I graduated from Hamilton last Spring and my first real job was on Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. As Jessica mentions below, working on a political campaign of any sort is an invaluable experience; I consider working on a presidential campaign to be a sort of necessary apprenticeship for the national political scene, but working on any campaign will give you the experience and on-the-job training that human resource officials across D.C. look for.
I did the D.C. program with Professor Eismeier in the Spring of 2006 interning for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Fox News' D.C. bureau. That summer, I stayed in D.C. and interned at the Republican National Committee. These opportunities - thanks to Hamilton's D.C. program - gave me a pretty strong resume coming out of Hamilton when I graduated last spring and allowed me to jump right on a presidential campaign.
I lucked out in a couple different ways. For one, the timing of my graduation coincided with the presidential campaign cycle so that campaigns were gearing up as I was coming on the professional scene. Also, because the Thompson campaign started later than others, and because I was willing to start as an unpaid volunteer (read intern), I truly got in on the ground floor and was in the office when it was pretty much just department heads. Before the campaign ended, I had two people working under me.
I also recommend working on a presidential campaign because they are filled with young people. On the Thompson campaign, there were at least ten kids who had also just graduated in 2007. Though I worked seven long days a week, I was always with my friends, so it often didn't feel like work at all.
The biggest reason I would recommend working on a presidential campaign is the opportunity that comes afterwards. Though Fred's bid for the White House ended prematurely, my young friends from campaign and I have all gone on to bigger and better things. One of my friends got a job at one of the premier public relations firm in the country. Another is now in charge of surrogate scheduling in the media shop at the McCain campaign. One friend now works at the White House and another in fundraising for McCain. I got a job as the executive assistant to a former governor and senator from Virginia who now has a consulting/lobbying firm.
To make it in D.C., the first thing one must do is get his or her foot in the door. Hamilton's D.C. program is an unbelievable way to do this. The next thing to do is turn relationships you make while getting your foot in the door into a real job where you can show someone your abilities and work ethic. There is always a high rate of turn-over in D.C. and other than the entertainment industry and professional sports, there is no better place where a young person can make an impact and move up quickly than politics in Washington D.C.
And it all starts with the D.C. program. Whether you want to one day be a chief of staff on the Hill or give your life to spreading awareness about your favorite cause, any Hamilton student who's interested in working in D.C. should absolutely do the D.C. program. If I can ever be of any help to any student, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.