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Your college’s alumni association should provide you with contacts in the journalism world—some schools make their alumni directories available to students seeking career advice. Such contacts might not lead directly to an internship or a job, but it never hurts to call or e-mail an alumnus with an open-ended request for information about the field of journalism.
There are a number of good web sites for finding jobs in journalism. Some of them also have special sections for internships and freelance opportunities. One of the most comprehensive sites is www.journalismjobs.com, which is run in cooperation with the Columbia Journalism Review. The American Journalism Review offers www.ajr.org/employment. And the University of California at Berkeley has a good, up-to-date site www.journalism.berkeley.edu/jobs. Finally, if you have in mind an “ideal” place to work, go to that organization’s web site—often, the human resources department will post new openings, so it is good to check frequently.
However, you should remember the culture of journalism—your first job is not likely to be at the New York Times or with ABC News. Career tracks are more likely to start in small cities and towns with jobs that build your skills and networks.
More journalism/communications web sites include:
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication www.aejmc.org Broadcast Education Association www.beaweb.org National Diversity Newspaper Job Bank www.newsjobs.com Television jobs and internships www.tvjobs.com Newspapers Jobs Page www.freep.com/jobspage.
There are also agencies that, for modest fees or for free, will post the resumes of Careers in Political Science journalism job seekers on their web sites for exclusive viewing by employers, who supply most of the funding for these sites. A good search engine such as www.
alltheweb.com, Altavista, or Google will turn up numerous such sites and agencies.
But be wary of any site that requires a substantial fee either for information on jobs or for posting your resume. Ask for references and check these sites out before paying for their services.
Trade magazines such as the Columbia Journalism Review offer leads on internships, fellowships, and even jobs, but expect the competition to be especially tight for anything advertised there. Your college career center and the faculty member in charge of internships in your department will also be valuable resources in your search for internships and jobs.
Finally, there are student branches of professional organizations such as Sigma Delta Chi. These offer opportunities to network with professionals and to explore issues such as ethics and privacy beyond the theoretical setting of the classroom.
SOME FINAL WORDS
Good journalism demands persistence. Consider this time in your life to be a period of training in job-related skills and talents—one of which is knowing how to try and try again. Your first job in journalism will probably not be highly paid or in your ideal location, but, once you have “paid your dues,” the sky’s the limit.
As in many fields, networking is key. Make contacts early in your college career with local news organizations and media outlets; volunteer, intern, take part-time work, and stay in touch with the people you meet. These networks will help keep you in tune with the job market and may help you to obtain an interview or even a job.
Campaigns and PollingPOSSIBLE CAREERS
Campaign manager; political director, campaign finance reform, Common Cause; midwest regional coordinator, DNC; survey research; political reporter, CNN; pollster; fundraiser, EMILY’s List; executive director, political action committee; press officer for candidate; writer, Campaigns and Elections Magazine; telemarketing; TV and radio production and placement;
vice president, direct mail marketing firm; issue analyst, Heritage Foundation; commissioner, Federal Elections Commission.
THE NATURE OF THE CAREER
When seeking a job in politics, a political science graduate may first consider political parties, individual campaigns, and campaign consulting firms. But looking beyond the scope of traditional campaign jobs will lead you to other positions that may not be as cyclical in nature—such as political writing, directing a political action committee, or issue analysis for a policy organization.
Traditional campaign jobs. Each candidate running for political office in the United States today—be it at the local, state, or federal level—must put together his or her own campaign organization, with little help from the political parties, and often with few paid staff members. Indeed, a candidate for local office may run a nonpartisan campaign in an all-volunteer effort. Usually, the higher the office, the more professional the staff involved and the more partisan the politics. In recent years, party affiliation has become increasingly important, and it may be the first qualification a campaign considers. It is rare that a campaign will hire an employee who has affiliation with another political party; Democrats tend to work for Democrats and Republicans for Republicans. There are, however, some exceptions; for example, independents who will work for centrists/moderates from either party.
Careers in Political Science
There are also some variations in philosophy and strategy among candidates within the same party.
As candidates seek higher offices, polling and campaign techniques usually become more sophisticated, with the inclusion of election professionals such as media consultants, professional fund raisers, and pollsters. Campaigns and Elections magazine recently listed more than fifty-six separate job categories for political professionals.
According to the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC), more than 50,000 public elections are held each year. “Add to that number the selection of elected leaders for private, professional, academic, business, labor, public interest, and other organized bodies, as well as public votes on local and state referenda, initiatives, and constitutional amendments,” and there are more than a half-million elections annually in the United States. The AAPC estimates that more than one billion dollars is spent each year on campaign communication. Because campaigns, political consultants, and political parties have one goal—victory for their candidates—careers in campaign management are cyclical. Unlike other professions, election day cannot be postponed, rescheduled, or canceled. Positions on individual campaigns, as opposed to many jobs with polling and consulting firms, begin sometime during the campaign and end on election day or shortly thereafter.
Campaigns require people who are willing to work long hours, often for little or no pay (particularly at entry-level positions) and often who are willing to travel. This profession is not for someone who wants regular, stable office hours, but rather seeks the excitement of electoral politics. It is worth noting that political and public opinion polling is a profession with substantial past and continuing ties to political science. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) www.aapor.org includes many scholars who helped to establish or refine the study of voting behavior, elections, and public opinion research in political science.
A typical career pattern in this field begins with a young person volunteering on a campaign at the local or congressional level, progressing to a paid position, moving to a statewide or national campaign, and then ending at a consulting firm. Flexibility and openness to new opportunities are important, especially for those just starting their careers. Local campaigns tend to offer a broad variety of experiences and substantial responsibilities to junior staff who prove themselves to be good workers.
In national campaign organizations, the work tends to be more specialized and, therefore, there are fewer opportunities to perform a wide variety of campaign tasks.
More and more, you can work on campaigns with the goal of becoming a campaign consultant. A campaign consultant may be a general advisor to a campaign, who puts together the entire campaign plan or may be hired to provide advice on a specific aspect of a campaign, such as polling, direct mail fund raising, or paid media advertising. In addition, the political parties provide opportunities for those interCampaigns and Polling ested in electoral politics to work on get-out-the-vote campaigns, phone banks, research, fund raising, advertising, and more.
Another option is simply to volunteer on one or more campaigns, while working professionally outside of politics—the pursuit of politics as an avocation.
Nonelectoral politics. As mentioned above, one may take a political job, yet not be directly involved with politics. You may choose to work in electoral politics as a campaign or party professional, but then move into a more stable career as a staff member for an elected official or political action committee, or become a lobbyist at a trade association or policy analyst for a nonprofit organization or think tank. You could also do polling for a public opinion research firm or marketing research company.
There are many groups that define political agendas and hire staff with campaign and other political experience. For example, EMILY’s List www.emilyslist.org is a financial and political resource for pro-choice Democratic women. The group identifies viable candidates for federal and statewide offices and supports them by raising campaign contributions; conducts candidate recruitment, strategic research, and campaign staff training and referral; and offers technical assistance from their political, fund raising, and communications staff;
and works to turn out women voters. In addition, there are many other groups such as WISH List www.thewishlist.org, which is a comparable group for prochoice Republican women, the Conservative Political Action Committee www.
cpac.org that advocates on conservative issues, the entire gamut of labor unions, and many, many more.
Political Action Committees (PACs) are sponsored by corporations and trade or issue groups to gather contributions from members or employees to give to political candidates. Via their donations, PACs are highly effective in influencing officeholders. Over time, some PACs have changed their focus. For instance, GOPAC became the largest Republican PAC, making direct contributions to promising candidates in competitive state legislative and municipal elections. In the mid-1980s, GOPAC transformed itself into a Republican education and training institute, teaching proven campaign-winning tactics to candidates, office holders, activists, and campaign workers.
At both the state and national levels, there are many nonprofit groups called think tanks, some of which have an issue orientation particular to a party’s philosophy—such as the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institute, Hudson Institute, East West Institute, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Manhattan Institute, Center for Tax Justice, Concord Coalition, Joint Center for Political Economic Studies, Urban Institute, and Citizens for a Sound Economy.
Do not overlook polling organizations that do more than political polling.
Media groups such as ABC, CBS, The Los Angeles Times, The NewYork Times, USA Today, Careers in Political Science and The Wall Street Journal/NBC conduct issue polls, along with well-known polling firms such as Gallup, Roper, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and Zogby International. Polling firms hire people to write questions, format polls for the Internet or print, analyze data, and more. There are also thousands of marketing research firms and web-based polling operations that value opinion polling, in which methodological and analytical skills may be put to good use.
There has also been an explosion of political web sites, some of which are attached to polling agencies, PACs, political parties, news agencies, or companies;
others of which are independent and aim to provide a variety of political information. Some of the Internet’s employment opportunities have been covered in other sections of this booklet. However, there are also web sites, such as the Center for Responsive Politics www.opensecrets.org, which discusses campaign finance issues; Freedom Channel www.freedomchannel.com, which offers campaign information and videos on a nonpartisan basis; and Politics1.com www.politics1.
com, which offers a wide variety of current and historical information on politics and campaigns. In addition, some web sites—such as Minnesota Politics www.mnpolitics.com—are devoted to state politics. These sites and others like them need employees who are well-versed in politics and government to oversee their development and provide appropriate content and services to their customers.
EDUCATIONAL PREPARATION FOR A CAREER IN POLITICS
If you are interested in a career in campaigns, polling, and elections, you should have a solid understanding of how the American political system works. Basic courses in American government and American history, as well as more specific courses on political parties, elections, and public opinion and voting behavior are very useful.
Additionally, an ability to write quickly and well is a requirement for many aspects of campaign management. Courses in research methods, statistics, and data analysis are useful if you want a career in political polling or research or as a political consultant.
Several universities offer specialized seminars, institutes, and degrees in campaign management. Such programs are not limited to students with little or no practical campaign experience—frequently campaign professionals will enroll for further training. These programs are also useful, because they often have internships
or provide job placement for their students. Here is a list of some of these programs:
The American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies offers the two-week Campaign Management Institute and other courses www.american.edu/spa/ccps/institutes.html.
The Women’s Campaign School at Yale University conducts annual four-and-ahalf-day comprehensive sessions, www.wcsyale.org.