Top 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Time in Washington, D.C.

It’s summertime in D.C. and the energy is great. New internships or fellows have started at exciting internships in Washington, D.C., while many of you who have recently graduated are embarking on your first jobs.

Here at GovLoop, we’ve been fortunate enough to have a rotating cast of excellent interns and fellows, so we know first-hand the great talent and training provided by those who are often new to D.C.

But while you’re here starting your new gigs, how do you optimize your D.C. experience?

Here are my five tips for making the most of D.C. this summer (and honestly, I think they apply to anybody, whether you’re new to your job and D.C. or not).

#1 – Come to Next Generation of Government Training Summit: NextGen is the #1 training conference for 650+ Gen X/Y government employees, held July 24-25th in D.C. Yes, I’m biased as I run it — but if you do one thing this summer, go to this. Many past fellows and interns have gotten job offers from attending, as well as made great connections. As one past recipient said, “NextGen made me fall back in love with public service.” Register here.

#2 – Be Amazing at Your Job: Too often we forget about the basics. Make sure you are amazing at your job. Be the first one in the office and last one there. Every project you do, make sure it’s A+ quality. Ask for more work if it’s slow. You’re most likely to get your next job from your co-workers and bosses this summer — so wow them, and they’ll go out of the way to help you.

#3 – Make a Networking Commitment: It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the variety of networking options each week. From Young Professionals in Foreign Policy events to GovLoop to invites from your other networks, you could probably go to four events a week. Instead of just taking an ad hoc approach to networking, make a commitment. I will go to two events per week and go to them each week. I will reach out and have two coffee information interviews per week. Make lifestyle changes like going to the gym before work so you’re freed up to networking after work.

#4 – Brush Up on New Skills: We know you’re a smart thinker who knows about government, strategic planning, and writing case notes. These are great skills — but employers are also want some of the key day-to-day practical skills like public speaking, big data analysis, design thinking, acquisition knowledge and more. Use your time in D.C. to firm up on these skills at free and cheap trainings from General Assembly, USA Graduate School, GovLoop, Defense Acquisition University, OPM Innovation Lab, and more.

#5 – Start Your Job Search: The government job search takes a long time, so use your time here to begin your search. If you haven’t already, re-read the GovLoop guides to getting a government job at pathtopmf.com. Make sure you’re applying to jobs at USAJOBS and also for fellowship programs like Presidential Innovation Fellows and the Presidential Management Fellows Program.

If you follow these five tips, you’ll really be making the most of your time in this dynamic city. Have a blast in your summer in D.C. — and hope to see you at NextGen in July.

Check out some of my other “Top 5’s”:

Top 5: Gov’t Shows That Should Exist
Top 5: Tips For Summer Interns
Top 5: Best Places to Have a Government Job
Top 5: Worst Places to Have a Government Job
Top 5: Reasons You Didn’t Get the Promotion
Top 10: What Works in Social Media
Top 5: Ways to Handle a Boring Meeting
Top 5 Signs You Need a New Job
Top 5: Ways to Look Important at the Office

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Peter Sperry

Also —

Take time to really spend quality time in the monuments. Read the inscriptions on the walls and think about what they mean to you today.

Stop by the Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. If you are going to work in government, it would be nice to understand its foundations.

Take a day and sit in on a Congressional hearing, spend a little time in the House or Senate visitors gallery. If you can arrange it, shadow a Hill staffer for a day. You will be surprised what you learn.

Go to Arlington Cemetery and pay respects to the men and women who have made our freedom possible.

Visit Mt Vernon and consider the contradictions within our greatest President. Was he primarily a slave holder who managed to win a revolution and lead a nation or was he a primarily a great leader who was unable to overcome a single tragic flaw?