Credit PhotoduneLife as an intern is tough. Beyond the fact that interns are not paid, they are also often living in a city where they don’t know anyone. When you have little money to go out and dedicate much of your time working and networking, it can be hard to make friends. Coming from college, where most make some of the best friends of their lives, this can make an internship feel very isolating.

Unfortunately, this problem is prevalent in DC, where the networking discussed in DC Intern Survival Tip#1 is a universal unspoken truth. People are always trying to expand their professional network, so it is often hard to determine who your real friends are. In a way, this is great; it gives young professionals a way to break into the city. However, in DC, “fake friends” abound. These friends are great to get you an interview or introduce you to another contact, but not really people that are going to stick with you long-term.

In my time in DC, I have found that joining an organization is the best way to overcome this problem and to establish a real group of friends. AFW proved a useful place for me to establish relationships that had continuity beyond an email chain. In the many networking and social events hosted by AFW, I found a platform for extended contact with other interns in the DC area. At these events, I catch up with fellows who are experiencing many of the same realities that I am.

Also, by joining a foreign policy focused volunteer organization, I became part of a group of individuals that were in DC for the same reason that I was and this allowed us to hit it off immediately. Having made most of my new friends in DC through volunteering for this group, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had not joined.

Beyond becoming part of a community of like-minded people, I soon discovered how joining organizations helped me professionally.  The organizations I joined gave me a group of contacts that are far more helpful than most that I would meet through an informational interview. While getting coffee with someone can get my resume flagged, the friends that I have meet through volunteering actually keep an eye out for me. It is not uncommon for them to send me information about opportunities that I did not know existed.

If you are an intern in DC, do some research into organizations where you can get involved.  Try to find a group that focuses on a cause that is interesting to you. This will not only make you great friends, it could also help land you a job.