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Lessons I Learned Working for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

politics
Nathan Nguyen-Le
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Published on June 25, 2014

After landing the spring internship position, there was this sense of excitement, one that comes along whenever something new comes into my life, that swelled into the pit of my stomach. To prepare myself, I binge watched The House of Cards the weekend before my start date so I can better understand exactly what a member of congress does on a daily basis.

Upon arriving at the San Francisco Federal Building, I had to go through security, similar to an airport, which made the experience feel all the more “legit”. I then secured a Federal Government badge so I can come and go as I pleased, just like in the show. When I arrived at her office, what I had imagined, or rather what I had been influenced by 18 hours of Netflix, did not coincide with reality. The district office was quite small and had a comfortable feel to it, like something a Mom and Pop restaurant would have. Despite this surface gloss of a depiction, the constant buzz of business would soon enrapture myself and the other interns.

We went straight into learning how to conduct ourselves as reflections of Congresswoman Pelosi, whom all the staffers referred to as “The Leader”, conducting Veteran Affairs and IRS casework, and even inputting voter’s concerns and suggestions into an internal database.  Upon completion of my semester at the office, I have learned much about the public sector and how representatives interact with his or her constituents. I have boiled it down to 5 distinct lessons so that you too can gain from my experience.

1. Keep Calm During Stressful Times

Whether it is handling angry constituents, multiple immigration files, or inputting voting data all at once, it is crucial to remain poised. No matter how difficult it is to talk back to an ignorant caller, I have learned that it is the best to simply listen to the constituent’s concerns and direct him or her to the appropriate channels without letting my emotions get the best of me. This not only affects my internship experience, but also affects Nancy Pelosi’s reputation in the political sphere. What an intern does at the office is a direct reflection of the company or political figure.

2. Take Responsibility For Your Actions

At Leader Pelosi’s office, there were three to four interns working at a time. This meant the office assignments were split up evenly. Each person has a specific role, or a specific person to report to for the day. This is similar to a kitchen staff where each person has a specific task, and if one person fails to take responsibility for his or her role, then the meal would not be complete. Individually, the Interns have the responsibility to do our own part and complete the tasks that were assigned.

3. Professionalism In And Out Of The Work Place

One of the major lessons of working in the San Francisco Federal Building was professional behavior. As stated earlier, the Interns were an extension of Leader Pelosi and the way we behaved in meetings, conferences, and briefings were a constant reflection of whom we worked for. When dealing with constituents or visitors coming into the office, we had to always be both welcoming and well-mannered. Coming from a more startup culture, it was a great learning experience for me to behave in a more formal setting.

4. Take Everything Seriously…Literally

Another major lesson I learned during my tenure at the office is to take every phone call, email, and message seriously, no matter how outrageous or possibly comical they may be. Whether or not a bomb threat is serious, a caller is from a major sports facility, or an officer is claiming he or she is from Air Force 1, all potential callers should be taken seriously. Compared to other internships where jokes can be shoved to the side and easily forgotten, a congress member’s office has serious consequences for ignoring such urgent matters. You definitely do not want to be the Intern who ignores a phone call from the President of the United States of America (this actually happened).

5. Importance Of Timeliness

As with every internship, deadlines and punctuality are very important attributes. However, in a governmental internship, one in which we must coordinate times with the Washington D.C. office, submitting assignments on time becomes more crucial. Besides arriving on time and making sure that lunch breaks are not wasted, this internship has showed me how important time management is throughout the day. It has improved my multitasking abilities and has given me the ability to concentrate on various projects without wasting precious time.
Overall, working at the office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has set me up in various ways that will not only help me in political positions in the future, but in any professional environment where punctuality, professionalism, and responsibility are important aspects. Wholeheartedly, I recommend students to pursue governmental positions so that they can both learn more about how our government operates and how constituents are helped by political representatives. It was also an added bonus to meet and chat with the honorable Leader Pelosi while we worked at Small Business Week in Twitter’s headquarters. To put it shortly, she’s brilliant.

Nathan Nguyen-Le

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