Ever wonder how the experts can quickly recall a story or statistic from decades ago?
Or, have you ever mentioned a subject area and someone immediately knows the leader in that field? This summer in D.C., we have been constantly in contact with career professionals who have spent decades with their subject matter. At times, it can be both intimidating and daunting to think about how far away we might be from achieving that same level of knowledge and information recall. So, how do we, as interns, utilize our unique position and set ourselves up for continued success and longevity in the policy world? We must stay vigilant and engaged in our roles and do what I like to call ‘practice learning’.
3 easy ways to practice learning:
- Take a sip from the fire hose. It’s easy to be overwhelmed at the amount of information that might constantly stream in your world, especially in our rapid-fire news culture. Take the time to identify what you find interesting, and begin healthy habits like taking 10 minutes each morning to read the news for your sector. Small steps like this lead to information buildup and allow you to stay on the ball in conversations with experts.
- Set pride aside. How often do we stifle the questioning and curious voice in ourselves because we are afraid of ‘looking bad’ or like we may not know something? It takes practice. In meetings or in conversations, take the observer role and allow your curiosity to take the front seat. Humility is key in admitting you may not know something, but the journey of what you may learn is more than worth it. Ask questions and be proud of your learning.
- Be the guide. One of my favorite sayings I hear from mentors is “I may not know the answer, but I sure know who does.” Being in touch with your network and up-to-date on their issue areas allows you to guide others to them for valuable insight, rather than feeling like you must bear the burden of every issue-area available. No one person knows every last fact! Practicing learning means knowing when to pass an item along to someone who may have more experience than you.
It’s important as young leaders and professionals to hone in our skills and practice learning. How will you practice learning?
House Committee on Agriculture
Washington, D.C. | Summer 2021