William Kim '20
Takeaways from my Internship on the Hill
While grabbing a cup of coffee with me this summer, the Legislative Director of the Congressional office where I worked asked me the golden question that most rising seniors get in our final year: “So, what do you want to do after college?”
When I was asked this question before this past summer, I would have felt a pang of insecurity and anxiety in my stomach, knowing that I did not have a good answer. Strangely enough, after my internship in Washington D.C. with Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09), although I still don’t have an answer, I don’t feel as anxious about the uncertainty. Why? Because there is a difference between not knowing what you want to pursue because you do not know your options, and not knowing what you want to pursue because you are exposed to many possible options.
If you are interested in pursuing a career related to public policy—foreign or domestic—Washington D.C. is the place to be. Even with a controversial administration leading our government, the United States is still arguably the most important country in the world, and that brings countless policymakers, diplomats, and other public policy professionals in public policy to this city. My experience on Capitol Hill as a “Hilltern” this past summer has widened my vision on the opportunities available to those of us who are interested in this field. It also reminded me that beyond the bubble that is Boston College, the “real world” is definitely not as glamorous as one might expect.
For example, I had the privilege of attending the House Armed Services Committee’s mark-up session, a full day legislative event where HASC Committee members draft a budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. This mark-up session ended up producing the most expensive defense budget bill in the history of this country—standing at $733 billion. Sounds awesome, right? But as an intern, I was tasked with more logistical and menial tasks like manning the door for unsolicited guests, helping technically challenged Congressmen navigate their iPads for voting, and picking up their trash.
As an undergraduate intern, you can tend to feel like your work in your office or organization is under-appreciated and underpaid (I know, unpaid internships are terrible). Sometimes, you feel as if you are not even needed there. However, one thing that the Armed Service Committee’s staff director said after the mark-up very much humbled me: “Guys, I know it sucks to be doing all this tedious work, but hey, I’ve been working here for 20 years as the staff director, and I’m still picking up trash after the Members.”
If there is one piece of advice I would give to my peers looking for their first working experience in public policy/government, it is to not consider your immediate job as reflective of what you are fully capable of. So many people working entry-level jobs in this field are overqualified for their current positions, but they are sticking through it to propel themselves to higher places. If you are fortunate enough to grab an internship as an undergraduate, consider it as a trampoline, not as your destination.
William Kim '20