Ariana Hooks has some ideas for standing out among a pool of job applicants, and she's willing to share them with you.
When asked what it takes to make the most out of interning and learning in Washington, D.C., she says: "Just being willing and able to work really hard and being ready to take on new challenges is definitely key to showing people that you're both competent and a hard worker. I think that does a lot."
She would know. Whilst participating in the Washington Semester Program, Hooks began interning with the Voting Rights Office of the Democratic National Committee and is now slated to start full-time work for the very same department and supervisor this month. Except this time, she'll be managing the research projects she formally did the grunt work on.
"I'll be looking into upcoming litigation and legislation around issues like redistricting, gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and election security… I'll also be taking the step up from intern to junior staff [while working] with the new batch of interns coming in."
Having studied Political Science at Santa Clara University, she clearly has a predilection toward politics and analyzing the myriad ways they impact all of us. Naturally, when she first learned about and applied for the Washington Semester Program, she figured she would try her luck on Capitol Hill working for a member of congress. But, as it happens, her internship at the DNC would put her at the table with those same politicians she had hoped to work for.
"I kind of figured I'd come here and work for a member of congress, so it was really cool to actually get to work with one," Hooks says of her meetings with various political representatives throughout the fall. "We're delegated a lot of tasks that are more than the standard intern tasks that you expect. [Our supervisor] sent us to a meeting in her place yesterday and trusted us to report back to her. She trusts us to take on bigger roles."
Aside from working hard and finding something you can be passionate about, Hooks advises that maybe the most important thing a Washington Semester Program student can do to benefit from their experience is to take advantage of the city itself, and everything it may have to offer.
"I feel like a lot of students want to come here and only stay on campus and only make friends with the people in their classes. But I think part of the reason I've had such a great time here is that I'm hardly on campus. People in my classes are very nice, but I'm also trying to set myself up here and make permanent friends and really expand my network past just students."
In fact, when asked about a favorite memory during her Washington Semester, she describes the unique opportunities that living in Washington provide.
"There's a good work/class/life balance that the program allows, so it's not like I've felt that I've been drowning in homework. I've actually been able to go out to eat, to go see museums, and that's a really great part of the program for sure."
To future Washington Semester Program students who share Hook's passion for voting rights, she gives the following advice:
"Students can get involved in expanding voting rights by holding voter registration drives on their campuses and making sure that other students are aware of their rights to register and vote. A lot of the problems with our generation is its apathy with regards to elections, so making sure students understand how much power we hold at the local and state levels is far more important than who is in the Oval Office."
After finishing her semester in the program, Hooks plans to continue pursuing opportunities in politics, both on Capitol Hill and off.
"I'm definitely thinking of working for a few years, and then maybe trying to move over to the Hill in a staff position. Law school is definitely in my sights. But staying in Washington for the foreseeable future is definitely what I'm interested in."
Whether it be through its accredited certificates for working professionals or through its mentorship and internship programs for undergraduates, the School of Professional & Extended Studies (SPExS) provides world-class experiential learning for individuals across all stages of their career. To learn more about how alumni of the School of Professional & Extended Studies are empowering changemakers throughout Washington DC and beyond, visit http://www.american.edu/spexs/news/index.cfm