Reflecting on my personal plan paper, personal contribution paper, and my weekly reflections, I see not only how much my professional trajectory and direction has changed, but my sense of professional leadership and how I see myself as a leader and follower professionally has changed. I headed into the internship search looking for a law-based or non-profit organization. Based on what stuck, I landed in politics, specifically the finance and fundraising side of campaigns. This field has captivated me and I can see this field fulfilling my professional desires and being a space in which I can thrive as a leader and grow as a follower.
In my personal contribution paper, I listed the two categories of my work, event based preparation and donor research. Those two categories comprised the entirety of my internship duties, in which I was able to see and do the day to day, menial tasks, which comprised mostly of researching and logging donor histories, that are crucial to achieve the big picture goals of what I saw through assisting in planning fundraiser events and trips by calling potential donors and witnessing the fundraising events themselves. I was able to see the importance of the menial tasks through that and how the different senatorial clients interacted and needed from their finance directors from our firm. Through this, I was able to achieve the goal of learning about the field and how the firm goes about implementing practices to gain donor support.
Another aspect of my personal contribution paper details the more tangible skills I wanted to gain through this internship. I talked about how I wanted to get more acclimated in a professional setting of the office and gain skills in excel. I believe that I have achieved both of those goals. I learned my place in the office, and although the space, as I have talked about in my reflection posts, is not conventional due to the bullpen-type setting with an intern table, I learned how a campaign office operates. I also learned that this type of office creates a space where the employees can collaborate well and cultivate good working relationships. I will take this environment into account when looking at the office space for the jobs that I pursue after graduation. I also gained tangible skills of working on excel and google spreadsheet, since those were the two spaces in which we imported all of our potential donor data. I also learned how to navigate NGP, FEC, and Open Secrets, websites that are crucial in the campaign finance world. NGP is a databased that the whole firm used for logging donor data, and I gained full competency on that platform, which will be useful for me in the future if I get a job in campaign finance. FEC and Open Secrets are websites to collect donor data to import into Excel and NGP, so knowing how to navigate those sites will also be crucial.
There are also skills that I gained and worked on that I did not write about in my personal contribution paper. I gained a lot of confidence in calling people. In this day and age, calling strangers instead of emailing is more rare, so calling strangers to ask for money and to give out invitations for events was far out of my wheelhouse. Gaining the strength to call without being intimidated was hard for me initially, but I am extremely proud of myself for working on that and knowing by the end of my internship I can call who I needed to in order to give or request the information I needed to complete a task. I think a lot of the apprehension dealt with seeming inferior or unqualified to talk to people in such high positions with authority, especially when asking for thousands of dollars. Seeing how the junior staff members, who are not much older than myself talk to donors, clients, and the heads of the firm with such agency built my confidence to display that same agency, especially because they gave us those same responsibilities. This also translated to introducing myself and striking up conversations with the people at the meeting and events. Those connections are crucial to make in DC, and being able to connect with people that could be useful to know when I am looking for a job post-grad was something that I am proud that I did this summer.
My internship added an additional layer of learning about leadership outside the classroom. In two very real ways, I got to experience leadership, even though they displayed themselves in distinct formats. Not only did I see the theories, lessons and topics learned in my leadership classes play out in a professional and pragmatic setting of my firm, but also through the meetings, stump speeches, and diplomacy that our clients used as political candidates. Because I was essentially working for the candidates through my work at the firm, it was interesting to apply what I have learned through Jepson to not only the dynamics of the office itself, but also through the ways that our clients were earning and gaining their followers’ support, time, and resources. By having these two perspectives of leadership play out through my internship, I was able to utilize both the big-picture side of leadership seen through leadership traits and qualities and the process of gaining followers as well as the more problem-solving, hierarchical, side of leadership seen through the firm dynamics.
Although there are many things that I could pick to analyze from my summer, a couple aspects and topics from my leadership classes that informed the way that I understood and approached my time at Fulkerson Kennedy stick out to me. One of those is the importance of space to cultivate a good leadership environment. Inside FK, the bullpen-styled office cultivated community and created a friendly environment of collaboration because all the desks were in one room. Because all the junior level staff members with their own clients collaborated in this space together and grew close, I saw Hogg’s social identity and categorization theory come into play. The employees, as self identified Democrats and part of the niche campaign fundraising field, grew a sense of togetherness and saw themselves as this in-group, as opposed to Republican campaign fundraisers or people outside of this niche field. At the same time, there was some friendly in-group competition to see who could raise the most for their specific client, for those who got checks in the mail would have playful banter with the employees who did not get a check that day. This would not have been possible without the environment created in the office.
Another way I saw theories from classes play out was through Kelman’s three steps of persuasion. Each junior level staff member has a specific client that they are in charge of in terms of fundraising and finances for their campaign. Because each client is vastly different from one another, there are varying degrees in which the staff members feels passionately about their client, and therefore their entire job itself. This relates to Kelman’s three steps because based on the varying levels of persuasion, compliance, identification, internalization, each employee has a different level passion and excitement about their job. This aspect fascinated me while interning this summer because I saw the different levels that the employees were persuaded by their client, and therefore each had a completely different mindset when attempted to get people to donate and with overall disposition on their job. Those who admired their client as a competent leader, and not only complied with their mission and job tasks, but also identified and internalized their clients mission were more passionate about their fundraising efforts and usually talked more about their client and the time they spent at events and trips. Those who achieved the goal of their job by complying with their tasks, but did not fully identify and internalize the mission of the leader out of a lack of connection or finding the client difficult usually did not have the same zeal for their job, or left their job altogether. This realization of the importance of persuasion to work in campaign finance was revolutionary for me, for it became evident that if one could not be persuaded by their client, they could not have the passion that this rigorous job takes, regardless of how well they are executing tasks and raising money. This also reminded me of the importance of Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence theory, for if leaders cannot connect and see the needs of their followers, which includes their employees, those followers will not feel the same obligation and passions to help the leader in return.
Overall, I learned an incredible amount from this internship and saw leadership play out in many ways. I learned about myself as a leader and follower and learned how to be a better and more self-advocating follower. I also learned a lot about the career path that I want to take overall, and believe that through the lens that the Jepson internship gave me, I was able to look at my work with a more perceptive and critical lens.