What I’ve Learned from a Million “Coffee Dates”

Since I arrived in Sacramento, I’ve been grabbing coffee with a variety of people, who work both inside and outside of state government. For the next class of Cal-in-Sac Fellows, here’s what I’ve learned from those conversations:

1. At this stage in your career as a Cal-in-Sac Fellow, everyone has a meaningful perspective to offer to you. 

Whether you’re meeting with the office assistant of a newly elected Assemblymember or the Chief of Staff of the Senate pro Tem (good luck getting on that person’s calendar), you should get coffee. Sometimes the most newly hired and entry level staff members have better advice to offer you than someone higher up. This is because they were in your shoes not too long ago. They know the latest programs and groups to join, and they know all the hot spots in Sacramento for young people.

Take your parents to work day!

2. Being a Bear in Sacramento goes a long way. 

There are Bears walking around in the Capitol, executive departments, think tanks, law firms, press agencies and every crook in Sacramento you can imagine. I’ve found that Cal alumni in Sacramento are just as eager to show you the ropes in Sacramento as they are to reminisce about their Berkeley days. There have been several instances in which I was intimidated to talk to someone, and then upon realizing they were a Bear, threw in a “Go Bears” and completely changed our stiff relationship.

Ran into Speaker Toni Atkins at SF Pride.

3. You are likely capable of being the next staff assistant, legislative aide or other entry level staff member at the place you intern, so try to do as many types of tasks as possible that a regular staff member does.

Speaking from the perspective of being an intern in the Capitol, I have observed that many of the legislative aides and staff assistants were interns or fellows not too long ago. Many of them participated in the Assembly Fellows Program, Senate Fellows Program, Sacramento Semester Programs, or another program similar to the Cal-in-Sac summer fellowship. You are likely just as capable as the fellows and interns who are now paid staff members, so do not underestimate yourself and do ask for as much responsibility as possible. Just a year to a few months ago, many of the staff members had started where you are. The best way to get a job in Sacramento is to be in Sacramento. Your foot is in the door. Just keep walking in.

Marching for Assemblymember Rich Gordon, Chair of the LGBT caucus, at SF Pride.

Assembly floor

Disha Banik just completed her sophomore year at UC Berkeley and is now a fellow in Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski’s office. She is studying Political Science and is the former Vice President of Cal Berkeley Democrats.