by Elizabeth MacDonald (’23)

Being at Wake Forest has taught me the value of being a detail-oriented, open-minded, patient listener. I thought that Wake Forest was a special place full of special people, unlike anywhere else in the world. I was wrong in some ways. It turns out, the Pentagon is rather a lot like Wake’s campus, because in my experience, it is full of folks who want to make a positive impact on our country. It is a place where people want to mold the next generation of leaders. My colleagues are eager to include me in prep meetings around the Pentagon, then explain the context and complexities surrounding each engagement. My studies at Wake Forest have taught me many skills that have proven useful at the Department of Defense. I am comfortable with online research. I know how to ask for help if needed. I have to take a lot of notes and use them in written tasks. I need to practice time management to meet deadlines and keep track of meetings and appointments. The skill I use most of all, however, is listening. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot going on inside the Pentagon. It proves useful for both my learning and professional development to pay attention. Here are some reasons to listen I have identified so far this semester: 

“Listen, because you’ll learn a lot from being in the room.

Listen, so you will know how to prioritize your efforts.

Listen, because people will notice when you do it well.

Listen, when someone is giving you their time during a busy day.

Listen, because it shows that you care about others.

Listen, even when it doesn’t seem relevant to you, because what you discover could help someone you just met.

Listen, because nuance matters, in government and in life.

But most importantly, listen to yourself. Notice your body’s discomfort, when your mind aches from the pressures of life and the expectations you set for yourself. Eat when you have to, sleep when you think you don’t deserve it. You’ll be better off because of it.”

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