Off the Clock, but Not Off the Grid: Networking as a Full Time Job

First one in, last one out. This was the key to success that my mentors promised would separate me from the ranks of the average employee. Although this has definitely held true for me throughout my career, I must acknowledge that it hasn’t been hard work alone that has propelled me through a phenomenal community college career and into a full ride at the world’s top public institution for higher learning.

It's interesting that in talking to established folks here in the capitol, “work hard” is no longer the token advice given to me. Working hard is a given, like breathing. Now, time and again the new golden piece of advice is “meet more people.” And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Work doesn’t end after I leave the office. Every day is peppered with the opportunity to attend countless briefings, premiers, hearings, and happy hours. There are receptions and fundraisers galore as well as vast opportunities for lunch or coffee dates.

As I reflect on what I learned as an intern in the Office of Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas, I realize that the most valuable knowledge gained has come from the myriad of conversations with my coworkers, colleagues, and others. Throughout my time here, I’ve met with dozens of individuals including Members, capitol staff, lobbyists, and representatives from a multitude of companies. From the first week of my internship I got involved in the Sacramento County Young Dems, attending all of their events and connecting with incredible young people who are already making a change in California. What often began as coffee with a stranger would result in a treasure chest of resources, experiences, networks, and potential job opportunities. They would eagerly share their experiences with me and readily connect me to other friends of theirs that would be willing to do the same.

Coming into this internship I was unsure of what I wanted to do after graduating a year from now. I contemplated entering the Peace Corps, going off to law school, gaining work experience in my community back home in San Diego, taking a swing at D.C. politics, or coming back and capitalizing on my experience here in Sacramento. After hearing people’s experiences at every level, I am now better equipped to make an intelligent and informed decision about the possibilities each road has in store for me. That, combined with the technical and broad level knowledge I gained about real politics and pushing public policy, have left me in an excellent position as my internship comes to a close.

For those of you thinking about joining the program next year, I stress the importance of choosing an environment that will allow you to learn politics and policy while being supportive of a flexible schedule to pursue the invaluable networks that will take you to the next level. In Sacramento, it isn’t just about doing a good job or working hard. Getting yourself out there is job in and of itself and will result in countless more doors opening up for you during your internship and beyond!

Laura Jessica Douglas is a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and global poverty & practice. She is interning in the office of Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.