image of Bridget Dotson
O’Neill Alumni Spotlight: Bridget Dotson

Organization: UN Foundation

Current Position: New Member Outreach

Location: Washington DC   

Alma Mater: IU Bloomington: BA in Spanish Language & Literature, & BS in Healthcare Management & Policy (2016)

What do you do in your current role?

Bridget’s role is New Member Outreach Associate for the UN Foundation.  Essentially, the UN Foundation has many portfolios, one of which is Global Health. Within that space, they have different campaigns, in support of global childhood immunizations and malaria prevention. Bridget advocates on the Hill for freshman members to support these issues and to secure U.S. funding for the UN, UNICEF and other multilateral organizations that invest in these programs.

What did your professional journey look like after graduation?

Prior to graduating in December 2016, Bridget had an internship through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. She had heard about it through a mentor and was pleased to have secured the position. They gave her a stipend, which doesn’t always happen, and they placed her in an apartment with roommates, so her housing was all taken care of through the internship. This was a great opportunity for several reasons.  Not only did Bridget get to work on the Hill four days a week, but the internship provided leadership and personal development training once a week as well.

Bridget states she fell in love with DC while she was there, which made her reassess, as she was considering going into hospital administration. But after having lived in DC, she knew where she wanted to be. She came back to Indiana for about a year before moving to DC permanently. Once she got back to DC, she used her networking skills to discover an open position in Senator Todd Young’s office in December of 2018. However, in January of 2019, Senate Mike Braun won the election, so she joined his staff and was there for 3 years, handling his healthcare portfolio. She’s been at the UN Foundation for 2 years.

Tell me more about your internship.

The opportunity came through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, which has a 12 week paid Congressional Internship Program and a 9 month paid Public Policy Fellowship and Post Graduate Fellowship program. The fellowship would be more appropriate for graduate students, with exposure to leaders in congressional offices, federal agencies, national nonprofit advocacy organizations, and the private sector. DACA holders, who possess a valid employment authorization at the time of acceptance and maintain continuous lawful employment authorization for the duration of the program, are eligible. Lawful permanent residents, asylees, or individuals who are lawfully authorized to work full-time without restriction for any U.S. employer and who, at the time of application, possess lawful evidence of employment authorization, are also eligible.

Their website has great information:

Mentoring and networking: Do you have any special strategies or a mindset before events?

With networking, intentionality and authenticity are important. You have to know your purpose and your intention for going to each event. What are you interested in? What is your purpose for being there? Have 2-3 questions in mind that you want to ask. Being prepared is key, which means do your research, look to see who’s attending beforehand, and do some research on LinkedIn, or review the bios of speakers if it is a panel or conference. As far as nerves when networking, it is easy to get in your own headspace during a conversation, but don’t be so focused on yourself. Get curious about people, really listen to what they have to say, and questions will naturally come from that.

Mentorship is different from networking, it’s about building relationships, it’s all about people. “Every opportunity I’ve had has come through another person.” The mentorship relationship is much more intimate than a networking connection because a mentor will give you guidance. Ideally you want to look for someone who has more experience than you, and perhaps someone who is in a position or industry that you would like to have or work in someday. Again, authenticity is important, the connection should be there naturally. Align yourself with people who share your interests and values.

How did you come into your own voice, how did you become strong in your space?

Bridget said she had to grow into it, and it was challenging, yet it was a beautiful experience to develop her voice. She came from the Midwest culture of being kind and respectful. Washington D.C. presented her to a new culture, driven by politics and competitiveness, and of a more direct nature. She learned that while respect and kindness is important, it is equally important to learn how to stand up for yourself and voice your opinion, particularly when faced with pushback.

She said that women need to grow their confidence and know that their words matter. Don’t be intimidated because someone is older or appears to know more than you. Be willing to learn what you don’t know. One powerful thing to recognize is that we all start from the bottom. We’re all at different stages in life, and it’s okay that you may just be starting out in your career. There will always be people that know more than you, but that doesn’t mean that your voice doesn’t matter because it does, we all have a unique perspective to offer. No one can invalidate that.

Read and educate yourself. Surround yourself with mentors and a network of people that can spot areas where you need to grow in and that will invest in and empower you. And remember that if you are the smartest person in the room than you aren’t learning. Always surround yourself with people that know more than you, especially early on in your career, that way you can learn from them.

Do you do anything in particular to build yourself up? 

As for work, preparation and responsibility is key. Don’t wing it! When faced with challenges, adopt a mindset that is solutions oriented, and ask yourself, what can I do to improve this situation? Bridget also frequently talks with the people who know her best—family, friends, and mentors. She says it is encouraging to connect with the people that care about you the most, to remind you who you are and how far you’ve come. Bridget also listens to podcasts, including the Career Contessa, which offers a positive conversation about personal and professional development. Finally, Bridget mentioned that she is a person of faith, and she believes in prayer and having a community that encourages her in her faith. She knows that she was created for a purpose and believes everyone has unique gifts and talents to help others and make a difference. She says, rather than compete with others, be supportive. Be proud of your friends and colleagues, celebrate the success of others and let is inspire you to create your own success!

Any piece of advice for current students?

1) Believe in yourself! Most of the time we are only limited by the limitations we place on ourselves. And don’t allow others to put limitations on your dreams.

2) Get involved in the community and be intentional about building relationships. Your classmates may end up being colleagues in the workplace, and opportunities always come through people.

3) Be open to opportunities that present themselves after graduation and know that it’s okay to not know what your next step is. But don’t sit and do nothing! Get up and do something, whether it’s something new or something that you’re not initially interested in. There is always something to learn. Also, it is okay to try something and not like it. It is equally important to learn what you don’t like, because this will often push you in the right direction.  

If you’d like to connect with Bridget, you can find her on LinkedIn:

By Juliette Kniola
Juliette Kniola Assistant Director of Career Services