Former Pa. House Fellow Intern’s Six Tips for Landing an Internship
By: Jasmine Lamb
During summer 2019, I had the fantastic opportunity to intern as a Legislative Fellow for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I worked for the Minority Chair of the House Finance Committee, Representative Jake Wheatley Jr., and had the chance to sit in on committee meetings, write bill analyses for the committee, draft co-sponsorship memoranda, and draft and propose an original bill. Below are my six top pieces of advice for students seeking an internship.
Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
It’s easy to fall in love with an internship opportunity and put all of your time and energy into applying for the position. However, it’s best to apply to more than one opportunity to improve your chances of being hired. During spring 2019, I researched several different internship opportunities in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, ultimately applying to two positions in Philadelphia and the Legislative Fellowship in Harrisburg. As it turned out, the one internship I thought was a guarantee is the one that rejected me while the other two accepted me.
Customize Every Cover Letter
Every internship you apply for will likely ask for a cover letter. If you’re applying to multiple positions, be sure to not use a default cover letter. I researched each organization and tried to find interesting, workplace-specific facts that I could include in each cover letter. Even the addition of one or two extra sentences shows an attention to detail as well as an interest in the organization’s mission, and will help you stand out among the crowd of applicants. One of my interviewers even brought up my cover letter during an interview, noting that they liked that I was well-informed about the organization’s mission and current projects. It’s also a good idea to run your cover letter by a fresh set of eyes with a differing perspective, such as a family member, friend or someone from Temple University’s Career Center.
Prepare a Portfolio
Preparing a portfolio is especially useful for internships that request multiple documents as part of the application, such as a resume, letters of recommendation, cover letters, writing samples, etc. To stand out among the crowd of applications for the Legislative Fellowship, I prepared a visually appealing portfolio with a folder, dividers and labels. Whether you send the portfolio as part of your application or bring it with you to the interview, it will help to display your skills and showcase the scope of your past experiences. Plus, my fellowship required all fellows to prepare their own portfolios at the end of the summer. So, sending a portfolio as my application was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my professional portfolio-building skills.
It can be frustrating to put your time and energy into an application only to submit it and never hear anything back from the program. During these waiting periods, I always think of one or two questions I can ask the internship’s program coordinator. After submitting my portfolio application, I ask the program coordinator a few relevant questions in an email, which typically receives a timely reply. By establishing contact, I cement myself as a serious candidate and create a personal connection to my otherwise faceless application.
Prepare for the Interview
An interview is your best opportunity to make a positive first impression. When I received an invitation to interview for the Legislative Fellowship, I extensively researched the program ahead of time by reading its website, Facebook page and blog. This research allowed me to anticipate possible questions I might be asked during the interview and prepare answers to those questions. I practiced my interview questions both with my roommate and by myself while commuting in the car.
While researching an organization, it is equally important to develop a few questions that you can ask after the interview. Most interviews will conclude with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. This is your opportunity to shine as a serious and inquisitive candidate by asking meaningful questions. When I go to an interview, I always bring a pen and notepad with me. They serve a dual purpose: I can have my prepared questions written down in front of me, and I can write down any important information I need to remember. For example, I wrote down the names of my two interviewers in my notepad at the beginning of the Legislative Fellowship interview. When it was time to leave, I was able to address my interviewers by name in saying goodbye (i.e.: “It was a pleasure meeting you, Jesse”).
Send a Thank You
Writing down your interviewers’ names, especially if you have more than one, is also important. Sending a thank you note to your interviewers post-interview is a significant part of the process, as it continues to help establish a positive impression of you as a candidate. I also like to use my notes from an interview to remember a specific topic that was discussed during the interview. In doing so, I can add a customized touch to the thank-you. Such a personal touch affirms my attentiveness during the interview and shows that I am taking the opportunity seriously. For example, after my interview, I sent a thank-you note to the program coordinator stating, “Thank you so much for sharing your insight about the committee selection process and the types of summer assignments I could expect.”
Jasmine Lamb is a second-year master of public policy (MPP) graduate student who landed her internship as part of the Pennsylvania House Fellowship program. To learn more about MPP internship opportunities, contact MPP Assistant Director Samantha Apgar at email@example.com.