I was lucky enough to meet with many members of Senator Murray’s team to learn more about them, their jobs, and our office. The two informational interviews that I found to be the most helpful were with a staff assistant and with a member of our communications team. The staff assistant was the person in charge of the internship program so I spent a lot of time with him and I was able to meet with the member of the communications team twice.
I wanted to use this summer to learn more about working in a legislative office and to try and figure out what I might want to do after college. I’m very interested in communications, I served as the communications director for a student government campaign and am hopefully taking on the role of communications director for student government this year. Within a legislative office, there are three tracks you can take, policy, communications, or administrative. I always assumed I was interested in the policy side of the office but after spending the summer in DC I learned a lot more about the communications team and felt drawn to it. For that reason, I asked to meet with one of the staffers who is part of the communications team. I was able to hear about how he got initially interested in politics and communications and he also gave me his background and how he got to where he is now. I was also able to ask about the breakdown of roles within the communications team. In our office, we have a communications director, a press secretary, a deputy press secretary, and a digital director. The communications team is in charge of writing speeches, working with the press, putting out statements, and crafting messaging among many other things. I learned a lot about what his job entails and about what his day to day work schedule looks like. He was very honest with me about what he liked about the job and what he found to be challenging. For me, the most difficult thing about his job is that he has to wake up every morning at 5:00 am to start sorting through news articles both nationally and from the state of Washington to send “clips” of news to all of the staffers and the Senator. I am not a morning person and picturing myself waking up every morning at 5:00 am sounds brutal. However, I am still really interested in pursuing a career in communications for a Senator or Congressman and want to use this year as a learning experience to see how I handle the various tasks a member of a communications team is responsible for.
I chose to conduct an informational interview with a staff assistant because that is typically where all staffers start their careers. Most people working for a Congressman or Senator started out as a staff assistant and moved on to join the administrative, communications, or policy teams. If I pursue a career in politics, I will most likely start as a staff assistant. Because of this, I thought it was important to learn more about the role to try and use my summer as a learning experience and to picture what I might be doing someday. I was also interested in hearing how he got his job and what he wanted to do down the line. After hearing how he got to where he is and what he wanted to do next, I was able to learn more about what he does day to day. As a staff assistant, he oversees interns, is in charge of grant letters, sign on letters, and many other administrative tasks that help the office run efficiently. He also helps advance the Senator and drives her around. He was able to teach me and other interns various aspects of his job so that we were able to spend the summer actually doing things that we might have to do one day. This allowed me to maximize my time as an intern and to be more prepared to apply for staff assistant jobs when I graduate. I also learned that graduate school isn’t necessary immediately after college and that it is better to get your foot in the door in an office and then to consider what the benefits were to a specific grad program.