As you all know by now, we’ve been pretty busy meeting with DC professionals, many of whom have been Drake Alumni. One common theme that has come up over and over again when talking to everyone from current Senators to journalists is advice on how to make it in DC. Many, if not all have said the same things which causes me to believe that there’s at least some proof in the pudding. Here’s all about how to be the best Washingtonian according to other Washingtonians.
Many professionals we have spoken to have mentioned how important trust and respect are, but let’s dive deeper and understand what that really means. According to one journalist, it’s important to never fake experience. While yes it’s difficult to get a job without some kind of experience it’s important to never over promise. He also suggested that we hone our critical thinking skills and always ask, what’s next? He had this in common with another journalist, who also suggested to better our writing skills and to get as much experience we can, even if it is unpaid internships. He also suggested we ask the ‘bigger’ questions others are too afraid to ask. Another piece of advice we’ve heard time and time again is that you are never too good for a job. Whether you are an unpaid intern, a coffee-runner, or a driver, a job is a job and you’re still getting experience and meeting new people. You should always be willing to put in the extra hours and go as far as willingly volunteering for more work. It is essential to show your dedication and determination no matter the job, even if it’s as simple as running paperwork to another office. Senator Bernie Sanders told us to start thinking outside the box; when we are only offered two options, either A or B, create your own C. Another alum mentioned to keep in contact with everyone you meet, this is as simple as sending them an email asking how you can help. It’s also really important to be able to be a quick learner. In some jobs, there is no training, like when a new Congressman is elected and has never worked in the Capitol before. There is a learning curve here that incumbents don’t face, so you must learn quickly and adapt to be able to keep up with your peers. It’s also important to always look the part. Ever heard the saying, dress for the job you want not the one you have? Well, it’s true and a really good piece of advice that everyone can follow. Also, expect to change jobs every two years or so. I know, it sounds terrifying but in DC, it’s the norm. It helps prevent burnout and it’s just the way society ebbs and flows.
Some advice that alums mentioned regularly, often word for word was, always do what you say you’re going to do. This is so important! Nobody likes a promise-breaker, so always follow through and don’t promise to do things you know you won’t be able to do. Also, it is so essential to meet as many people as possible. People open doors, but at the same time don’t use people for your own personal gain, people love sincerity and they’ll know when you’re faking it. Reputation is everything in DC, especially in a place like Capitol Hill where the ecosystem is small and almost everyone knows everyone. People talk and if you’re labeled a complainer or disrespectful, it won’t take long for word to get around. Basically, always be humble and kind, in the words of Tim McGraw, and you’ll be golden.
The workforce is much more competitive than college campuses are, so it’s essential you put your game face on and treat everyone like they are next in line for the Presidency, because in this town you just never know.