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- Roles and Work Environment
- Skills and Training
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- Applying and Interviewing
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Roles and Work Environment
Opportunities in Politics, Policy, & Lobbying exist at all levels of government - some elected and some not. Positions within this field work to create policy, elect and advise officials, and advocate for various political issues through public and private organizations. Below is a sampling of roles you might find:
Examples of Politics, Policy, & Lobbying Jobs:
- Legislative Aid/Correspondent
- Policy Analyst
- Research Assistant
- Staff Assistant
- Lobbyist/Government Relations Specialist
- Political Consultant
- Campaign Manager
Just like positions working in politics, policy, and lobbying can be found across various government levels, so to do they exist in a variety of professional environments, from the Hill to think tank/research institutes and large corporations. Below is a list of a few locations and types of organizations where you might find opportunities. For a more extended list, check out our resources section below.
- Think Tanks
- Capitol Hill (Government)
- Political Campaigns
- Lobbying/Government Relations Firms
- Private Foundations
Skills and Training
Because of the variety of opportunities that exist within politics, policy, and lobbying professions, there are a number of ways to gain experience, exposure, and skills relevant to these areas. It is important to think not only about why you wish to work in these fields, but also what role you hope to play, as this will help you determine relevant skills to develop and experiences to seek out. Below you’ll find examples of coursework and personal/professional experiences helpful for someone interested in these industries.
Examples of coursework relevant to a career in politics, policy, and lobbying:
- Data Science
- Computer Science
- Public Health
- Foreign Languages
- Courses that emphasize writing like Philosophy or English
- Courses that emphasize communication and/or debate skills and the ability to develop sound arguments
Examples of important skills relevant to jobs in politics, policy, and lobbying:
Networking: While specific coursework and additional education can be helpful for advancement in some instances, you may find that learning to build an effective network of contacts and connections is an even more valuable skill to hone. Many opportunities for advancement in these areas arise through personal contacts and "who you know." Developing a comfort with informational interviewing will be immensely helpful for you in exploring these professions.
Writing: In each of these professions, the importance of developing strong writing skills can not be emphasized enough. Flex your writing skills through seeking diverse opportunities to work on projects in research, policy, fiction, media, etc.
Research: Learn how to conduct effective research relevant to a particular issue, candidate, or client including what databases and resources to use to find pertinent information. Additionally, look for opportunities to present your findings in a clear and concise manner.
Lobbying and Entry-Level Jobs: With professions like lobbying, it’s difficult to find “entry level” roles without first gaining expertise on an issue or process, or have a network of contacts that will be helpful to future clients. Consider seeking opportunities to work on political campaigns or the Hill to gain experience that will help you to launch your lobbying career.
In the areas of Politics, Policy, and Lobbying, hiring for internships and full-time opportunities normally occurs when an organization has an immediate needs. Internship programs typically hire only a few months prior to their start date. Some positions may become available in late spring/early summer, so you should continue to look for opportunities throughout the academic year and beyond. Months leading up to an election or when a state's legislature will be in session are also good times of the year to look for postings. Review the Public Service and Government Community page for examples of recruiting timelines of PSG industries.
- Virginia Review of Politics
- University Democrats
- College Republicans
- No Labels Political Club
- Student Councils
These are institutes that seek to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, providing critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges. These centers regularly sponsor conferences on important issues, and host public debate series to present substantive policy discussions to educate and help elevate public discussion. Many also offer internships for undergraduate students.
- U.S. Congress
- Brad Traverse Jobs and Internships (DC focused opportunities; $10 registration and $5/month fee)
- Congressional Research Service Careers
- Council on Foreign Relations
- National Council of State Legislatures (positions with U.S. state legislatures)
- Tom Mantos Jobs
- The Hill
- US House of Representatives Jobs
Applying and Interviewing
Resumes and Cover Letters
First impressions are critical in the job search. Developing and executing the best documents possible will help to ensure that you put your best foot forward and increase the likelihood of progressing to an interview. Make sure to check out the Resumes and Cover Letters sections of the website for helpful advice and sample resumes and cover letters.
In the fields of politics, policy and lobbying succinct application materials are valued. Here are a few tips to consider when applying to these kinds of positions:
Capitol Hill and Campaigns: Brevity, directness and demonstrating your connections to a state (e.g. you lived there growing up, have family or visit often) or issue are important (e.g. volunteering for a nonprofit focused on immigration issues or wrote a paper in a class on women’s rights). Resumes should be one page. Remember to include both your current and permanent physical addresses and ensure your GPA is calculated out to the hundredth place (i.e. 3.14 instead of 3.1). Highlight relevant experience or skills including customer service, writing (including memo writing for public policy coursework), researching, analyzing information, summarizing, representing a brand or organization to the public, phone banking of any kind, campaign or canvassing work, political party student groups and even experiences from high school like state government page programs, internships or student government.
Capitol Hill Resume Book: Multiple times a semester the Public Service and Government Community collects resumes from students and recent graduates to send to UVA alumni working on Capitol Hill. If you are interested in learning more visit the PSG counselors during drop-in hours.
Policy Institutes or Think Tanks: Ability to synthesize information and make an argument for your candidacy is key. While the resume can be 1-2 pages, the cover letter is typically just as important for these types of organizations. Because many of the positions require research and writing skills, your cover letter will be one way you demonstrate your abilities. In your cover letter you should also spend time explaining why that particular organization is of interest to you and why you would be a good fit. They want to know you have conducted your research on their organization.
If you have never interviewed before, make sure to check out the Interviewing section of our website. You can also conduct a mock interview with a career counselor for practice. Most interviews will contain some mixture of questions about your past experiences (resume-based) and your ability to handle typical workplace situations (behavioral). For full-time positions, depending on the size of the organization, you should expect to start with a 20-30 minute phone or virtual (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout) screening interview, then a longer virtual or in-person final interview. A thank you letter should be written after every interview with an employer. Send the note by email within 24 hours after the interview.
Additional Industry Resources
Blogs and Industry Research
- Think Tanks - What are they?
- Check out the VAULT Guides (accessible through Handshake) for detailed information on specific industries. The following guides may be of interest to you:
- Vault Career Guide to Politics, Public Policy, and Activism Jobs
- Vault Guide to Government Agency Careers
- Lobbyists Glossary
- Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)
- NIRA’s World Directory of Think Tanks
- Public Service Careers
- Research Network
- Roll Call (information on lobbying and congressional careers)
- U.S. Department of State's List of Think Tanks
- World Think Tanks