The last one year of working with a parliamentarian -- Mrs. K. Kavitha, a young MP from the young state of Telangana -- has been a roller-coaster ride as well as an enlightening experience. From attending parliamentary meetings, to preparing notes for international conferences, to meeting people from villages and figuring out the best ways to address the problems that they voice. All of it comes with an exposure that is unmatched when compared to the usual corporate jobs.
Burning the midnight oil with a highly talented team and a dynamic leader came with a profound sense of purpose and one that calibrated me for future career success...
A unique experience of working with Mrs. K. Kavitha was that she came from a newly formed state -- a region whose needs had been long ignored by the Centre and the state governments. After the formation of Telangana, the aspirations of the people of the state received a new voice and it was a privilege to be able to participate in the process of articulating that voice. From presenting a demand for more railway lines in Telangana and getting grants from the Centre in the Railway Budget to putting up a question in Parliament regarding the measures taken to protect the endangered sloth bear (only found in the forests of this state), burning the midnight oil along with a highly talented team and a dynamic leader came with a profound sense of purpose and one that calibrated me for future career success in a decisive way.
However, the whole job is not as rosy as it may seem. Almost invariably, one has to work late hours drafting research inputs, meeting people, going through unending bundles of government and NGO reports. You almost have to calibrate your routine to that of your MP and it makes you realize how tough a parliamentarian's life really is, contrary to what many may otherwise perceive. Non-stop activity and multitasking at a frenetic pace for 16 to 17 hours a day is a job not meant for the weak.
Non-stop activity and multitasking at a frenetic pace for 16 to 17 hours a day is a job not meant for the weak.
Another challenge that is common to all legislative assistants is that the pay is quite low, but I didn't mind that so much. The jovial banter and discussions over the dinner table and the occasional fancy dine-out at a new restaurant in Khan Market whenever Mrs. Kavitha had the time to treat us would more than make up for all the hard work put in.
Being an MBA, let me use a model to explain my job. The Hackman and Oldham's Job Characteristics Model says that engagement in any job is based on five factors: Skill Variety, Task Identity, Task Significance, Feedback and Autonomy. When I left my corporate consulting job, I was determined to find another one which scored much higher on these five parameters -- this one undoubtedly did.
The skill variety at the job included putting to test a spectrum of skills ranging from research to writing to representing the MP in conferences and handling community enquiries. I still remember the number of MLAs I met during the Women Legislators' Conference where my MP (who was heading and moderating a panel discussion) asked me to tag along. It was a test of my people' skills -- meeting media personnel, MLAs who wanted to voice their opinions and specific needs of their regions, ministers who wished to communicate new plans and even the Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh. I came to realize that presenting oneself as someone's representative in a gathering of highly accomplished people teaches you more than any people skills workshop that one could attend.
Presenting oneself as someone's representative in a gathering of highly accomplished people teaches you more than any people skills workshop that one could attend.
Task identity, or the degree to which the job requires jobholders to identify and complete a workpiece with a visible outcome, is extremely high in the job of a legislative assistant. When from the gallery or the Loksabha TV you see that your MP has mentioned that point that you had come up with in researching about the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill or the Women Reservation Bill, you do for a moment jump in your seat with pride.
This also leads to the third factor -- task significance. You get a feeling that your research input will contribute to the formation of a policy that could improve the lives of people. And secondly you come to appreciate the fact that an MP has to deal with an unending array of tasks and that you are able to aid them in being more effective towards serving the people; this itself gives a strong feeling of motivation and meaningfulness.
You get a feeling that your research input will contribute to the formation of a policy that could improve the lives of people.
The penultimate aspect is that of autonomy and there is no dearth of. Pretty much it is you who decides when to come in and when to go out, which task to pick and which not to. I, for one, found working with an MP a fairly self-driven exercise in which I was able to take up as much work as I possibly could and that too related to my own interests. That is because there is so much work to do! For example, I had a newfound interest in international relations so I would make sure to take up all the assignments where international delegates had to be addressed. Just on my second day of work, I grabbed the opportunity to create a backgrounder to brief Mrs. K. Kavitha on her visit to Cambodia and Laos as part of a parliamentary delegation. The unique aspect is that there is not too much supervision once you have established a degree of trust in the fact that you can produce quality output.
The last and perhaps the most important variable of Hackman and Oldham's model is feedback and in this aspect, perhaps it was a matter of luck that I got to work with a highly educated MP who is a computer science engineer and knows how modern work environments function. After every speech or public address she delivered, a "thank you" SMS would follow to anyone who worked with her on that piece; upon each submission of work a detailed analysis would be furnished on what points were good and what could be improved.
Working with an MP and earlier with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes got me admissions into some of the most reputed public affairs programs in the world...
All this makes working as a legislative assistant to an MP an experience of a lifetime. The sheer exposure that this job offers is truly unparalleled and one can benefit from it all throughout one's career. Not to mention the fact that working with an MP and earlier with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes got me admissions into some of the most reputed public affairs programs in the world, including those offered by Columbia University, Georgetown, Cornell and Johns Hopkins. That is why I would urge others of my generation to reach out to MPs, MLAs and other public officers whether through LAMP, or the way I did, through incessant mails and calls, to gain this invaluable experience and an opportunity to work for the people of the nation, feeling assured of the fact that our public servants and officials are indeed in much need of learned and efficient aides.
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