Hey! My name is Josh Manning, and I am a summer intern for 2017. I am interning at the Law Media Group (LMG) Inc., which is a Public Relations firm. It has been a fantastic opportunity for me to do real work, be part of some really interesting projects, and learn hands-on. The people that I work with in my office are really fascinating people with great backgrounds in DC. The opportunities to connect and build your network while here are not only abundant, but are vital if you want to work in DC after graduation.
There are many different ways to form contacts here in DC. The most obvious of them is to get to know those in your office. Ask if they want to get some coffee sometime or see if they would mind if you joined them for lunch. They will usually enjoy the opportunity to talk to you and impart some of their knowledge. They have been new to this town too, so they know how valuable it is to get advice.
Another great example of how to form contacts is by contacting the Chief of Staff of your Representative from home. The Chief of Staff for Rep. Cheri Bustos was more than happy to meet with me when I asked. This is especially important if you are considering working on the Hill later on. You can never make too many contacts.
There are other ways to get to know people around the city as well. If you are in Greek life or clubs on campus, there is a pretty good chance that they have alumni clubs that operate in the DC area. For example, I have now attended a few events with my fraternity’s DC alumni club that have led to great opportunities to connect, free food, advice on job searching, and even contacts for when I graduate who may be able to help me gain employment. I would highly encourage everyone to research any such clubs that they could be a part of because they are set up to help each other navigate the professional world of this city.
The University of Illinois also has an alumni club here in DC. As part of your time here, you will probably have an event or two with this group. Many of the members have gone down similar paths as you will, so they are a great resource on how to get into this city coming from Illinois. They are more than happy to talk about their careers, their lives, their struggles, and their successes. Learn from what they say because you may find yourselves in the exact same circumstances one day.
Once you have made these contacts, make sure that you occasionally follow up with them to see how they are doing, thank them for their time, and ensure that they remember you if they end up having something available. Their time is valuable, so make sure that they know how much you appreciate that they gave some of it to you. Make the most out of your time here, and that includes opening some possibilities for after graduation. You will love it here!