Inside look at federal government inspires student to set ambitious career goals
Danyell Dunwiddie recently completed studies for undergraduate degrees in aeronautical technology management and in business, with a concentration in global politics, as well as a certificate in international business. The graduate of Castle View High School in Castle Rock, Colorado, did a summer internship in the office of U. S. Representative Matt Salmon, who represents Arizona’s 5th Congressional District. Here she talks about the internship experience:
Getting the job: I talked to previous congressional interns and got advice on the application process. I found out about this internship on the online website for Congressman Salmon and from internship coordinators for the congressional district he represents.
I sent my résumé, strong letters of recommendation, and interviewed with a congressional district intern coordinator. I got hired because of my background experience, my future aspirations to work in the federal government, and a passion for public service.
Job duties: I was a receptionist and did constituent services. I worked on correspondence on behalf of the congressman and his staff, recorded and wrote briefs of meetings with lobbyists and constituents, and recorded mail and remarks of constituents.
I responded to constituent inquiries, organized case files, and edited letters on behalf of representatives. I provided information to visitors and callers, and directed them to appropriate staff for help.
Toughest challenge: The toughest part of my internship was being on the front lines of democracy. Democracy is run “by the people,” and at the congressional offices we are the ones who answer the phone calls and letters of “the people. ”
The calls and letters you receive vary. Many people call to express their deep concerns about current issues within our government. Some people call just to vent about their problems or to explain their conspiracy theories. The cases that constituent representatives work on involve real people with real issues, some who have no other place to turn.
Best part of the job: The worst part of my job was also the best part – talking to real people with real issues. I loved talking to constituents who had interesting perspectives and to lend a hand to those who needed help. I walked away knowing I helped someone get one step closer to receiving the help they needed.
Also, the people I got to work with were some of the most humbling people I’ve met and made the job worth coming to every day. From the stories I have and the people I had the pleasure to shake hands with, I walked away with an experience that I will never forget.
Lessons learned: I learned many life lessons about the value of public service and the importance of civic duty. Many people see the government as political propaganda, but at the Congressional offices it is always nonpartisan. No matter what your political views, we accept them all and work to serve all the people within the district.
Foremost, I learned that many of the issues could be solved if people were more educated. It is hard when policies are constantly changing, but nothing can progress unless people speak up and get informed.
Career aspirations: So you ask, what does aviation and business have to do with Congress? Government is in everything. Aviation is heavily policy-based and my passion for aviation issues, foreign policy and international affairs made me want to intern with a congressman.
At the beginning of the internship my career goal was to work with the Federal Aviation Administration. After seeing firsthand how the government works, I decided it is something I still want to be a part of eventually.
My career aspirations are to work in government affairs for a major airline and influence aviation policy through international organizations. Ultimately, I want to gain experience within the corporate airline industry and to pursue my passion of flying by completing my flight training.
Advice to internship seekers: Research the job what you want to do. Talk to as many people as possible. Say ‘yes’ to every opportunity. Apply even if you don’t think you are qualified. Be aggressive and persistent, keep calling and make sure they know how badly you want the internship.
To prepare for a job, get basic working knowledge of the industry and the position you are applying for, and talk to people who do, or have done, the job you are trying to get.
Joe Kullman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering