Read a lot and take on responsibilities
It’s almost the end of 2020 and many college students are starting to plan for summer internships or graduation.
I’ve worked in politics and adjacent to politics throughout college and since graduating from Loyola in 2014. I wanted to share some guidance I’ve learned in that relatively short period of time.
Surround yourself with political types: If you want to work in politics you have to surround yourself with people who have worked in the field of politics. There is always someone who knows more than you and has more experience than you. No matter where you live, there’s at a minimum a local Republican or Tea Party group where you can meet people who have worked or are working in politics.
Of course going to a place like D.C. will offer more opportunities, but even your state representative’s town hall meetings can be a great place to meet political types.
Read, read and read some more: It’s a good idea to read a lot and read books that are 20, 30 and even 200 years-old. It is important to understand the history of ideas and how political parties have changed and not changed. The more you read, the more ideas you’ll get for other books to read.
Of course there’s the classics like “Wealth of Nations,” “Communist Manifesto” and “The Spirit of the Laws,” but there’s also books like “Street Corner Conservative” and a stack of books written by Richard Nixon that can provide an education in our current political situation.
Practice flexibility and grab opportunities to learn: It is important to practice flexibility and be willing to take on new roles. There’s plenty of great large nonprofits and political organizations but do not discount small organizations where you can take on a variety of responsibilities.
There might be one or two communications staffers at a smaller group, so if you can get hired there you can expand your skills and have a chance to learn new roles. Students for Life hired me as a communications director but that ended up including experience in fundraising, event planning and budgeting.
Take on different positions starting now: Working in politics requires the ability to stay open to taking a variety of internships and positions throughout college and after graduation. In college I wrote for a handful of smaller publications and then came across The College Fix when a Loyola classmate suggested writing here. I also interned for a local Chicago Republican Party chair, a government watchdog group and a Chicago alderman.
I started off working full-time out of college for Turning Point USA and held a variety of roles there, including in field organizing and communications.
I happened to meet Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life, at a Turning Point conference and that eventually led to a job there several years later.
Finally, reach out to people in the field and feel free to ask them for a phone call or a mentoring session. Most people would be honored to share advice and help an aspiring politico.
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