Looking Back, Moving Forward

By Akul Umamageswaran

It’s hard to believe that our NJLP Summer Fellowship has come to an end! It may have only been six weeks, but these six weeks have given me some of the best opportunities and experiences I could’ve asked for. I, along with my fellows cohort, interned with councilmen, Members of the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, and for one of us, even with the office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And if this wasn’t enough, we had a weekly speakership series to supplement what we learned from our internships. Each week, speakers from various different backgrounds and professions came in to enlighten us with explanations of how politics related to campaigning, law, government, activism, and more. I could write pages and pages of what I personally got out of these, but instead, in this blog post, I want to share with you the three major important ideas that I took away from my NJLP experience overall.

Networking. Networking is probably one of the most important aspects of politics, as I’ve learned. In politics, you meet new people every day. Though it may seem at first that the day you meet them will probably be the only interaction you’ll ever have with them, you really never know. You might find yourself a couple months later needing their guidance or their connections. If you meet a tech mogul at a networking event one day and then find yourself a year later founding an internet start-up, you may wish you could talk to that person again. For this very reason, I realized that it was important for keep in contact with the people I met, starting at an early age. Get connections. Have mentors. Form a group of people that you can reach out to if you need help. I made sure to get into the practice of following up with each and every speaker, and I know that someday, doing so will pay off.

Being Proactive. Especially when interning, I’ve learned that being proactive is very important. You will never make a good impression if you do not exceed expectations. Merely doing what you are told and nothing more will not make you stand out. I’ve learned that it’s important to come up with ideas on your own. Don’t be afraid to pitch them to your advisors. Even if you “bug” them with more and more new ideas or countless requests for more work to do, it is only going to make you look better. If you were to go back to an advisor needing a recommendation or something of that nature, chances are, if you were proactive, he or she is more likely to remember you and more likely to give you that good recommendation you want.

Teamwork. As I’ve seen in my speakership series, politics is nothing without teamwork. It takes several people of all different jobs and fields coming together and working with each other every day for our country to run. From our nation’s President to our city’s council, politics operates on multiple different levels. I’ve learned that no one level is more important than any other. Through the speakership series, I’ve gotten insight from people of all these different positions, and have realized that it’s important to get to know people of all backgrounds.

Looking back, these are only a few of the many, many valuable lessons I have learned through my experience with NJLP. As a South Asian, participating in the program truly did open my eyes to the issues of our nation and gave me necessary exposure to how the community is run. I am now more enthusiastic than ever to get involved in American politics, even if I don’t purse it as a career. Now, though I am looking back at our experiences, I am also moving forward and have a good skillset now to proceed forward in what’s next to come.