It’s official folks: it can happen.
I’ve made the transition from parliamentary intern to parliamentary researcher in just three and a half months.
A while back I wrote the piece “valuable but difficult: living on the biscuit collection”. I was depressed and demoralised; I felt more like throwing the towel in than Daniel Hannam did when DC back-tracked on that “cast- iron” guarantee.
But, I persevered. I had to – what was the alternative, to just give up on everything I had worked so hard for? No, I wasn’t giving up that easily and with every application that was rejected I became more determined that I would get there eventually, and I did. And you will too.
Here are my tips for making the most of your internship in parliament:
1. Make peace
The sooner you accept the nature of the beast the better in my opinion. Interning is a necessary evil and you need to make peace with the fact that you will be doing this for the next six months to a year.
If you start your first internship with your hopes pinned on being made a job offer you will be painfully disappointed when this does not happen. I have not met a single person who completed any less than two internships. Make sure you have a plan and something else lined up for when you leave.
2. Applications, applications, applications
I know only too well that after a long days hard work it’s the last thing you want to do, but it must be done. Don’t slack. Try and set yourself a goal of three or four a week.
It’s crucial to make sure you have done your research and applications are tailored to each organisation/ MP.
During my internship I found it helpful to keep a notebook of names of organisations and MPs I came across that I might like to work for.
3. Use your initiative
Read up on the news in the areas that your MP specialises in. Try to demonstrate this knowledge in conversation. It may come in very handy if they’ve missed something in the papers or you can use the info to give a research briefing added value. If you seem clued up on an issue it may result in better quality work.
Using your initiative also involves little things such as knowing when the researcher will be in best mood to approach for more interesting work and when to coincide with the MP in the office to demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
If you have an idea or think that you can bring something to the office then speak up!
Parliament is a complete honey trap for this; make the most of it. Look out for event invites to things you might be interested in and go along to meet people in the field. Ask for tips and advice on making applications and job hunting, make yourself known and collect business cards etc.
Tip: Don’t be enthusiastic and keen to the point of annoying. You’re going for ambitious and genuine rather than cocky suck up.
5. Ask for feedback
Make a point of regularly asking for feedback on things throughout your internship (Pick a sensible time to do this) and ensure that whoever is managing you knows that you can take criticism and advice on ways to improve your work positively.
6. Don’t be a hater; stay positive
After a few months interning at parliament it is common for disillusionment and resent to set in. It is all deeply unfair that these rude, ungrateful and lazy researchers are using you as their “minion” (This is what I was openly referred to as).
Consequently you may become depressing, miserable and unpleasant to be around. This is not the way to get yourself hired.
My suggestion is that you try and look on the bright side and take things on the chin. Do as you’re told (within reason) and don’t ask too many questions.
This is what I did, admittedly it wasn’t always easy but the researcher who previously managed me has since credited me for it.
Interning at parliament is an endurance test that only the determined, strong and savvy will survive.