How My D.C. Internship Helped Me Discover a New Career Path

New Career Path

Back in August, I thought I had it all figured out. I knew what I was getting out of undergrad, what my next school would be and what my dream job was.

But interning in D.C. the last few months made me realize that I can reinvent myself as many times as I see fit and there’s never a wrong career move.

The first realization I had working here was I did not want to go to law school anymore. This happened three weeks into my internship and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had spent the greater part of two years researching everything I could about great law programs in the northeast, going to open houses, sitting in on classes and preparing essay drafts for my personal statement. But the more I looked at the price tag and calendar dates for the LSAT, I realized I no longer had the interest or time to prepare myself for these programs.

That realization frustrated me. I felt helpless. It felt as if I didn’t have it together...

Interning in D.C. the last few months made me realize that I can reinvent myself as many times as I see fit and there’s never a wrong career move.

Matt Enriquez

That was until I made it to a networking event with the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association (CHSA). There, I met two mentors that have been more than helpful, Ramon and Carolina. Both followed different paths to the same result: fellows on the Education Committee in the House of Representatives. Ramon had once been a pre-med biology student, aspiring to attend medical school; Carolina had studied theatre and psychology. They had almost the exact same advice for me: it was far too early for me to worry about not having my whole life figured out. 

Before I was accepted into a Congressional internship, I never thought I would enjoy working on the Hill; I never thought I would enjoy policy analysis; I never thought I would want to be on a representative’s staff. But here I am, feeling satisfied day after day that what I am doing is productive for the people in my district.

Another piece of advice they gave me was there isn’t a wrong move you can make for your career. Ramon cautioned me to be careful in investing into any post graduate program. Coming right out of undergrad, I might not get the same benefit as someone who has five or more years of professional working experience. Carolina reminded me you can spin any work experience to how you see fit. As long you learn something new and expand your professional toolset, there isn’t a wrong internship or job you can take--so long as they’re ethical.

I reflected on that. I realized I had wanted to be a lawyer so badly because I projected a certain skill set onto them. I pictured them as bold communicators, analyzing the law to set precedents and create change in society. That’s the same thing I see staffers in our office doing. I could build on my analytical and communication skills through a public policy program instead and apply it to working in a congressional office.

Before I was accepted into a Congressional internship, I never thought I would enjoy working on the Hill; I never thought I would enjoy policy analysis; I never thought I would want to be on a representative’s staff. But here I am, feeling satisfied day after day that what I am doing is productive for the people in my district.

Matt Enriquez

Thankfully, not all my initial law school research went to waste. I am still considering schools in Massachusetts because that’s where I want to be. I will consider going back to the Hill when I finish my Master’s, though that’s also not set in stone. I look forward to doing more research when I have time over Thanksgiving.

I’m glad I met the people who are helping me shape into the professional I want to be. I’ve been so used to playing email tag with people I want to be mentored by back in college. It means the world to me that there are people out there who are willing to take the time out of their day to ask me for coffee. 

I may have changed my path, but I’m glad I did. A career should be something that fulfills you and gives you agency to create positive change. Change can be scary, but change is necessary for evolution. I’m looking at path that is not set in stone, and I am looking forward to take those challenges head on.

Matt Enriquez, Washington Center Student Blogger, Fall 2019

Matt is a Political Communication major at Emerson College in Boston, MA and a Fall 2019 intern at the U.S. House of Representatives.