Student Profile: Unpaid Intern to DC Lobbyist

Danielle headshotDanielle


College: University of Pennsylvania


Major: History, Political Science


Graduated: 2013


Jobs Before Fundamentum: Unpaid internship at a lobbying firm, unpaid legislative internship with a California congresswoman


Job After Fundamentum: Research Associate at Washington D.C. Lobbying Firm.



What were you doing before you decided to sign up for Fundamentum?


Before Fundamentum, I’d been out of school and unemployed for about a year. I didn’t have a job when I graduated, so I moved home to live with my parents in California for a little while before relocating to Washington D.C. where I hoped to work. When I got there, I went through a couple of unpaid internships while I looked for a paid position. Unfortunately, there weren’t many job postings at that time, I was there during the government shut-down and was having no luck even finding anything at the entry-level. Eventually, I got tired of the whole situation and decided I needed a change of scenery, even if it meant just strictly focusing on my job search and not working at all.


How were you trying to find a job, and what were your biggest frustrations?


I kept in touch with the offices where I interned for free, and my old coworkers sent me job postings even after I left, which was really kind of them. But, they mostly sent me scheduling positions, and I wanted to focus on policy work. I did apply for some of those positions just to go through the motions, but it wasn’t a skill set I felt I had, and I knew that type of work would be stressful and not very substantive for me, so I wasn’t enamored with that idea.


How effective was it to work with a dedicated coach throughout the program?


Pam was super accommodating when it came to creating a schedule for me and getting me through the material pretty quickly while we were on the phone. She took me through a bunch of career iterations, and I reflected on a lot of different career paths throughout this search. Before I would go on interviews, Pam would help me go over my personal brand and all the questions I wanted to ask and the stories I wanted to tell. Having a coach to help me narrow my career focus, and then going out and meeting a bunch of people in that narrowed field, helped me land the job I have now because I knew all about it by the time I interviewed.


What did Fundamentum push you to do differently when it came to looking for a job?


Pam encouraged me to go on as many informational interviews as possible, even when there wasn’t a specific job opening I was applying for. I knew it was good for me to meet new people and learn from them, but when you’re tasked with doing that on your own and no one is checking if you met with them, or if you followed up or not… it’s hard to stay motivated to do that. But when you have a coach there to report to, it keeps you focused on asking these people to do something for you at the end, and making sure you get an actionable result. I wasn’t used to having that force behind me before, but it was definitely a good thing!


What was the biggest factor in getting the job you have today?


Going through stories with Fundamentum was incredibly helpful, because although I’d gone through interviews before and knew that telling stories was important, I think going through the motions of physically writing them out, practicing saying them multiple times per week, and getting the guidelines from my coach for how to tell the story (and how to tell it succinctly) was a huge improvement for me, whether I was going to an interview for a job, or an informational interview. Pam forced me to think critically about the stories I was telling – what’s the conclusion, what’s this person going to take away – and asked me to decide if maybe there was a better story to use to make my point, and she’d help me come up with a few others. And I really do think that my ability to tell stories well after working on them with Fundamentum got me to further rounds in interviews.


For one of my interviews, I met with 4 different people for 45 minutes each, and they just asked me strings of story-related questions, and when that happened I felt completely on top of it and was totally able get through an interview that would have otherwise been really difficult if not for Fundamentum.


What job did you get, and are you pleased with where you are now?


The things that I described to Pam and thought about throughout the Fundamentum process in regards to what I wanted to do with my career is actually very in-line with what I’m doing, and even though it felt like a long road to get here, I am so happy with where I’m at now. I work for a D.C. lobbying firm as a research associate, researching policies surrounding everything from transportation, technology, cyber security, and budget issues. I’ve had the chance to go to fundraisers for congress people and I’m learning about all of these issue areas… it’s incredibly interesting and I feel so lucky to be where I am.


Written by Wes Janisen


Fundamentum coaches you to take control of your career and find your fit. With our expert help, you receive the personal attention you need to change your career trajectory. Through our flexible program, you’ll meet with your coach over the phone in small-group WebClasses or one-on-one coaching sessions to build critical job search skills and start getting results.


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Posted by Team Fundamentum