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September 16, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Summer Intern Says: Don’t Be Afraid of ‘the Ask’

Don’t be afraid to take the initiative, says Kyle Serrott, who interned last summer with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)’s Columbus office.

To students hoping to gain experience in a similar setting in the future, Serrott says they should not be afraid to take initiative – what the staff in Sen. Brown’s office called “The Ask.” He explained that during his hiring process, when he didn’t hear back, he called and emailed the office seeking answers, and he attributes that perseverance to his standing out from the hundreds of other applicants. “If you have a question, make sure you find the right person to ask and ask them,” Serrott said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.”

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Kyle Serrott (left) with Senator Brown

Serrott is a senior at Ohio University and an active member of Students for Law, Justice & Culture, and he is working toward a Bachelor’s of Specialized Studies (B.S.S.) in Law, Gender and Race in Society.

He explained that he has always been interested in how people within society interact with the law and how it affects their everyday lives. He hopes to start law school next summer, go into public interest law, and eventually work for the justice department. Having the hands-on experience of working in the federal government, Serrott says, has helped him understand what government agencies are looking for and what they do.

“This was a very good stepping stone,” he said. “It was a very good foundation and I can definitely build from there.”

As an intern, he worked on two separate tasks: administrative and research. The administrative tasks took up most of the 16 hours each week he was permitted to work in the office, and they included staffing the senator when he was in town and attending a meeting with one of the high-level officials of Human Rights Campaign, which was visiting Columbus.

For research, each of the 12 or 13 interns at the office this summer selected a topic that interested them and which the senator supports. They were then matched up with a staff member who works on that topic, who would pass on the intern’s research to help draft legislation. Serrott is interested in LGBT issues, so he worked with a staff member who does outreach to LGBT groups in the Columbus area. One of his research projects, for example, was to look into anti-homosexuality laws in Nigeria, which would inform a possible bill for sanctions against countries with these types of policies. Another project, closer to home, was researching employment issues for transgender people, such as being fired or refused healthcare.

Serrott first learned about the internship, he said, when he was browsing the U.S. Senate website for another, unrelated reason in January. He filled out the online application and sent in his resume, and he was called in May for an interview. The interview process, he said, was grueling, and after being met with specific questions about Senator Brown’s positions on different issues, he was glad he had prepared for it.

Serrott’s favorite part of the internship, he said, was learning about how the federal government works. “The Senate is in the news all the time, but I think many people are not aware of the process of drafting legislation and that you can call in,” he said. “I didn’t realize there were so many avenues for help, and I think people should know that we can help with things.”

As part of his administrative tasks, he would answer phone calls to Sen. Brown’s office and log the comments, passing them on to the appropriate staff member. The more than 100 people in the office handled complaints and compliments about a wide variety of issues, including housing, Veterans Affairs and student loans. Sometimes, Serrott said, he would answer the phone, begin to log the complaint and then realize the office could help solve the caller’s problem.

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