Making an impact through state government
Senior Political Science major, Patrick Whalen, completed his semester-long internship at the Massachusetts State House. Working alongside State Representative Michael J. Soter, Whalen gained perspective on the inner workings of a government organization. He explained that being immersed in the state government left a positive lasting impression on him.
What was a day in the life of your internship like?
I would take the commuter rail into North Station and walk to the State House. I worked in Representative Michael J. Soter's office. As a newly elected representative, he had very limited funding for staff. As a result, Representative Soter and his aid gave me a lot of responsibility. The bulk of my work at the State House was doing legislative research for our office. I would break down bills being heard in the House and the Senate. My job was to figure out what the bills meant and what consequences they would have on our district and the state. I was also fortunate to be able to attend meetings with advocacy groups and government officials. I got to meet the head of the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts, as well as many other advocacy groups. I would also drive down to the district to work events with Representative Soter. One of these events was a campaign fundraiser where I got to meet Governor Charlie Baker.
Does your internship relate to your major and desired future career (what is that)? Do you think it got you a step closer to that end goal?
My internship directly relates to state politics as I am in the place where the commonwealth does its governing. I am still trying to figure out what I want to do for a career, however I believe I want to be a high school history/civics teacher. Even though this internship is not directly related, understanding how the government works in a hands-on environment is such an incredible experience.
Do you feel that you were prepared going into the internship? How did you gain confidence during the process?
I interned previously at the State House in the summer, so I felt confident, however I did not expect this internship to be as involved as it was. At first, being in such a large building with so many people and responsibilities can be intimidating, however I just focused on my strengths. I am personable, so asking questions wasn't hard for me. Once I got comfortable with the staff in my office, I became very confident there.
What did the experience teach you about yourself, the job, and your future career?
This experience was very important to me. I switched my major to political science and was nervous that it was not the right choice. My internship taught me that I love working with people. I may not know exactly what I want to do for a career, but I know that being able to make a difference in my community and seeing those changes I contributed to, left a big impact on me. I know I want to make a positive change in the world and this internship helped me discover that.
What is your best tip for networking with site supervisors and internship colleagues?
Honestly, just engaging them every day is something I tried to do. Not everyone is extroverted and talking to your bosses and coworkers can be very intimidating. Just giving a simple “hi” to everyone in the workspace, asking them about their weekends, making eye contact, showing you are truly present, and listening to them makes a big impression. Prove that you are ready to undertake tasks―showing a solid work ethic leaves a strong impression. I was lucky to have bosses that let me meet countless individuals and interest groups in and around the State House. That inclusion meant that I was able to network a lot.
What advice do you have for future Endicott interns to help them get the most out of their experience?
Always make sure you advocate for yourself. I started my senior internship at a different location, and after a few weeks, I was unsure if it was the right fit for me. When you intern, it may not be the most glorious work, but if all of it is uninteresting and you don't feel validated, it’s okay to go look for something else. I am so glad that I decided to take a risk and pursue an internship that was a better fit for me. You need to be confident in these internships and know your self-worth. Know your strengths and what you have to offer and be honest with what your weaknesses are. At times when you're interning it may seem overwhelming, so never be afraid to ask questions. Have a good time with your internship and make the best of your experience!