Our nation’s capital is a place unlike any other. Almost all job-seekers find themselves on a similar playing field when trying to break into the Washington market, whether they have three months of experience or ten years. I saw this firsthand during my year as a Koch Associate. Fresh out of college, I was shocked to see how many of my fellow Associates had master’s degrees, JDs, and PhDs. We entered D.C. on the same level looking to build careers and contacts.
The upside is that the job market in D.C. is one of the strongest in the country. Indeed.com’s February 2012 job market competition analysis found a 1:1 ratio of job postings to unemployed persons in Washington, meaning the number of open positions is approximately equal to the number of people seeking jobs. Because of the wide range of opportunities here, there is a lot of movement in the market. People move up the ladder quickly as others move on to the next big thing. Although D.C. is a start-at-the-bottom culture, no one is there for long.
Knowing that D.C. careers progress quickly should provide some comfort to those starting as interns. Internships are definitely not just for undergrads, especially in Washington. And they become even more important if you are trying to relocate to D.C. from another state.
I’ve seen the value of internships in my own life (my first job came out of an internship) as well as in other people’s careers. During my time as intern coordinator at the Leadership Institute (LI), I offered an internship to a well-qualified candidate from another state. She declined, saying she would continue to pursue full-time employment. Within the year, a full-time position opened at LI for which she applied. But she was less seriously considered than a current intern who also applied. This intern had already built a positive reputation and developed relationships within the organization. That’s hard to beat. And that’s the advantage of an internship.
With the influx of interns coming to Washington, employers don’t often face a shortage of candidates to consider for full-time positions. If you want to get your D.C. career started, don’t overlook internships.
Emily Miller is Director of Employment Placement Services at the Leadership Institute where she coordinates the networking and employment site, ConservativeJobs.com. She also assists jobseekers through resume and career consultations, job fairs, and training events. You can reach Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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