How to Intern for a Senator

With a political arena ripe for the right kind of change, America’s brightest young scholars are hard at work assisting public servants. Having interned for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Jodie Parkinson is one of those inspiring individuals.

You would notice two things when you first meet Jodie Parkinson: Her enthusiastic drive is practically contagious, and man, does she have a powerful handshake. (Like a true future politician, we might add.) A sophomore at NYU, she has already completed two internships which aspiring change-makers dream of: In the fall of 2016 she was a Casework Intern for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and at the start of 2017 she became a Correspondence Intern at the office of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

How does one go about securing such internships? What does an actual day at the office of a politician look like? Were there any hard moments?

Read on to discover the answers…

1. What is your background?

I grew up in a homogenous suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, and for most of my life, I accepted the beliefs of those around me as my own. I did not think to question them until the 2016 presidential campaign, during which I avidly watched debates and tracked candidates’ stances, soon realizing that I did not agree with many notions that I had once viewed as unequivocal truth. Issues that I developed an acute interest in – immigration rights, foreign policy and gun control, for example – were often hot topics on which I would disagree with peers and family members. These same issues also influenced my decision to major in International Relations at NYU, in the hope of later studying human rights law.

2. What was your internship with US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand like?

Landing the internship with the Office of Senator Gillibrand was a fluke. I had been researching Senator Gillibrand herself one day over the summer before my freshman year, and came upon the internship program a few hours before the deadline to submit an application. With no expectations whatsoever, I scraped together a letter of recommendation, writing sample and cover letter, submitted and forgot about it until I received an offer for an interview about a week later.

My everyday tasks included creating and maintaining individual case files for constituents, speaking to constituents about various concerns with federal agencies, drafting inquiries to these agencies and collaborating with the Constituent Liaison to support the department in handling state-wide constituent services including the taxation, education, social services and transportation portfolios.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pictured at the center, with Jodie to her right.

3. How did you land your internship with the Mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio?

I found the internship with the Office of the Mayor on a politics-based NYU Facebook group, and chose to work in the correspondence department in order to develop my writing abilities and gain experience in the process of responding to constituents’ inquiries, requests and suggestions. The application included a cover letter, writing sample and a few brief responses to questions specific to the internship.

4. What did your day-to-day schedule look like while you were interning with the Mayor?

My responsibilities included routing casework-related correspondence from constituents to the correct agencies, providing constituents with up-to-date information over the phone and drafting responses to constituents’ inquiries directed to Mayor de Blasio.

5. What are some issues Senator Gillibrand supports that you strongly agree with?

Interning for Senator Gillibrand was an incredible honor because we are so closely politically aligned. I view her efforts to create a more ethical, accountable Congress through the STOCK Act (an act of Congress designed to combat insider trading on Wall Street) as one of the most respectable accomplishments of her tenure in office thus far. I also agree with her on many immigration-related issues, such as her belief that the United States has a responsibility to provide those fleeing war, persecution and crises with the freedoms and opportunities American citizens so often take for granted. Furthermore, I stand with her in her support of protecting the privilege of all people in this country to live free of the fear of losing their homes, jobs and family. I also appreciate her efforts to make social benefits as well as educational and employment opportunities more accessible to veterans, who are too often deprived of the security to which they are entitled following their return.

6. What is one piece of advice you would give to others aspiring to work with high-ranking politicians?

The most important factor to consider when evaluating different internships in the government is whether a particular politician’s principles, voting record and actions are consistent with one’s own morals and beliefs. Working with Senator Gillibrand was an amazing experience particularly because I admired her actions in the Senate before I began my internship, and was able to speak to and aid many of the people whom her accomplishments have benefited. For example, I had the privilege of helping first responders and victims of 9/11 gain tax relief (granted to them in Publication 3920, the revision and clarification of which Senator Gillibrand had influenced). Those kinds of experiences – where I was able to directly take part in public service – were what made the internship so fulfilling.

Jodie 2 (1)

7. What were the highlights of your political internships?

Apart from meeting Senator Gillibrand herself, the most rewarding experiences during my time as a casework intern were those in which I was able to witness a constituent benefit greatly from the efforts of our office’s Constituent Liaisons and Senator Gillibrand herself. I was personally involved in cases that resulted in tax relief, student loan forgiveness and the reinstatement of SNAP (food stamps) and HEAP (which helps people with low income pay the cost of heating their homes).

At my internship with the Office of the Mayor, I most enjoyed replying to constituent inquiries and gaining valuable experience as a writer, as well as learning more about the inner-workings of local government.

8. What is your vision for the future?

I will be leaving on an 18-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this fall. Following my return, I would like to finish my remaining three years at NYU, obtain a law degree and subsequently become an immigration attorney, specializing in political asylum and refugee cases.

9. What has been your hardest moment and what have you learned from it?

My first semester at NYU was more academically difficult for me than any other period in my life. Interning at the Office of Senator Gillibrand and indulging in my compulsive desire to immediately experience everything the city has to offer meant that studying was no longer a priority for me. Unsurprisingly, I was disappointed in a few of the grades I received at the end of the semester. I used my frustration to fuel all-nighters and much more frequent trips to the library during my second semester, however, and though I was even busier, I was proud of the grades I earned in the end.

Some facts about Jodie:

  • Her role model is Serena Williams.
  • She would describe the current political situation as “volatile.”
  • Her favorite book is “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.
  • If she wasn’t interning in politics, she would try out the “book publishing or theatre” industries.
  • One word that sums up success in her eyes is “Progress.”


Cover Photo shot by Molly Meisels for The Glam Salad ©

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