Alumnus Shares Advice for UCF Students Seeking to Work in D.C.

marc alberts_headshotMarc Alberts, ’11, graduated from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in political science on the international relations and comparative politics track and a minor in Spanish. Shortly after graduation, Alberts arrived in Washington, D.C. to work as an intern for a governmental affairs office in the downtown area. His internship helped him get another paid internship working for a house committee. After only a couple of months, he was hired on as a staff assistant for that same committee in August 2012, and he has since been promoted to clerk for one of the subcommittees. Alberts plans to continue working on the Hill during the 113th Congress while he prepares for law school.

While his story is perhaps not unique in terms of how to find employment in Washington, D.C., he does have advice to offer political science students seeking to be more competitive. Alberts suggests that students should prepare early and to begin planning for future jobs while still in school. He feels that many students are well versed in the benefits of résumé building and networking, but adds that practical experience is just as crucial. Résumés are much more useful for finding employment when they include work-related experience.

When Alberts reflects on his time at UCF, he feels he could have been more productive.  “While I enjoyed my major in political science, I regret the fact that I was not more active outside of the classroom. I made the mistake of thinking that finding a job after college starts once I receive my diploma, when in reality that search should begin while you are still a student longboarding the sidewalks of campus. Nowadays it’s simply not good enough to have a résumé that is “good enough.”  In my experience, here in the District, employers are looking for much more than just the grades,” said Alberts.

He realized very quickly that the jobs available for students fresh out of college with a bachelor’s degree were very competitive. The same is true for landing an internship with little or no pay.  Practical experience is the key, whether that means interning in local political offices, law firms, district courts, or getting involved in SGA. He adds that these experiences truly add to classroom education and, while they are excellent résumé boosters, the real value of participating in these activities is that they will help build a network of professional contacts.

Alberts says, “I attribute my success in obtaining an interview for my internship to my network. Through hard work and a little bit of luck, that internship turned into a paid position. The chance of having your résumé picked out of a stack of hundreds of others that look very similar to your own, or in many cases look even better than yours, can be increased with the help of a professional network.”

Alberts continues, however, by adding that it’s not just about “who you know.” The way for students to build up a professional network and increase their opportunities in order to put them  in the best position to land a job always comes down to one major building block: hard work. Professional relationships are solidified through the hard work and the quality that is displayed in the lower positions an individual holds. He always believed that everyone should start at the bottom of the ladder and through hard work and dedication, work their way up to the top. He shares that as an intern, students should take on the mindset that they are lucky to have the opportunity to show their employers that they are a dedicated, hardworking individual worthy of a paid position. At the very least, they are bound to receive a stunning recommendation for another opportunity elsewhere. When students demonstrate that they are passionate about the work they do, even if it’s just basic intern tasks, employers will appreciate that student’s professionalism and be more than helpful by sharing their tips and resources in the job search.  Alberts notes that the political science courses he took at UCF helped instill this “hard work pays off” mentality, and he did receive a lot of good real world lessons from his professors. He only wishes that he had followed their advice a little more closely in his earlier academic years but is thankful that the learning environment at UCF was always professional.

Alberts says, “To recap, if you’re a Knight that is already doing well in your major, active outside of the classroom (engaged in state/local politics, participate in College Republicans/Democrats, SGA, etc.), have an internship already in the bag and a sparkling résumé, congrats. You’re already on the right track and should do just fine when you decide to venture up to D.C. But for those students who need a little more of a push in the right direction, take my word for it, everyone is likely to benefit from an internship, whether it is locally in Orlando, back home in your district, or even in D.C. If you want to get a feel for what it’s like to live and work up in the District, I would recommend exploring opportunities through the Washington Center.  If you’re not quite sure where to start, approach your favorite professor or the departmental internship coordinator and kindly ask them for a meeting where you both can sit and discuss your future goals. They are more helpful than I ever realized and my best planning came from a few brain storming sessions in the offices of UCF’s political science department.”  

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