Post 4: Professionalism and Politics | How I’ve grown at NCL

A view of the Washington Monument and a blue sky.

After working at National Consumers League for seven weeks, I’ve have honed my research, analytical, and social skills far more than I would have dreamed. I’ve prepared myself for the real working world three years early instead of waiting until I graduate. I still have much to learn, but I now feel ahead of the game professionally and I’m confident that I can be successful in the working world.

Working on my food labeling policy memo and exploring nutrition and personal finance have both educated me and strengthened my research techniques. I never had the time or encouragement to delve into financial topics like loan servicing and microloans, but I learned about those two things and more with the LifeSmarts program. LifeSmarts even inspired me to look for more scholarships to help pay for my Brandeis education.

A view of the siding of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). I got sunburned while waiting to get in, but it was worth it.
I went to the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History for the first time on Friday. I also went to the Holocaust Museum. I had never been to either before despite being a D.C. native. The Oprah exhibit at NMAAHC was fun while the exhibit at USHMM was a disappointing reminder of a piece of shameful U.S. history.

My first ever internship at Fusion GPS during junior year of high school taught me lots of tricks in how to conduct good research, such as using quotation marks in a search to find exact results. Three years later I am building on that knowledge thanks to NCL. I realize I learned more at Fusion than I thought. The League is not just helping to shape my perspective for the future, it is also influencing my perceptions of my past.

Writing over two hundred trivia questions for the LifeSmarts national high school competition and developing proposals to improve misunderstood food spoilage dates have also fostered my analytical growth. The point of LifeSmarts is to motivate kids to learn life skills. When I write trivia questions for LifeSmarts, I narrow down which facts are significant and helpful. I have learned to filter out useless information and focus on what’s practical.

Food labeling policy is a broad subject that includes everything from figuring out what can be called organic to determining the date by which a grocery item should be sold. I had to propose two solutions to improve the system of date labeling and I ignored some key points at first. When I got feedback and started looking at the problem differently, I discovered what I had been missing and adjusted my proposals. Thanks to my adviser’s help, my analytical skills have improved tremendously.

When I say I learned how to interact socially at NCL, I mean that I learned social skills to use for a social justice purpose. Last Friday, I supported a rally for “One Fair Wage” outside the office of the D.C. council, who were trying to overturn a bill voted for by the District’s citizens. The League’s executive director and my fellow interns listened to protesters’ complaints while some less patient supporters of the fair wage fired back angrily.

Actress Jane Fonda getting interviewed about raising the tipped wage in D.C. to equal the general minimum wage.
I got a chance to see Jane Fonda while at the One Fair Wage Rally with NCL. She was very poised and serious.

Some people at the rally got bitter, but they didn’t change each other’s minds. As I have said throughout my experience, social justice on a personal scale cannot work without polite and open communication. I used to think otherwise, but my internship has changed my mind.

I can use all of the skills I learned to succeed at Brandeis and in the future, but the most important part so far has been learning about my behavior in the workplace. I’m still working on how I present myself, but people at NCL are already offering to be references without waiting for me to ask. I have a strong desire to get along with people and make a good impression. I’m no longer worried about increasing the pace of my workload in the future because I finish my assignments early.

Most of all, I have learned that I love working closely with others. I really enjoy learning from my colleagues, especially the ones whose offices are close to me. I have learned a lot about fraud this way and a lot about how much fun offices can be with the right atmosphere. Before, I was afraid to think about heavy workloads and office life, but after this internship, I know I’m ready for wherever professional life takes me.