Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

The most important skill, in my opinion, to have at an organization like The Fairness Project is communication. Being able to communicate to your supervisors, fellow interns, and other staff members allows you to work more efficiently and ensures that everyone that you work with is in the loop with what you’re working on. An essential element to our organization is that we communicate and coordinate campaigns with organizations outside of our office, which are typically run in the states where the campaigns occur. This means that being able to effectively communicate what you need to know from someone you’re emailing or calling helps everyone get the most amount of work done in a given day. In the campaign world, being able to save someone’s time allows them to work on getting their candidate or issue more likely to succeed come election day.

Part of communicating isn’t simply just telling people what you’ve been up to during the course of a workday, but also asking questions when you have questions to ask. My supervisors at multiple internships and jobs have stressed this point to me, which is that they’d rather you ask a question about something than have you not ask a quick question and have you misunderstand the whole task and have to do it over again.

Networking in D.C.

Something that I’ve taken increasingly seriously this Summer as a Development Intern at The Fairness Project has been exploring the field of fundraising as a potential career, as well as expanding my network. I started by talking to my organization’s Development Coordinator and Development Director, learning how they got involved in the political non-profit fundraising world, and receiving advice from them on the topics of what they look for when they and other development professionals are hiring candidates. From there, I had an informational interview with our office’s Research Director, in which we discussed the field of political non-profit research. Recently, I’ve expanded my Dickinson network by attending the D.C. Career Conversation networking event in the past month. Through connections I made at the event, I’ve had coffee/informational interviews with alumni who live and work in Washington D.C., which have been incredibly helpful for me to understand the paths that Dickinson alumni take upon graduation and beyond.

Day to Day Life

One of the biggest changes to my day to day life, and that of any summer intern for that matter, is my general schedule. Starting my internship about two weeks after classes ended definitely resulted in a dramatic shift in my schedule. Instead of spending only a few hours a day either in class or doing intermittent reading, writing, or studying, a day to day job is obviously significantly more structured. I currently work from 9:30 AM to 6 PM, which requires a different set of focusing skills than the much shorter, sporadic college class and class work schedule does. However, one of the biggest perks of having that structured schedule around me is the idea that once I leave work, I’m done with all of it for the day. I’ve accidentally left work documents open on my laptop over the weekend, which my supervisor noticed on a Saturday and emailed me telling me to stop working, as it was not expected of me and in fact discouraged. In response, I told her that I was not working on the document and that I had only left it open for convenience sake come Monday morning. To further add to this encouragement of separating work and personal life, our Executive Director encouraged his staff, myself included, to take time off this summer, noting its importance towards having productive, happy employees. 

Starting my Internship at The Fairness Project

This summer I’m working in Washington, D.C. as a Development Intern with The Fairness Project, a nonprofit organization that works on ballot initiatives that elevate economic fairness in the United States. I started working at TFP less than a week after I left Dickinson’s campus, and moved to D.C. the day before I started my job. While I only had a small amount of time off between school and work, this summer I’ve been energized by the staff that I work with as well as the strong office culture that they’ve created. On my first day, the staff welcomed me with a donut at my desk, which I couldn’t eat because I have Celiac Disease, but the gesture was appreciated and made me excited for the work that I would be doing over the course of the summer.

In terms of how I found my internship, I was searching on for internships involving my major (Political Science) that combine with my interest in political campaigns and nonprofit work. The Fairness Project stood out to me because their work is incredibly impactful, as of writing they’ve put a total of $4.74 billion in workers’ pockets, mostly through raising the minimum wage in states. I also could tell through their job listing that while much of the work that they do is very serious and demanding, they also make it fun (they listed a sense of humor as something that they looked for in candidates). After submitting my resume and cover letter to TFP, I heard back from them asking for an interview. After my interview, they asked me for references and within a few weeks of applying they offered me the position of Development Intern.

Concerned about how I would be able to live in D.C. for the summer without a significant source of income, I applied for an internship grant from Dickinson. The internship grant I’ve received not only makes it easier for me to pay for food and rent, but it also allows me to not work a paying job in August (after I complete my internship) and instead potentially work on a political campaign for a short amount of time. So far this summer has been great, I’ve learned a significant amount about how development works on a broad scale and also how organizations like The Fairness Project raise funds in a competitive environment, which I will certainly discuss in future blog posts.