It took a long and intense process to get there, but GW graduate student Rob Shorette earned a coveted spot working in the White House this summer as a volunteer in the Office of Presidential Correspondence.
Each day, Shorette attempts to answer the huge piles of mail and masses of phone calls received daily by the White House, working tirelessly to make sure these messages do not go unanswered.
“The Office of Presidential Correspondence handles all of the official correspondence on behalf of the president,” Shorette said. “He receives a massive amount of mail, phone calls, and e-mails every day. Our office sifts through all of these pieces of mail, handles the White House comment line, handles gifts and basically tries to distribute that information to the appropriate people.”
The road to volunteering in the White House was not an easy one, however.
Shorette’s interest in spending the summer working in the White House began with a tip from a friend about an internship opening with a domestic policy council. Shorette hoped to work with the council on education issues, but despite his efforts on the extensive written application and in interview process, Shorette’s preferred position was given to another graduate student.
Although he said that his invitation for a personal interview following the initial review of his application likely placed him in the top 200 candidates of the 6,000 hopefuls for White House internships, he said that competition for the limited positions is tough.
“You have to realize how competitive it is,” he said. “You can’t get discouraged if you don’t get it the first time you apply. It’s important to turn to your professors and other resources on campus to find ways you can set yourself apart.”
After his initial disappointment, Shorette said he was referred to the Office of Presidential Correspondence as a volunteer. The application process for the second position was less intense, and Shorette accepted the volunteer job for the summer in hopes of giving back to others, he said.
“A lot of the people that I’ve worked with are people like me – graduate students, people working for high-profile consulting firms and not-for-profits who are working with their schedules to be able to volunteer at the White House,” Shorette said. “It’s a lot of people trying to do good things and give back.”
While Shorette said he likes his job, he said some of the duties are “a little more tedious” than others, adding that he enjoys manning the phones most.
“I enjoy hearing directly from the people what they’re concerned about and knowing that I can sometimes help them,” Shorette said.
But one of the hardest parts of the job, Shorette said, is dealing with tough phone calls.
“There’s a bunch of crazy people [who call the office] too, to be honest. That’s one of the challenges,” Shorette said. “You have to stay neutral, you have to be impartial and courteous, no matter what they say.”