Thursday, August 19, 2010

Networking in Washington D.C.

University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs Professor Mark Long shares with us his experience searching and networking for internships in Washington D.C. He landed two, one with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in Washington D.C.

I worked as a summer intern in D.C. in 1996 for the Office and Management and Budget (OMB), and 1997 for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  I served in these positions during the summer after completing an M.P.P. at the University of Michigan and after my first year completed as a Ph.D. student respectively.  When I went about the task of landing a D.C. internship in 1996, I was at a loss for how to find an internship.  The best decision that I made was to travel to D.C. for spring break and use the whole week to make contacts and do informational interviewing.  I started about a month before spring break calling UM alumni who had DC employment (UM kept a directory that students could access).  These were all cold calls, as I didn't know the individuals before making the calls.  I found these alumni to be invaluable sources of information on how to find internships, what the work would be like, and most importantly who to talk to when I arrived.  Many of these alumni provided me introductions to staff who agreed to meet with me for short informational interviews.  I made sure to tell these individuals that I wanted to ask them about their agency/organization even if there were no internships available (as these interviews would provide valuable insights into future possible employment).  By pre-scheduling these informational interviews, I filled about half of the spring break week, but I had numerous gaps in my schedule.  In the down time, I decided to do cold calling on a variety of organizations (e.g., Urban Institute) and was surprised by their willingness to find staff who were willing to meet with me then or later in the week.  Amazingly, a few of these cold calls resulted in internship offers.  I also went through "normal" channels in applying for internships, and I believe that my OMB and CBO internships were secured through these normal channels.  Nonetheless, I found the process of generating and expanding a network to be an invaluable way to get the lay of the land and to increase my chances of landing a job.