Rock the Vote. Intern in Politics.

Last week, the big news story was the mid-term elections. Only if you were living under a rock did you not see, hear, or have a general awareness of the serious campaigning going on leading up to this election. What you likely didn’t see, however, was the power behind many of those campaigns: college student volunteers and interns.

If you are interested in a career in politics or government, there are a few key methods of gaining relevant experience as an undergraduate.

  • Get involved in student government. If you are pursuing a career in politics or government, one excellent way to start diving into the field early in your college career is by getting involved in student government. For one, you can gain actual experience for your resume, especially if you serve in an executive board or, in the case of Whitewater Student Government, a senator position. At the very least, most people would expect to see involvement in student government from anyone looking to get into politics or government work. It’s likely a key item potential internship sites will look for when evaluating applicants’ resumes.
  • Volunteer with a political campaign. As I mentioned in the introduction, many students were involved in the most recent political campaigns. This includes working for local politicians running in state legislative races as well as the bigger campaigns for governor and US House or Senate. I know of several UW-W students who worked with the Scott Walker campaign, both this summer and into the fall semester. During the last presidential election, there were UW-W students working with the local campaign efforts for Barack Obama. Last Wednesday, the day after the election, CNN was already mentioning that campaigns for the 2012 presidential election would be gearing up. There will no doubt be plenty of campaign opportunities on the horizon.
  • When campaigns aren’t in full swing, intern with a elected official. What do you do if it’s not an election year or if there are no campaigns to work on? Look for internships with current elected officials. Paul Ryan, US Congressman serving Wisconsin’s 1st District, gets information to UW-W every year about his internship opportunities. These internships are available locally in his Janesville Constituent Services Center OR with his office in Washington, DC. Governor Jim Doyle has also offered internship opportunities which have been available in his Madison, Milwaukee, and Washington DC offices. I would imagine similar opportunities will be available with Scott Walker when he begins his term as governor. In the case for many of these internships, you can stay close OR go far!

Any of these experiences should provide helpful insight into local, state, and national politics. You can gain some valuable experience without running for office. Of course if you do decide to run for an elected office, the background you gain through student government, volunteering with a campaign, or interning with an elective official will definitely be put to good use!

For more information on internship opportunities in government, public policy, or politics, please see our Field-Specific Programs & Resources page on the UW-W Internships website.

Photo by Beverly & Pack

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