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September 12, 2013 11:56 AM Clean Those Coffee-Mugs with Zest and Aplomb!

By Henry Farrell

Advice on succeeding as a policy intern in Washington DC. Doubtless, this is entirely well meant. Very likely, it is good advice. But precisely to the extent it is good advice, it speaks volumes …

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The number one thing that ensures a “way in” to this town/field is an internship- which are typically unpaid and last about 6 months. … While internships aren’t exactly paid in cash, they are paid in networks, and those networks are worth more than money.) … So there is a lot of competition about “who’s smarter than who” or “who produces more.” A little secret: one of the ways to get ahead is to take some of that energy and just be kind and helpful. Cleaning coffee mugs with a good attitude gets you noticed. Then people realize you are smart and read your stuff. … recognize that your 40-hours-a-week is simply the cost of entry. If you really want to leverage your internship, expect to work a lot more (though no one will tell you that, because I’m pretty sure that legally they can’t) … I was fortunate enough that I could incur the cost of not earning an income for 6 months; some of my fellow interns ended up doing all of that and then waiting tables until 2am…crazy, I know! Just think of it as if you’re Andrea Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada, except hopefully your boss is much nicer (mine certainly was!) and your shoes probably shouldn’t cost as much (though if you are in the market, here’s some worth investing in if you are going to be running around this city and want to look uber professional: http://www.zappos.com/cole-haan-chelsea-low-pump-black-patent?zfcTest=fcl%3A0)

[Cross-posted at Crooked Timber]

Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.

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