I don’t have time to mentor as much as I’d like. SOOOO here is a bunch of advice for people in D.C./politics/policy/non-profits, and more!
Big lesson: What you end up doing every single day > any title or any glamour.
- Find what work you like to do. And what you don’t.
Do you think you want to run for government office today? Intern or work on a campaign. Grassroots matters for all campaigns, so if you don’t like meeting lots of people, going door to door, etc. It’s probably not for you. But if you’re a really good writer, for example, know that that will serve you well working at a publication, in communications, on an editorial team at a think tank, and more. Does fundraising intimidate you, but you like math? You could enjoy working in analytics or finance. Hate talking to reporters, but love learning and testing on social media? A digital media job could be for you. If you like having your hands in a lot of projects at once, you might want to consider a consulting firm. If you want to do strategy for campaigns, know you’ll need to work on a LOT of campaigns before you get there. And if you want to work on policy, that will probably requiring working for others who do first!
To find out what you like and what you don’t, figure out what you know so far, and try out different jobs and internships.
2. Figure out where you want to work. And where you don’t.
If you work in Congress, you’ll have stricter hours and less online freedom. At think tanks, these vary. On campaigns, you’ll have very long hours and rushes. Every office also has different levels of flexibility and different work environments.
3. Talk to people who have your dream job or the next job you want.
Ask them what it’s like. Ask what their day to day looks like (remember, that will be your job. Any glamour is fleeting). Tell them a bit about yourself, and ask for their advice.
4. Stalk job boards and jobs pages.
Boards: District Daybook, Heritage Jobs bank, America’s Future Foundation job board, ConservativeJobs.com, and MANY more.
If you LOVE any specific organizations, stalk their jobs pages! Feel free to reach out to someone there for coffee to see what it’s like to work there.
5. The job application process
ALWAYS customize your cover letter. And if they require one, provide one. Don’t repeat your resume, but explain how what you already know would apply to the open position and why you’re interested in the organization.
Also, customize your resume for each spot. Sometimes you’ll want them to see everything, other times you’ll want to leave stuff off.
6. How did I get where I am?
I fell in love with politics when I was ill as a teen. When I was 14 I started volunteering, interning, and working in local politics. I learned a lot. Moved to DC for college at 18, and interned at the NRSC my first semester. More interning/working for Romney’s campaign (intern/volunteer), consulting firms (working). I also managed communications for a congressional campaign when I was 19. I learned then I loved social media and digital. After college my first job was at America Rising managing digital — email marketing/website/social media. I did really well, and that job gave me a lot of prominence. I had been writing since I was 20, and at 22 I joined the Weekly Standard to manage social media and write as I wanted. At the end of 2016, I joined a happy-conservatism group called Opportunity Lives to do digital. That died. June 2017 I joined the R Street Institute to do digital, and policy/writing when I feel like it. That’s where I am now. Along the way I did some media, TV, etc, but I get to do all the things I like all day, and little of what I don’t.