing files, preparing briefing materials, or running errands, these roles, though 

seemingly mundane, allowed me to demonstrate my work ethic, reliability, and willingness to contribute to the team’s success. 

I stopped being the “closet guy” because months later I had a better moniker— reliable. This attitude didn’t just earn me respect; it opened doors to more significant responsibilities and learning opportunities. 

Seeking Out Cross-Departmental Shadowing Opportunities 

The complexity of professional environments in D.C. is both daunting and exhilarating. Early on, I asked to shadow individuals in different departments. Little did I know just listening to the one guy in development talk about how direct mail works would push me away from grassroots activism and spark my love for marketing. 

This initiative provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s workings beyond my immediate role. It was an educational shortcut to understanding various career paths and how different functions contribute to the overarching goals of the organization. 

Regular Lunches with My Supervisor

Initiating regular lunch outings with my supervisor was a move beyond networking—it was mentorship in disguise. These informal settings allowed for open conversations about career aspirations, challenges, and professional advice. It humanized the professional relationship, providing insights into the industry’s dynamics and invaluable guidance tailored to my budding career. 

Two of my old supervisors even came to my wedding years later, life works out that way sometimes. 

Reaching Out for External Career Advice 

D.C. is a networking gold mine and I tapped into this resource by calling people from other organizations for career advice. These conversations broadened my understanding of the professional landscape, introduced different perspectives, and helped me navigate my career trajectory more confidently. It underscored the importance of seeking wisdom from a variety of sources and the willingness of professionals to guide emerging talents. 

Maintaining Connections Post-Internship 

Perhaps the most crucial move was keeping in touch with my old team after the internship concluded. These relationships, nurtured over coffee catch-ups and occasional emails, have proved invaluable. They’ve provided ongoing mentorship, industry updates, and even job leads. 

This network has become a professional support system, emphasizing the lasting impact of meaningful workplace connections. 

I Didn’t do Everything Right, but I did do Right the Things That Mattered 

My internship in D.C. was more than a resume builder; it was a comprehensive learning journey punctuated by strategic decisions that significantly impacted my professional development. They taught me the importance of initiative, curiosity, and the value of relationships in carving out a successful career path. 

To those stepping into the world of internships, especially in places as vibrant and challenging as D.C., remember: the moves you make today can define your professional landscape tomorrow. Embrace each opportunity, no matter how small, and keep building those bridges long after your internship ends.