The Quad Summer Internship Series
Will McCartney, Office of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson
Position: Education and Finance Intern
School: University of Georgia
How did you get the internship?
Honestly, the application process was very straightforward. I knew that I wanted to gain experience in public service and, specifically, that I wanted to work on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I had a few friends that had enjoyed a great internship experience with Senator Isakson’s office last summer, so I began my search there. I contacted my friends and learned more about their experiences and what type of role I would be interviewing for. After learning about the job, I wrote my application essays, gathered recommendation letters from professors who knew me well, asked friends and family to proofread my application, and submitted the final product via Senator Isakson’s website. After I submitted my application, I was notified that I had been selected for an interview. Finally, I interviewed with two fulltime staff members and Senator Isakson’s Chief of Staff before being selected for the internship.
What’s a typical day for you like?
While working for Senator Isakson, I was exposed to many different roles. From answering constituents’ phone calls to walking the Senator to congressional hearings, my activities were extremely varied. A typical day, however, would begin with an in-depth reading of the latest political news (sources such as Politico, Roll Call, and the WSJ). My focus was education, so I was responsible for finding relevant articles on both local and national education and compiling them into a readable format to be sent out to the staff. After the education update was sent out, I would attend a staff meeting where everyone was updated on the day’s projects and highlights. During these meetings, Senator Isakson would explain his positions on certain issues and prioritize particular areas. After the staff meeting, I would sit in on constituent discussions. These meetings involved constituents and Senator Isakson’s staff discussing legislative impact on particular industries, businesses, and organizations. My day would often include a hearing or meeting on the Hill where I would take notes on whatever topic was being discussed. These meetings were varied, but generally involved informational presentations on current policy, rising issues, or potential bills. Finally, I would end the day by organizing support letters for different bills that the Senator was involved with and then proceeding to one of the many receptions on Capitol Hill.
What is your favorite part about this opportunity and what is the most challenging part about it?
My favorite aspect of this opportunity was the observational access to policy makers at the highest level. To be able to see, first-hand Senator Isakson’s decision-making processes and leadership methods was a great privilege. The most challenging part about this opportunity involved the amount of information that I was required and expected to digest and understand everyday. There are no issues in the world that are more important and impactful than those being discussed on Capitol Hill – it can be a lot to take in at once.
What advice would you give to future interns to maximize their experience?
My advice to future interns would be to take advantage of every opportunity in DC. Attend every hearing you can, explore the Capitol building, talk to people who work for other Congressmen and Congresswomen. Basically, buy-in on the experience. Also, take advantage of the staff-level access that your Senate ID gives you.
How will you apply the work you’re doing here to your college experience?
My most important takeaway from this internship comes completely as a result of interacting with Senator Isakson. You can tell a lot about a leader by the way he treats the lowest person on the totem pole, namely, the intern. On my first day, I had not been sitting at my desk for more than ten minutes before the Senator himself walked over and introduced himself to me. He asked me where I was from, where I went to school, what I was majoring in, and other questions that showed he respected me. Throughout the internship, Senator Isakson was always very inclusive and encouraging. He even went as far as to take each of the interns to breakfast. I will always remember the respect that the Senator showed me. That is probably the biggest takeaway that I will continue to apply not only to my college experience, but also to my life in general.
Is there anything else you would like to add about what makes your internship unique?
I would like to use this space to encourage everyone who has never worked in public service to consider spending a summer interning on Capitol Hill. I think that the experience is extremely beneficial in widening perspective and in gaining appreciation for the leadership that these men and women provide to our country.
If you have any more questions about the position or Will's experience tweet him @WillMcCartney