Learning New Skills

I want to start by saying my internship start and end dates are a little later than everyone else’s, so I apologize for the late posts! I am still interning with the Sierra Club and working with one of their endorsed campaigns, and it has taught me a lot about being a better leader and communicator. I used to think I was not a leader at all, but in a class I took last year, I learned that there are many different types of leaders. The leadership style I most relate to is process leading. Being a process leader means that you create a comfortable environment for other people in your group in order for the group to succeed. I like to make sure other people in the group are comfortable and heard, and that everyone has a say in what’s going on. I have a more nurturing personality than a commanding one. I think that has really allowed me to thrive in a campaign environment. My job has mainly been working with volunteers, doing recruitment and retainment. Volunteers are our whole campaign, so it’s really important that they feel important and appreciated, which they definitely are. It is necessary to be understanding and empathetic to the volunteers; they don’t work for us, they help the campaign out of the goodness of their hearts. We try to create a flexible environment, while still providing support when needed. We stay open and adaptable, and constantly ask for feedback. If I were the type of leader who just wants to do things my way, I would not be successful in this work environment.
I do often need to make decisions in my internship, which is often challenging for me. As someone who does not like to take the lead on things, I worry about making the wrong move. One instance was where my campaign manager was not at an autodialer event. The auto dialer calls voters automatically and only connects when someone picks up, and it only works well with a large group of people, and we have to pay to use it. This particular time we were planning on using the auto dialer was during a power outage that left some people in our district without power for a week, including many of our volunteers. We had a big group signed up to volunteer at that time, but only one person showed up. I had to decide whether or not to use the auto dialer. It was what we were supposed to be doing at that time, but it would not be efficient to use with only two people on it. After weighing the options, I decided to go against the plan, and just make manual calls. My campaign manager was impressed that I was able to make that decision, and said it was the right call. Usually I would just do what I am told, but through this internship I have become more comfortable being a real member of a team, where I get to be involved in decisions and discussions.
Adapting has been really important. Like many others, this was not my first choice in an internship, it is in a field I had interest in, but not what I was planning on doing. The most uncertainty I experienced during my internship was in the very beginning, I had no political experience and was kind of thrown into it. My campaign manager has been so helpful whenever I’ve been confused about how to use the programs we use or how to talk to voters. The beginning of this internship was just a lot of uncertainty, but I feel really comfortable now. I navigated all if this change by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and asking questions. I hate asking questions, because I do not want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing, but I really needed to do that for this internship. When I don’t ask questions, I waste so much time trying to figure it out on my own, so I just pushed myself to keep asking questions on what I was confused about, and it not only helped me learn more, but it also allowed me to get closer with my campaign manager.
The hard skills I’ve learned from this internship were using votebuilder, using an autodialer, and improving my spreadsheet skills. It’s really great to be immersed in a campaign and learn the specific skills, but I gained mostly soft skills through this internship. I said in my last post how my skills in food service helped me the most in working for a campaign, but there is a lot that I did not already have strong skills. The number one being making phone calls. I used to be terrible at talking on the phone and having proper phone etiquette, it is not something that I had to do on a daily basis. Making calls is daunting, especially cold calls to strangers, but I’ve realized that a lot of people are really nice about it, even if they do not want to talk to you. It’s taken some time, but I’m completely comfortable with talking on the phone now. I also have gotten better at persuasion. Campaigns involve a lot of persuasion, you need to target the moderate, middle ground people and get them on your side in order to win. Knowing the talking points, and pushing through when someone tries to push back at you is important. Before I would just give up if someone seemed uninterested or unengaged, but not I work to engage them. It is really rewarding when you reach a voter who less than a minute ago had no idea who your candidate was, and now they want to vote for them, sometimes they are even interested in volunteering. I’m thankful to have an internship that has gotten me out of my comfort zone, and taught me a lot of new skills. Even though it is not what I expected to do this summer, it is still very relevant to my interests, and I’m really enjoying it. Even though my internship will be coming to an end soon, I’ll be continuing to volunteer with the campaign, because I care so much about the hardworking people involved, and I want to do all I can so that they succeed.

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