The Politics of Internships: 5 Career Tips Learned Interning in the U.S. Congress

Politics, politics, politics!

Unless you’re a Political Science major, you may not like to engage in politics. You might run from them as fast as you can, especially in the office. But guess what? Office politics are everywhere, even at internships. 

Unfortunately, as a young intern, you will not be fully aware of the established political environment within the organization hosting your internship. This was a huge problem for me when I interned in the U.S. Congress in Washington, DC. However, from speaking with many Congressmen and their staff experts, I learned some amazing tips on how to navigate office politics.

Below are 5 quick empowerment tips I practiced daily to help me avoid office politics. They definitely helped me stand out among hundreds of other sharp Congressional Interns, and following them will give you the edge too!

Always Be Professional and Learn the Organizational Culture

Being courteous, expressing gratitude, being punctual for work and meetings, maintaining a clean appearance, and keeping your word are all great professional attributes that you should practice. Also, toward the beginning of your internship, speak with your supervisor and other full-time employees to get a sense for the organizational culture. Ask them for advice on what you must do to properly align yourself with the culture.

Gossip  – But Only About the Good Stuff!

Don’t get sucked into conversations that are full of rumors and bad mouthing, especially about your supervisor. If you feel the urge to gossip, talk about all of the good aspects of the office. In your eyes, the glass should always be half-full. Simply put – always think and be positive with your thoughts and actions. Positive people tend to rise to the top and become seen as a shining light within the workforce.

Handle Conflict with Caution and Care

Conflict can arise at any point during your internship experience; you must handle any confrontation wisely. At the start of your internship, this should be one of the questions you discuss with your supervisor. Ask them for advice on how you should handle conflict within your respective environment – a crucial soft skill as conflict and tension could terribly damage your internship experience, and reputation.

Be as Helpful as You Can to Everybody

Express your willingness to support your co-workers with any work or projects. Extending a helping hand will demonstrate that you are always ready to learn and be supportive of the staff; you’re a team player. The work may not always be glamorous, but it will pay off because your support will be noticed and appreciated.

Work Harder Than Any Other Intern

In this tough job market, you have to standout! Be dedicated to your internship and make a personal commitment that you will work harder than your peer interns. This shouldn’t be achieved in a malicious or destructive manner. Don’t look to rise by undermining others. Just be on your A-game, take your work seriously, and produce amazing results. Consequently, your hard work ethic will naturally manifest itself.

Adhering to these empowerment tips will help you successfully navigate office politics like a seasoned professional so you can 1) STAND OUT and 2) BE REMEMBERED!

Before you go, let me hear about some of your office mistakes and how you resolved them; use the comments below. Let’s all help each other learn and grow from our past mistakes!


About the Author: Dr. Antoine D. Moss is a a nationally recognized resource in the fields of internships, early career achievement, leadership, and motivation. He has contributed to career and empowerment articles for media outlets like,, The Plain Dealer, Fox 8 TV News and WERE News Radio 1490.

Dr. Moss is also the CEO and Founder of CEO Style Consulting, LLC. The company’s mission is to empower professionals and organizations to reach their full potential. Through his company and memberships with the Great Black Speakers Bureau, Inspiring Speakers Bureau, and NASA Speakers Bureau, Dr. Moss delivers empowerment keynote addresses, conducts training workshops, and offers consulting services.

Dr. Moss graduated from Cleveland State University’s Urban Studies and Public Affairs Ph.D. program, with a concentration in Leadership (2011).



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