Maggie Frankel, a professional staffer on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), spoke about her professional experience and offered advice to START interns on jumpstarting their careers.
Before working on HSGAC as a staffer, Frankel worked for the committee as a Research Assistant. She also graduated from the University of Maryland’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences with a degree in Government and Politics and participated in START’s Global Terrorism Minor program.
At the beginning of the talk, Frankel discussed how her undergraduate education and internship experiences influenced her career trajectory. Following her freshman year of college, Frankel interned with the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) press office.
“I had a really great experience there,” Frankel said. “I got to know a lot about interagency communication and how the NYPD worked with other law enforcement agencies.”
Frankel decided to return to the NYPD, this time with the Intelligence Bureau, the following summer but received an offer on the same day from The Soufan Center, a position she was hesitant to decline.
“They were starting a countering violent extremism (CVE) program,” Frankel said. “This gave me the opportunity to leverage my media and press skills in an organization that was expressly working to prevent violent acts.”
Frankel’s supervisors at The Soufan Center and NYPD allowed her to work both internships, an opportunity Frankel said was incredibly valuable as she began to more clearly formulate her career interests.
“I think that the summer between my sophomore and junior year was the most transformational in my professional development because it enabled me to see two different parts of the counterterrorism field,” Frankel said. “I decided that this was the type of work I wanted to be involved in.”
Frankel said that these early internships motivated her to apply for the Global Terrorism Minor and to intern for HSGAC as well as its House counterpart, the Committee on Homeland Security.
Frankel encouraged interns to develop academic competencies that can set them apart from other job applicants.
“Try to find specific and timely issues that you want to work on,” Frankel said. “The counterterrorism field addresses a broad set of issues, so it’s important to market yourself in a distinct way. If you find something unique you’re interested in, you can use that to create a brand for yourself.”
While completing START’s Global Terrorism Minor, for example, Frankel conducted a terrorism-related research project which concluded that incidents of alt-right terrorism exceeded attacks by Islamist extremists in the United States in the years following 9/11. The experience enabled Frankel to show hiring managers at HSGAC how she would be able to bring a unique set of perspectives and skills to the committee.
“It was exciting to be able to show my supervisors the results of the project,” Frankel said. “If you think you’re capable of getting something done and show your supervisors that you can take many responsibilities, you’ll be able to learn more and make an impact on important work.”
Frankel also told interns that those seeking to work on policy issues should not be deterred by the often-partisan nature of Congress. Working in the Legislative Branch, she said, remains a productive way for young professionals to affect change.
“While it’s all politics, all the time for us staffers, all of us have a general understanding that we just need to find the right answers and that we don’t always need to be overly political,” Frankel said.