Learning the Ropes of D.C.

Shivani Bhogaraju interned with Emily’s List in Summer 2021. She had the opportunity to work with a political action committee (PAC), and gained invaluable experience in the campaign and advocacy sides of D.C.

Before beginning my internship search, I felt quite conflicted. My two years studying political science had sparked my interest in so many different aspects of the political process, and I wasn’t even sure where to begin when applying for prospective positions. Although it was quite difficult to commit myself to applying to as many internships as possible, I pushed through and was incredibly glad I did so. Rejection after rejection rolled in, and by mid-March it felt like I might not have a job for the summer. Luckily, one of my top choices expressed interest in my application, and it was clear to me from the beginning of the interview process that EMILY’s List was a workplace where I could see myself doing meaningful work while learning and growing among like-minded peers. From the beginning, it was important to me to have a job whose core beliefs and values aligned with my own, so I knew from my initial criteria that EMILY’s List would be a good fit for me.

Throughout my internship at EMILY’s List, I had quite a few experiences that expanded my perspective of the campaign process and helped me narrow down my interests in preparation for my upcoming job search. EMILY’s List is a political action committee that helps Democratic pro-choice women run (and win!) positions on the local, state, and federal level. The EMILY’s List team provides a wide variety of resources to candidates, including staff, organizational and financial support, and endorsements. As an intern with the Federal and Gubernatorial Campaigns team, I assisted a wide variety of candidates. With my team of other interns, I quickly learned the ins and outs of running a successful campaign that can withstand many of the complicated and unpredictable roadblocks that candidates face in today’s political landscape. From campaign launches to donor research, every task I was given was one that worked towards electing another woman to office, and regardless of the type of work I was doing it felt amazing to be contributing to the diversification of America’s elected officials.

Although it was definitely disappointing to participate in both my internship and the Illinois in Washington program online, participating in IIW enhanced my internship experience and helped me connect with peers who were also participating in internships both virtually and in person. Throughout the semester, I gained a deeper understanding of both the written and unwritten rules about working in DC. Perhaps the most important ‘unwritten’ rule I learned was the importance of networking, and as a result I had quite a few engaging and helpful networking calls with people who work in fields I am interested in pursuing. The assignments and lessons gave me an opportunity to perfect my argumentative writing and communication skills in a political setting, and I emerged from the program with a better sense of how to develop and articulate an argument that will resonate with others. Participating in IIW made my virtual internship feel a little bit less isolating, and I am so grateful for both the relationships and skills I’ve gained throughout the summer.