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From Intern to Full Time Employee: An Interview with Kathleen McCarthy

RoConnections - March 6, 2018

Two months after graduation and you’re still looking for a job. By now, you must have applied to at least fifty companies, but you have yet to get a response. No phone calls. No emails. Nothing. Desperate, you check and re-check your resume, searching for errors. The education section looks great, as does your summary of qualifications. As does your career profile. You have a killer cover letter attached to your resume, along with an immaculate writing sample and glowing recommendations. What’s missing? Why aren’t companies noticing you?

Here’s the short answer: You need work experience.

One way to gain work experience as a student or recent graduate is through an internship. According to a recent survey done by Forbes, employers are 96% more likely to hire someone with internship and work experience rather than someone with a generic resume, lacking experience.

Aside from being a resume booster, an internship can also help set the foundation for your career. You see, employers often use internships as a recruitment tool to test out future employees and in many cases, companies hire interns after graduation.

Take, for example, Kathleen McCarthy.

macrthyDuring the summer of her junior year at Rosemont College, Kathleen completed an internship with Congressman Dave Trott in Washington, D.C. As an intern, Kathleen managed all the congressman’s social media platforms and assisted in the drafting of content for press releases, opinion columns, mailings, and speeches.  Based on the outstanding work she did, Congressman Trott offered Kathleen a full-time position immediately following her graduation in the fall of 2017. Recently, we interviewed Kathleen to learn more about her success.


Rosemont College (RC): How has your Rosemont education prepared you for life after graduation?

Kathleen McCarthy (KM): Due to the small class size and nature of Rosemont I was able to build relationships with both my classmates and professors that I know will continue well beyond my time at Rosemont. With the small class size in the political science department came the ability to engage in real discussions about real issues that are happening in today’s world. I think this helped prepare me for life after graduation because it allowed me to feel comfortable expressing my opinion and communicating with others who might have a different opinion from my own views.

RC: Why did you want to get involved in politics?

KM: I had always had an interest in politics. When I was young, I watched NBC Nightly News with my dad, discussing the daily news stories that would take place around the world; that truly started my initial interest in politics. However, I did not realize I wanted to pursue a degree in political science until my high school 11th grade US government class. That class took place the same year that President Obama was running for re-election and I really started to pay attention to how the government was structured and how the legislative process worked— safe to say I was instantly hooked. When I started at Rosemont I knew that I wanted to try and intern in Washington, DC, the center of politics. Then our longtime family friend, Dave Trott, decided to run for Congress in 2014. I was then able to get my summer 2016 internship through him. I started in May 2016 as an intern for Congressman Trott and worked until August 2016.

RC: Tell me more about your internship. What were your responsibilities? What did you enjoy about it?

KM: The primary responsibilities of a summer intern on Capitol Hill in a congressional office include speaking with constituents, attending committee hearings, writing constituent mail, and giving tours of the United States Capitol. Following my internship and witnessing all the exciting things in DC, from watching a late night vote series from the House Gallery to seeing former Attorney General Loretta Lynch testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the Hillary Clinton email scandal, I fell in love with Washington, DC and by the end of the summer I knew that I wanted to pursue a career here after graduation.

RC: In what way, if any, did the internship lead to your current position?

KM: Had I not worked hard and made a good impression on the office I do not think I would have been offered a job following graduation. That really is the best part about internships, they allow you to show yourself and others who you are and how hard you are willing to work for something.

RC: When were you hired at your new position? What was your reaction?

KM: The Congressman knew that I had worked well with the DC office and that I had an interest in politics, so following the conclusion of my internship, in December 2016 I was offered a spot on the team following my December 2017 graduation. I was offered the role as Press Secretary for the Congressman in the fall of 2017 (originally I was going to come on as a Staff Assistant). I was thrilled to be offered the role as Press Secretary, because I knew that it would expose me to an interesting side of politics that is oftentimes misconstrued.

RC: I understand you had to relocate. How was that? Also, what’s your favorite part about the new city?

KM: I grew up traveling all over the United States, from the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Cape Cod in Massachusetts, my parents were always taking me and my three siblings all over the country, so moving away from home (Birmingham, Michigan) was not a big deal for me. I was comfortable in Philadelphia for school, but once I moved to Washington for the first time in the summer of 2016, I truly felt like I had found my second home. I would argue that DC is one of the coolest places in the world, it’s just so interesting and it’s filled with so much history. From the monuments to the people, everything has a story. One of the best things about working on Capitol Hill is that everyone is from all over the United States, and in DC, you never know who you are going to meet. Yes, my apartment building is across the street from the Supreme Court and then in the background you can see the sun setting over the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument— I might be biased, but I think it’s one of the top ten best views in town.

RC: Tell me about your new position. When did you start? What was your first day like?

KM: It’s funny, I actually officially finished my undergraduate career on Wednesday, December 13th and then my first day at the office was on Monday, December 17th. My first day was a bit overwhelming just because it was a lot of information at once, like any new experience. But I also knew most of the staff in the office already, so in a way it felt like coming home.  

RC: What is a typical day like for you?

KM: Well this is politics, so no two days are the same. But a typical day for me starts around 7, I wake up, check my email, get ready, and then I walk to work, our offices open at 8:30 am. From there, I check my email again; check the Congressman’s social media platforms, and then every day I write out a to-do list of things that I need to accomplish that day. From posting articles that explain new tax benefits for constituents in the 11th district, to writing a statement for the Congressman about a bill that he is sponsoring, nothing in this job is really routine. But I think that is the best part, if I did the same exact thing every day at work I’m sure I would get bored very quickly, it is truly an honor to serve as Press Secretary for Congressman Trott.

RC: What advice would you give to someone who would like to enter your field?

KM: The first thing I would suggest is an internship for a Member of Congress. While I did know the Congressman prior to my internship, I know numerous people that work on Capitol Hill that simply got their internships through applying. Next, I would tell them that timing is key. In my opinion, you should intern for a congressional office for at least eight weeks in order to properly get exposed to the realm of the United States Congress. Further, in the fall of 2016 I was able to work on a senate campaign for the re-election of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and that exposed me to the campaign side of politics. Both experiences, my hill internship and the campaign work, gave me rewarding experiences and I would recommend either or both, to anyone looking for a career in politics. The most important thing I took away from these experiences is that at the end of the day, like anything in life, it is important to work hard and make a good impression. I would not have been offered my current position had I not done those things, especially in Washington, DC.

RC: When you look back to your time as a student at Rosemont, what is your favorite memory?

KM: I have a thousand memories from Rosemont over the course of three and a half years. But my best memories are the simple times I spent laughing with my friends— they are truly some of the best people I know and I probably would not have ever met them had I not decided to attend Rosemont.

RC: What advice would you give to our graduating seniors?

KM: I would tell them to seize any opportunity that is presented to them, sometimes people shy away from unpaid internships or low level positions, but the experience you will have is truly invaluable. It is important to always remember that you have to start somewhere.