Intern’s guide to Capitol Hill

For those starting congressional internships this summer, here’s a list of dos and don’ts in intern conduct to help ensure that your workplace wants to keep you around after your internship ends, or at least give you a good letter of recommendation.

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DO take assignments with enthusiasm. Even if you’re assigned to open letters or answer phones, take the assignments willingly. That’s the advice Joseph Starrs, a director at the Fund for American Studies — a program that places interns in Washington offices — gives his program participants. Starrs tells participants to manage their expectations of what kinds of tasks they will do as interns.

“Yes, you’re going to be on the Hill, and being in Washington is very exciting, and it’s OK to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but there are going to be days when things are going to be slow; there may be some boring times where you have to do clerical things; but do it with a smile,” Starrs said.

DON’T wear skimpy clothes. Yes, D.C. can get sweltering-hot over the summer, but the heat does not give interns a “get out of jail free” card to wear flip-flops and show inappropriate amounts of skin around the office. Those who work on Capitol Hill refer to interns who come to work scantily clad as “skinterns,” a label no intern wants. If it’s going to be a hot day, bring a change of clothes to work and make the switch before walking into the office.

DO show up on time. This may seem obvious, but it goes a long way. Happy hours over the summer are popular, but drinking too much is not an excuse to show up late to work the next morning. Public transportation in the summer can also get crowded, with tourists flooding Washington for summer vacation. Make sure to keep up with Metro and traffic delays to ensure you get to the office when the workday begins. The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority keeps a Twitter account to post delays, and the District Department of Transportation lists street closures and slow traffic areas across the city. Follow them to make sure your commute goes smoothly.

DON’T misuse social media. Remember that anything you say on Twitter — unless your account is made private — is searchable by the public at large, including your bosses. Tweet with caution. If you are underage, don’t tweet about drinking over the weekend. If you are annoyed with a co-worker, keep it to yourself. Social media is a powerful tool, and can be helpful — as well as hurtful — in your professional life. Use with caution.

Interning in D.C. can be a great experience, if you don’t end up on the D.C. Interns Blog — a site created two summers ago to track the awe-inspiring antics of the city’s summer interns. The blog has everything from the tales of skinterns to inappropriate comments made by interns in the office. Follow the advice above, and you will likely have a fun and valuable experience.