My internship with the Sierra Club as a political intern has not had an official end, as I’m still volunteering with the political campaign I was working with, and will be with them until the election. I figured now is a good time as any to reflect on my internship experience. Having this experience over the summer taught me a lot about how I work in a more professional environment, and helped me realise strengths I already had.
The main takeaway that I got from this internship is that I know more than I think I know. Self-doubt often holds me back, but because this internship was remote, and my campaign manager trusted me, I was able to try new things and grow. I was often tasked with taking on training new volunteers and writing up emails on my own. I was constantly worried about doing something wrong. At one point I just realised that nothing bad would happen if I made a mistake, and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself about it, I needed to trust myself. Because of my lack of experience, I felt like I did not belong in a professional setting, like I wasn’t qualified or good enough. I felt like a little kid trying to work with adults. My campaign manager helped alleviate any of my fears through positive reassurance, and I am a much more confident worker because of it.
Some other takeaways were self-motivation and adaptability. I needed to hold myself accountable to get my work done for this internship, which can be difficult for me. I am an easily distracted person, and I have a hard time with time management. Being forced into a remote work environment made me become more organized so I would not fall behind. I kept a schedule of my tasks and when I needed to complete them. I kept a detailed time sheet so I knew how long certain tasks usually took, and to keep my supervisor informed of what I was doing with my day. Adaptability was important when working with volunteers and online. Volunteers are only giving the time that they have availability, for nothing in return, so schedules change quickly, and we need to be understanding. The online workplace can also cause technical difficulties, communication errors, and other problems that need to be dealt with accordingly when they come up. I’m usually someone who likes a set plan with no surprises, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches during this pandemic, because there is no use fighting against it.
I think these are applicable to life back at Pitt, because remote classes require self-motivation and adaptability, more so than regular in person classes. I hope that my internship experience will prepare me for applying to other internships and jobs more confidently, because I am much more qualified. I have been a lot more active in class now, because when I was working with volunteers and they did not participate, it just slowed things down and made me feel like I was not doing a good job, so now I ask questions and give feedback to my professors. Asking questions has always been something I avoided, because I did not want to be a bother. I now know that it is okay, and asking questions proves that you are listening and helps the person answering figure out what is and isn’t being communicated clearly. I also hope to get another internship this semester or next, because I want to figure out my career goals and path.
Before, my career trajectory was totally unclear, but now I am absolutely sure that I have no interest in working in politics. While I enjoyed my experience, because of the people I worked with, I do not think politics are right for me. I prefer a more hands on career, and something a little less divisive. Making phone calls to voters and having people be mean to me for no reason did not really do much for my self esteem. It was really hard to feel like we were making progress and accomplishing things, because there were so many hoops to jump through and lots of setbacks. I know it is important work, but it just did not feel rewarding. I want a career where I feel like I’m actually helping people directly.
I definitely had a lot of growth in my confidence overall, which affects me personally, academically, and professionally. I feel more qualified for life beyond college, and the rest of my college career. I was definitely surprised to see myself becoming more of a leader, and taking charge. I hope this allows me to be more involved in extracurriculars and in my classes. For example, I am the president of an organization at Pitt, and I worried when I got elected last semester that I was not good enough, and that I only got elected by default. Now, I know I am qualified and able to lead the group through our requirements during a pandemic. I think I have also grown as a communicator. I have always been a very quiet person, and articulating my thoughts and feelings has been a weakness of mine because of it. Working with a large group of people where we can only communicate via email and text has helped me learn how to reach out in a clear, concise, and polite manner. I used to use a lot of exclamation points and say sorry way too much in emails and texts, but now I know that I don’t need to do that, I can just say what I want to say and it won’t offend anybody. I think that has to do with my self-doubt decreasing as well. Having this experience in a more professional work environment, helped me realize that I am qualified. Even though I did not figure out my career aspirations during this internship, it was still extremely valuable, and helped me grow up a little.