A Few Invaluable Lessons from my Congressional Office

March 1, 2013

photo (2)Working for a freshman member of Congress has both obliterated and surpassed all of my expectations of what working on Capitol Hill would be like. Today was one of those days that tested each hemisphere of my brain; every minute was divided into numerous strands with different deadlines, and from which multiple tasks required simultaneous execution and attention.

In other words, today was awesome.

I thrive on the adrenaline rush of a “work overload” and the challenge of getting everything done before leaving for the day. In that same vein, I especially appreciate being delegated work that helps me develop a more nuanced understanding of the legislative process. It’s those same days that I leave the office feeling more capable of contributing to everyone I work alongside.

My main responsibilities are largely focused on assisting the office’s scheduler. I help keep up with and organize the avalanche of event and meeting requests that come into the office. In addition, I answer calls, record constituent statements, sort through mail, attend briefings, write memos, take notes during legislative meetings, and generally tackle into submission whatever is thrown my way.

So what has being an intern on Capitol Hill taught me? The first (and perhaps the biggest) lesson that I learned fairly quickly is that it’s less about what I do and so much more about who I’m helping. If I do all I can to help, then I am helped in return. The second is to always work hard and advocate for myself—to treat every work day like it’s a job interview exercise. This perspective has granted me greater access to the kind of work I hope to pursue. Third and last is to always practice conscious decision-making—to be vigilant and to use my best judgment in every matter. Everything else I’ve learned, at least for now, is secondary to those three.

Also, super important, I’ve learned to try and do one task that scares me at least once a day, if possible.

So why do I love interning on Capitol Hill? In a single word, camaraderie. My excitement for interning has almost everything to do with the office culture. I believe the dynamic everyone shares with each other sets the tone from the moment anyone steps through the office doors. This is why I love my office. The loyalty, support, and high expectations everyone places on each other to be fully present and engaged reminds me each morning of why I get out of bed.

Elisa Pfau, Star Fellow Spring 2013

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