In partnership with the UW Alumni Association, the Career & Internship Center recently hosted a panel discussion called “Careers with Impact: Government & Policy” as part of our Alumni Panel series. The panel consisted of three UW alums discussing their multifaceted careers doing policy and analysis work within government, non-profit philanthropy, the tech industry, and the education sector. Below are some highlights and tips from the lively discussion.
Question: What can current students interested in a career in government or non-profit policy do now to help set them up for success after graduation?
- Get connected with student government or other organizations that give you opportunities to do real-world policy work. Consider working within student government directly, or talk to your student colleagues who do. Look into student groups or other organizations that are involved with local government, lobbying, or other policy work.
- Think about different ways you can get exposed to policy work. Even if you don’t get an internship doing policy work directly, you can still work with organizations that study policy, or with professors who do. If you’re doing research that requires interviews, that can open doors with people you might want to intern for or work with later. Taking steps and learning skills needed for participating in the policy process, at any level, is very helpful.
- Utilize the resources available to you as a UW student. Talk to your professors, alumni, career centers, classmates, etc. to gain new ideas and perspectives. Relationships are super important, so build your network now and focus on maintaining relationships with professors and classmates, even after specific classes end.
- When you are a student, people want to talk to you. Reach out to folks who do work you think you might be interested in – people love sharing their own story, especially with students, so you can use that to your advantage to leverage conversations, interviews, and other learning opportunities.
Question: What learning opportunities, distinct skills, or other experiences do you think are important for folks interested in evaluation work?
- Take classes in both qualitative and quantitative data analysis. It’s important to understand how to analyze data in different ways, including how to humanize data by considering how best to convey the message of the people behind the data collected.
- Doing research can be really helpful for getting evaluation work. Consider classes or opportunities that focus on both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
- Get involved with the American Evaluation Association, or even just read their blog, to get a sense of what is going on in the evaluation world, what the new ideas are, what people are talking about. This will help you build an understanding of what evaluation is and consider what kind of evaluation you might want to do going forward.
- Build your skills in different areas. Take statistics and economic classes. Get familiar with analytical software. Learn how to tell stories about data through qualitative vs. quantitative approaches.
- Not sure where to start? Ask! Talk to professors about other tools and resources you can utilize, or find people who work in this field and ask them what they recommend you look into or think about now.
Question: How do you suggest students go about finding folks to reach out to in their field(s) of interest?
- Make connections with your professors and take advantage of office hours. Give yourself a “homework assignment” to look up the office hours of professors that you’re interested in connecting with – even if you’re not currently taking a class from them – and take advantage of the opportunity to meet with and talk to them while you’re a student.
- Use LinkedIn as a starting point and work backwards from there. You can use the LinkedIn alumni tool to find UW graduates who work in this space, and/or with companies you’re interested in, and send them messages to see if they’d be willing to connect with you. You can also look up people who work where you want to, and look at their profiles to see what their career journeys look like – the pathways likely vary, because there are a lot of different ways you can approach this work.
Question: What advice do you have for students who aren’t sure where they might want to go in this field?
- Be curious! Explore different areas of this work to discover passions and other things you might be interested in. Try to expose yourself to whatever clubs, programs, jobs, internships you can. Keep doing your research, give yourself time and space to grow and think.
- Try out different things. There are so many ways to engage with this work, and it can look really different depending on what you want to do. What issues do you care about? What issues do you want to work on? Create a landscape for yourself by looking at organizations that are doing work you think you might be interested in. Think about your values and the issues you’re passionate about, and keep yourself open to different possibilities.
- It’s okay to pivot. If you get to your senior year (or beyond) and realize that you’re in a program or space or industry that you’re no longer particularly interested in, it’s okay to admit that and make a change. Think about your passions and consider how you can leverage your transferable skills to pivot your focus.
- Take time in not knowing what you want to do. Explore that, own that. Lean in to the fact that it’s completely okay to not know what you want to do. Give yourself the space to try new things, meet new people, and explore new opportunities. Keep yourself open to different possibilities. Take advantage of internships, clubs, and jobs to find different paths that might interest you.
- Whatever you’re doing, do it fully. If you’re building relationships, take the time to build them genuinely. If you’re taking a class, make the most of the class and learn everything you can. You never know what opportunities are going to come in, or when – get yourself ready now so you can jump on an opportunity when a relationship, job, internship, research project, etc. presents itself.
We here at the Career & Internship Center would like to extend our thanks to our panelists and our planning partners at the UW Alumni Association. For information on upcoming panels, please visit our Alumni Panel Series info page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continue your exploration with the UW Alumni Association
- Husky Landing – Meet alumni who share your education and career interests, find a mentor, explore helpful discussions and resources. Sign up and start connecting today!
- Huskies @ Work – Connect with a Husky alum for a one-time conversation around professional paths and career development. Applications due October 18th.
- See all the ways UWAA is supporting current students.
Continue your exploration with the Career & Internship Center
- Connect with a Career Coach: Schedule a 1:1 virtual conversation to help develop your action plan and get your questions answered.
- Law, Government & Policy Interest Community:Follow along with this dedicated webpage for job and internship listings, blog posts, relevant resources and more!
- LinkedIn Learning: Build skills that will help you get that next internship or job in the Government and Policy space with LinkedIn Learning Courses