Some of the most interesting – and potentially demanding – jobs are those considered “low level.” The hours may be long, the work may be unglamorous, but these jobs are vital to an organization’s success.
In Washington, D.C., entry-level jobs are common. These jobs carry many titles (Coordinator, Assistant, Associate), and are found in government, nonprofits, trade associations, think tanks, and the private sector. Normally, entry-level positions would be considered paper-pushing positions – a.k.a. document processing, answer phones, and nothing more. I tell you this is not accurate. Yes, these kinds of jobs exist, but there are chances for great responsibility within these roles.
Development, or fundraising, is vital to an organization. If you work in a trade association or nonprofit, raising money is an important job. Being a grant writer (as I was), or a PAC Manager is vital to the missions and operations of these organizations. Without money, you cannot give to legislators who have supported your organization’s goals, or fund programs that have an impact on solving problems.
Another important is event planning. This allows people to articulate ideas, meet people, and grow an organization. Entry-level event planners forge relationships with other organizations working on common policy topics, as well as master the intricacies of contracts for food, speakers, and places for the event. They also learn the value of budgeting time, money, and the needs of senior staff in an organization. There isn’t a more satisfying payoff than having an event that goes according to plan and educates the public about important issues.
A final job to mention is Research Associate. This role can involve both quantitative and qualitative functions. A research associate can learn how to apply the saying that “knowledge is power,” and is considered valuable to the mission and operations of an organization. Research Associates write literature reviews, assist in producing quantitative statistics for papers, research legislation, and write briefings on their findings.
The value of the training you obtain from entry-level jobs can be immense. You see how relationships are sustained and built. You learn how to raise money, properly report on raising money, and see how valuable research is to an organization. Most importantly, you learn what I call the “Chain of Command” – who is on the top, middle, and bottom of organizations. If you master this chain; and produce good work, the middle and top of an organization can reward you with a promotion, or a good word to another employer. Entry-level jobs can be a springboard to a meaningful career; it all depends on how you do what it takes to succeed in them. I can say that in my time here in DC, I have raised money, researched legislation for campaigns, tracked down and reported on spending, and learned the value of leadership and management.
Don’t underestimate the value of entry-level jobs. Consider them to be the building blocks of a successful career!
Serge Thomas is a nonprofit and political professional living in Silver Spring, MD. He worked on the Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Campaign and on state legislative races in two states at the grassroots level.