Lessons Learned.

It's not about you

This list is by no means comprehensive but I wanted to sum up for you in some way the lessons I learned in DC while interning at the White House. This list is one I think I’ll be referring back to in the future, especially as I select future internships and decide what exactly I want to do next. So, I hope that even if in the smallest of ways, something on this list resonates with you. Have a great weekend. Ishani and I will be back with more from Vavuniya and our trip to the Eastern part of Sri Lanka soon! xo Inesha

1. So often people ask you what success means to you. I still don’t quite know the answer. But I did learn in DC what failure looks like to me: Forgetting where I come from, losing humility.

2. On using your voice (from an exchange with one of my colleagues):

“Don’t you ever just think, ‘well who am I to demand anything– the universe doesn’t owe me!'”

“But why should the universe give you anything if you don’t demand it?”

3. “Don’t be a timid professional– be bold.

4. Keep your head down and do good work. Gain some credit. And then make some asks, however small. But gain that hard workreputation first.

5. Be there. Be accountable.

6. Keep a diary. You’ll want the memories later.

7. Double and triple check your work. Be a 120%er.

8. Know what you need from your job, what you’re not willing to sacrifice. I need a sense of autonomy, an ability to create. I need the ability to get to know everyone from the janitor to the principal. To me, these things… they matter.

9. “You have three priorities– and one of them is your personal health.” Ruthlessly prioritize.

10. Pack your own lunch. It’s healthier (and cheaper.)

11. Put others first. Even in the simple things.

12. Once a week, try and do something for someone else– or something that helps or in some way improves the office you work for.

13. Be humble and confident. Use your voice. Remember what you bring to the table. And in this way, make yourself indispensable to the people you serve.

14. Observe. Look to the people around you. If you find yourself saying ‘wow, that person is really successful’ or ‘wow, she really knows what she’s doing’ or anything along those lines, take note. Pausing and figuring out how exactly that person gives off the sense of authority they do will help you, even subtly, develop your own leadership and management style.

From one of my colleagues– “Just do you– whatever that is.”

15. Timeliness means a lot. Don’t be late. Marine One

16. Keep a clean desk. It’s helpful :)

17. What are you learning from your job? If you can’t answer that, maybe it’s time to try your hand at something different… either way, know why you do the job you do and be intentional about the steps you take, the time you spend.

18. Read the news. Be in the know. Easy ways to do this are to use the flipboard app or to subscribe to daily email newsletters– such as those from the New York Times or the Economist (my personal faves!) Subscribing to your hometown newspaper is also a good thing to do– you’ll want to know what’s going on back home.

19. I struggle with this. There are certain people you will come across– be it a politician you’ve always admired or a local hometown hero– that will leave you starstruck. But move beyond startruckness and humanize the relationships you might have with these people. Stand in admiration and respect of what they’ve done but don’t be so starstruck that you can’t question your heroes or strike a conversation with them.

20. Seek out advice and career guidance. The people a few steps ahead of you were you not so long ago. And when you do leave your post, keep in touch with those people– they’ll take care of you in more ways than you know.

21. Pay attention to detail.heartland

22. Smile.

23. Don’t just go along with what everyone else says or does. Where necessary, push back. Don’t settle.

24. The government as big and as bureaucratic as it may be– it works. Things get done. The American people are responded to. And that– that is not something every citizen across this planet can say is true for them.

25. Important: Persistence, discipline, focus.

26. “It’s not about you.” Focus on the mission of the place you work for. Know what the impact you want to achieve is– and know what it looks like, how you will measure it. And when the going gets tough– remember those metrics. Don’t let the politics or the little things get in the way of letting you serve the people you’re there to serve.

27. As one of my colleagues put it, when we elect a president, we don’t often realize it but we’re also electing the administration he or she will put into place. Along that vein, when you choose a job, think strongly about the person you will be working directly for and about the people you will be surrounded by. Will those people inspire you?

28. Prioritize not just getting things done– but getting things done the right way.

29. The emotion we perhaps lack most nowadays: empathy.

30. Progress… Change… is really slow. Just keep going.

Public service


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