What do You have to Lose?

Posted on Wednesday, Apr 18, 2018

Are you intimidated by people who are professionally accomplished?  Have you ever struggled to network and cultivate a personal relationship because of their position above you? During the first several weeks of my internship I definitely struggled with this. Working in the Department of Justice at the age of 20 was my dream come true, yet I found myself consistently over analyzing my daily actions out of fear that I would somehow embarrass myself or appear inept. I knew that D.C. had a plethora of professional networking opportunities, but because I was being so hard on myself psychologically I was not taking advantage of cultivating relationships with the attorneys and professionals in the Department. The thought of developing a professional relationship with an accomplished attorney literally freaked me out. I thought that they wouldn’t want anything to do with the lowly office intern. I was completely wrong.

The turning point with this struggle came when I was invited to join a group of visiting law students who were meeting the Attorney General in his office. As we sat there at the table with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, I realized that I was the only woman in the room. All of these law students and attorneys were men. And there I was… in my pink polka dot blouse wondering how I was even sitting there! At that distinct moment I realized, “what do I have to lose? I’m here for a reason and I’m going to make the most of it.” That realization was the confidence boost that I needed in myself personally and professionally.   

The following week, I made it a point to take time out of my day to visit different offices and get to know the attorneys on a personal level. What did I have to lose? They could offer insightful advice for an aspiring young professional. I asked about their lives, their careers, their favorite places in D.C., etc. These conversations made me understand that despite their professional titles, they were still down to earth human beings. Once I felt more comfortable, I asked for more work and began to concentrate on legal areas that fascinated me. My intern experience transformed, and they treated me like a valuable member of the office. Not “just” an intern. Harnessing personal and professional confidence in yourself is difficult. However, taking the chance worthwhile! What do you have to lose?

Sarah Colley
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. | spring 2018