VAM Spotlight: Maia Rosewelsh
Guest post from rising fourth-year UVA student Maia Rosewelsh on how her VAM mentor helped her narrow down and achieve her goals for the summer after her third year - and likely beyond!
Maia Rosewelsh: When I first began my internship search two years ago, I knew I was interested in political issues. Researching different types of internships was difficult because there is a wide range of jobs in the field. To narrow my search, I decided to join the Virginia Alumni Mentoring (VAM) program, where I could get advice from people currently working in politics.
My mentor works as a federal lobbyist. She suggested that it would be important for me to gain campaign experience. This was during the months before the 2016 presidential election, so there were many opportunities to get involved in a campaign. Over the winter break of 2016, a month before the caucuses, I went to Iowa to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. This experience gave me valuable insight into the mechanics of a political race and was a significant addition to my resume. Five months later, I obtained an internship with a political action committee in Washington, D.C.
This summer, I am back in D.C., working in my U.S. Senator’s office. Getting a summer Capitol Hill job or internship can be difficult because numerous college students vie for these positions. Once I decided where I wanted to apply, my mentor, along with the UVA Career Center, helped me structure my cover letter and resume. Many college students have impressive resumes and can demonstrate excellent writing skills. This means that networking becomes an important way to differentiate yourself from others seeking the same position.
One way to meet people with whom you want to network is to search for those with common interests. If you cannot find a mutual connection, LinkedIn can be helpful. You can search for UVA alumni working in a career area or with an organization that interests you. My VAM mentor was able to introduce me to people she knew on Capitol Hill, which helped me to secure my current congressional internship. At first, it seemed awkward to contact strangers. Having my mentor coach me through the experience was helpful.
Being a part of VAM was beneficial in a number of ways. It taught me how to find, initiate and maintain professional relationships. In addition, it was nice to have another person go through my application materials and read through email drafts. The services provided by VAM not only strengthen your applications, they give you reassuring feedback and support.
Once you secure an internship, it is still important to grow your network. One of the most valuable aspects of a Capitol Hill job or internship is the accessibility of individuals already working there. Most people are happy to meet for coffee or do informational interviews. This is a great way to learn about different congressional jobs and how a range of people found their careers. These conversations were helpful because I was able to learn about different organizations that related to my interests.