My internship experience at Fulkerson Kennedy & Company helped me meet many of the learning objectives I set out for myself at the beginning of the summer while also giving me an idea of what life would be like if I decide to pursue a similar field upon graduation. Going into the internship, one of my main goals was to gain experience interacting with clients either over the phone or through other forms of communication. My internship has definitely helped me surpass this learning objective very early on, as interacting with clients over the phone was one of my main duties as an intern. At the beginning of the summer, I was very nervous to talk over the phone however I was given so many phone calls to make over the summer that it became like second nature. I would call different offices to set up meetings with our clients (members of Congress and senators) as well as invite them to fundraising events.
Additionally, I also had the opportunity to interact with clients face to face many times throughout the summer. One of my favorite parts of the internship was that we were able to sign up to attend fundraising events ourselves and help staff the event. At these events I had the opportunity to meet and introduce myself personally to numerous senators and other politicians which helped me become more comfortable in a networking situation. These events also helped me to achieve another learning objective I set, which was to learn how fundraising and other political event planning works in practice and help with event planning. One event that I worked on in depth was the Sandy Hook Promise Gala, which is an annual gala to raise awareness about gun violence and was started by the families affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. For this event, I called each politician’s office individually to ensure they received an invitation to the gala. I was also in charge of monitoring the email and responding quickly to RSVP questions from guests. Another event I helped plan was another one of my favorites because I was able to exercise some creativity when I was planning. My supervisor asked me to help brainstorm fun activities and restaurants in New York City for one of our client’s PAC events. The budget was incredibly high so I had a lot of fun finding the nicest Michelen rated restaurants and different activities that a group of 100 people could do, ranging from attending basketball games, renting out museums, and attending Broadway shows. I compiled all of my ideas on a document with photos to accompany the descriptions and my supervisor loved it.
Another one of my learning objectives was to help conduct research relating to campaign finance using various programs and Microsoft Excel and become more knowledgeable in general with campaign finance and the campaign process in general. I was able to meet these objectives with ease as interns were often tasked with compiling donor names and researching what campaigns and candidates they had donated to in the past. All of this research was compiled on Microsoft Excel, and in order to organize the data we would create pivot tables so that after sharing the document with our supervisor they could sort the information by any category they needed to. This was very interesting for me to learn about as I did not really know anything about the inside of campaign finance. I truly didn’t realize how many dollars went into a campaign and after this summer, I am amazed by how much money some political campaigns raise. At the beginning of the internship, my supervisor said that interns would have learning experiences a group. One of these experiences was attending an intern panel on Capitol Hill, which the interns were let out of work early to attend. This panel was designed to give tips on furthering your career from a bipartisan lineup of experts with experience from Capitol Hill, presidential & congressional campaigns, nonprofits and the private sector. I also kept up with my learning objectives in my personal life and tried to follow the news more and stayed up to date on this next election cycle. This was very interesting to do being in DC and being surrounded by the people and places that the news is covering.
Speaking more broadly about my career goals that I set out in my Personal Plan paper, I knew that I wanted an internship where I could work at the intersection of social change and fiscal policy. I wanted to build on my Leadership Studies and Economics double major in an internship where I could combine these two passions. While my internship didn’t specifically have me working with social and fiscal policy, it dealt with the bigger picture of getting the people elected who could eventually be able to enact social change with legislation. It was also interesting to work on the finance side of the election, as opposed to the grassroots-led movements that I’ve been involved with in the past. That being said, I think that this internship taught me that I definitely want to be more directly involved with enacting legislation that can benefit others rather than electing others who can. At times it was disheartening to see that political candidates can only stand a chance if they have very wealthy donors, and the campaign finance industry only feeds into this. The way that campaign finance is structured needs to change to allow those with a lower socioeconomic background and people of color to run for office and be elected to office. I understand that raising as much money as possible is necessary as both sides of the political spectrum are participating, however I’m not sure that being directly involved in the process. I think that I would be able to fulfill my career goals in a non-profit or public policy setting. That being said, I really loved working in my office and all of my coworkers made the internship such a great learning experience for me. I also really enjoyed being able to witness the political process from the inside.
My Leadership Studies courses impacted the way that I observed the daily occurrences in the office. One theory that I focused on a lot in my blog posts was organizational structure. Specifically, I compared how my office resembled the small scale societies that we studied in Theories and Models. The office was organized with two large offices that the partners are in, three smaller offices for the senior associates, and then a bullpen area where the associates sit at desks and the interns sit at a large table. This organizational structure impacted how information flowed in the office and how motivated followers were depending on where they were situated in the office and how close in proximity their superiors were. In our studies in class, we read about how in small scale societies, face-to-face interaction is key to create personal relationships and accompany the free flow of ideas. I think that having a big bullpen area in our office was very conducive to this free flow and that employee motivation was improved by the nested hierarchies that exist within the firm. This organizational structure also impacted another theory that I discussed in my blog posts, which was regarding leadership legitimacy with a peer supervisor. I found conflicting observations on this topic. I felt as though having our supervisor be in the same bullpen as us gave him more of a casual form of leadership in which we felt very comfortable interacting and joking with him. However, his position as a supervisor within our nested hierarchy legitimized his leadership as we knew that we were assigned most tasks directly from him and in the future he would be the one to write references for us. At the end of my internship he actually did end up writing me a letter of recommendation for a job I am applying for, and I was glad that he was able to observe my day-to-day work style always being in the same room as us. I felt as though we had a very professional relationship however all of the associates and interns also had a fun time in the office as well. It was a good balance to strike and I hope that any future office I work in has the same atmosphere. Something I will be interested to continue to look into with Internship class in the fall is looking into gender dynamics in the workplace. The office is predominantly female with two strong, assertive women as the leaders. It definitely impacted how the female associates and interns performed and I did greatly look up to them. My male intern supervisor was the one to actually bring to my attention that campaign finance is a lower paying industry while simultaneously being a female dominated industry. He said that something needed to be done about this, and he hypothesized that if it was a male dominated industry employees in campaign finance would be paid much more, especially considering that these firms are doing all of the monetary fundraising for campaigns and raising millions of dollars. All of these theories and ideas are subjects that I’d like to explore further next semester.