Serious, and sometimes humorous, advice from a real-life intern

July 27, 2012 | By Caleb Parke

I have reached the inevitable point of no return at which everyone asks, “Are you ready for school?” and “How was your summer?” Both questions cause a flood of emotions for me.

I am excited to go back to school, but I’m sad to leave this summer behind.

From the sunny day in May when I packed my dorm room into my grandma’s convertible, bought a suit at Brooks Brothers, and headed to DC, to living with 11 other interns in one house (think Real World: DC, minus the drama), I have had so many amazing experiences and opportunities.

It has been humbling and crazy – a summer like no other. I traded sleep, exercise, and healthy eating to maximize my time in the nation’s capital, where there is always an event waiting for an RSVP. There is no such thing as a free lunch, unless you’re a DC intern. Just make sure you dress the part.

Was it worth the sacrifice? Without a doubt, it was.

So, what have I learned this summer?

1. Someone is always watching you. So be good for goodness sake! The golden rule should be your guiding principle. Write it on your hand as a constant reminder...or, at least, keep it at the forefront of your mind.

2. Step out of your comfort zone. Just like Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars, try something new in spite of any criticism you might receive. Haters gonna hate. To keep yourself grounded, you should have some consistencies in your life like breakfast, church, and calls to mom and dad, just to name a few. But you need to challenge yourself, too.

3. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Be an active learner. I have learned a lot by just listening to my fellow interns and leaders within the conservative movement. Some of my views have changed, while others are now stronger.

4. Be professional. Always carry business cards with you, and keep your resume updated to the gold standard – second only to the Bible and the Constitution. Also, keep in mind that you have an online resume. Use Facebook and Twitter appropriately.

5. Dress for success. Get a fashion mentor. This could be a friend, your mom, or even GQ. It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Take your wardrobe in strides. Start with at least one nice suit and then piece the rest together through various consignment shops and occasional steals (and by that I mean really good buys).

6. Stay connected and follow up. Keep in contact with friends and leaders you’ve met during your internship. You never know where they might end up! Possibly the most important question you can ask is, “How can I help you?” Conversely, Benjamin Franklin said, “If you want to make a friend, ask them for a favor.” Helping others and asking them to help you establishes strong connections.

7. Surround yourself with people you admire. This includes the influences of the books you read, shows you watch, and music you listen to. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.

Finally, in all of it, have fun, and don’t be afraid to fail. You’re an intern, so now is the time to make mistakes. But remember you’re not just an intern. You’re more than that! Act like it!

Shameless plug: The Leadership Institute offers the best internship in Washington, D.C. I am now a walking example. I received free housing, established an instant network of conservatives, attended free LI trainings, got free books, and attended several conferences. I also met great conservative rockstars like Star Parker, James O’Keefe, Lila Rose, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rebecca Kleefisch, and many more! If you want to have an unforgettable experience, I highly recommend you apply for the LI intern program.