My Coming of Age Experience

Although I have gained a lot of textbook knowledge from my Capital Scholar experience, I have learned much about myself.

I consider myself sheltered, in the sense that I have never traveled outside of the country (which is something that I hope to change after graduation). Being away from home for two months has taught me a different sense of independence. Whether it is closely budgeting my money, or being more conscious of my own surroundings, I am doing this completely on my own. I have said it in previous blog posts, but I was concerned that spending two months out of my ordinary routine would be too long. I have come to realize that these two months have moved faster than any other two months that I have experienced.

During my first two weeks in D.C., I learned about the pretentious attitudes, the fast-paced environment, and how to networking within the crazy city. My life lessons have slowly evolved into personal reflection, which was much needed on my part. I have realized that I am not as good at networking as I thought. I am not as organized and diligent as I thought. I am more clueless as to where I see myself in ten years than I thought.

But, that is okay. These thoughts are not self-deprecating, but now I know how and where in my professional and personal development I need to improve.

One goal that I am proud of completing was ensuring that I took every opportunity possible to explore D.C. Every weekend we planned something to do. It did not have to be anything extravagant, but we refused to stay in a whole day. One thing I wish I did more of was having more one-on-one meetings with people in order to start building the relationships I will need for the future. Since I will be staying in D.C. a few extra days, I plan to spend that time meeting with individuals. These past few weeks have taught me the importance of having substance behind my beliefs. Staying on top of the news is not enough, but having an informed opinion is equally as important. On top of being informed, I have learned the importance of being prepared. Whether it is making sure I have an umbrella on a rainy day, or doing the proper prep work before the next workday…being prepared always pays off.

This past week, Suzette and I had the opportunity to grab drinks after being on the Hill the whole day with Marcus, the Senior Partner of the firm. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about life outside of the office. That evening, I probably learned one of the most valuable lessons during my time here. He said, “There is nothing worse than a person who says, “I work for such and such, and do all of these really cool things.” I just hold up two fingers to them, and it is not a peace sign or deuces. It means I can give two…” And you can fill in the blank. The takeaway: you can’t be too serious all the time. Being genuine in your interactions is what makes you successful. As someone who is generally labeled a serious individual, it was an important reminder to work hard and have fun experiencing the journey. The second lesson of the evening was to “always play chess, not checkers.” In the game of checkers, one does not have to thinking critically ahead in order to win. A person goes from point A to point B, jumping other games pieces to be “kinged.” Chess requires the player to think seven steps ahead. It forces the player to be strategic. Marcus advised us to always play chess when it comes to our professional career.

In summarizing all of my weekly lessons, it has ranged from bettering my networking skills, to learning how to have confidence in myself regardless of age, or being more independent. I believe that I have more of a takeaway, as opposed to one key lesson from this experience. I have really viewed my time here in Washington D.C. as a coming of age experience. I am not being dramatic – I promise. Working at the Governor’s office was a “real world experience,” but I feel like that at the Madison Group, I had an accurate representation of how the world operates. My comfort bubble was surely popped, but it is an invaluable experience.

Here is a summary of my life lessons:

  • Not being everyone’s friend is fine. It may be hard to accept, but it is life.
  • I learned a lot about American history. Go to museums and take the opportunity to soak in knowledge.
  • It is important to always carry an umbrella in D.C., bargain with street vendors, and be confident with public transportation.
  • It is “okay” to defend what you believe, even if you are the minority in the room.
  • I learned much about the art form of lobbying.
  • It is difficult to network in a room of people where you know absolutely no one. Get over your awkwardness.
  • I learned that I must not discredit myself because of my age.
  • Behind fancy titles and nice clothing are all very casual individuals.
  • Many people have said that going to law school is a waste.

And of course, the most important one of all…

  • “You are all here during a very interesting time.”

If I had a quarter for every time someone said this to me, I would have made a decent sum of money.

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