If there’s one thing you can learn from Amanda Carpenter’s story, it’s that the most unexpected events can turn into the career of a lifetime. Amanda has not even turned thirty yet and is the current Speechwriter and Senior Communications Advisor for Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. However, she didn’t get the job by working her way up the Capitol Hill ladder—she successfully advanced unusually quickly on the Hill. That’s why she was recently featured on Red Alert Politics’ “Thirty-Under-Thirty” list.
When something unexpected happens
Carpenter always knew she wanted to break into the communications industry, but it wasn’t until she was forced to quit college softball due to an injury that the dream surprisingly became a reality. When Amanda lost her athletic scholarship after she stopped playing softball, tuition suddenly skyrocketed. This sparked her interest in research and writing.
Once I started paying the full freight tuition I started to wonder, “Why is college so expensive?” I started researching it and quickly discovered all kinds of needless spending and wanted to alert my fellow college students to do something about it… I [started a blog], started getting lots of hits, and was hooked.
This is where Amanda’s writing career took off. Carpenter continued to focus on journalism, writing for Townhall.com and The Washington Times after college. Then, another unexpected turn in her life took place and she was offered a job on Capitol Hill.
Amanda always had an interest in gaining some Capitol Hill experience, but thought in order to be hired a person needed to start as an intern and work their way up. She was pleasantly surprised when Senator DeMint’s office was looking for a conservative with previous media experience to fill the Speechwriter and Senior Communications Advisor position. Her political background and experience in journalism made her the perfect fit. Because of this opportunity, Carpenter stresses the importance of flexibility. “Always keep your mind open about different job possibilities,” she says. “I would have never imagined myself in this role and now I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”
Valuable advice from a previous boss
Amanda says one of the most valuable lessons she’s learned about her work came from her first boss, Terry Jeffrey. She was preparing to appear on a major cable TV show for the first time and asked Jeffrey what to do when she went on air. His advice proved to be a lifelong lesson, even if he didn’t realize it at the time.
[Terry] just looked at me and said, “Well, you go on there and say what you think. Have fun,” or something very similar to that effect. He probably didn’t think anything of it, but that was a really instructive moment. Say what you think. Have fun. That’s a great mantra for life.
This mantra is what causes Amanda to love her job so much and advance so quickly. Saying what she thinks and having fun far exceeds merely showing up to work and leaving after eight hours. Because of this, it is easy to tell that Amanda truly enjoys what she does—she raves about DeMint’s office saying she’s glad that the entire staff fights for freedom together and also that she learns so much every day.
A final piece of advice from Amanda.
Amanda’s advice to aspiring writers is short and sweet, but powerful: “write.”
Write, write, write. The best thing about being a writer is that you only have to do one thing to be one: write!
Being an entrepreneur is hard—no one doubts that. However, Joanna Robinson offers valuable insight on just how difficult it is to start and run a business. Joanna, current AFF board member and owner of Lunar Massage, shares her biggest challenges and how she overcomes them to succeed, and tells how leading a life of supporting liberty has helped her along the way.
Joanna always knew she was going to work in the private sector. She stopped working as an employee in a for-profit business for a period of five years to work in fundraising in D.C., but she quickly realized she needed to return to the private sector in order to fulfill her true passion. This is when Joanna decided to become an entrepreneur and start Lunar Massage. Even though entrepreneurship is rewarding, Joanna does not want anyone to doubt how hard it is to start and run a successful business—she has encountered many obstacles along the way.
Joanna’s challenges in one word.
Robinson shares that absolutely nothing is easy when starting a business, especially before the company even opens its doors for business. The first challenge she encountered occurred in the planning stages when she forced herself to realize the balance between planning not enough and planning too much. “From the time I conceived of Lunar Massage to opening my doors was about five months,” Joanna says. “If you’re going to do it, do it. More planning doesn’t make for better execution.”
This philosophy proved true when Joanna found that no amount of planning could have prepared her for the first—and hardest—year of owning a brand new business. She explains that there were many forces working against her and her entrepreneurial efforts and very few of them could have been prevented with ahead-of-time planning. Entrepreneurs need to have the ability to constantly take and solve problems as they come.
The first year is absolute terror, solving a million problems and getting acclimated to a 24/7 responsibility. It took about 18 months to stabilize and get a tail wind. Everything before that takes Herculean effort day after day. Employee and management issues are always at the top, particularly in the service industry since my people are my product.
Robinson even goes as far as warning young, aspiring entrepreneurs not to be entrepreneurs. “Don’t do it. Being an employee is a really sweet gig,” she only half-jokes.
Liberty as a priority.
Even though it seems next to impossible to successfully start a business, Joanna says that it is possible. One of the reasons her dreams have been realized is the fact that she believes in liberty. Robinson says that from her studies, she learned many theoretical ideas about markets that she had the opportunity to test in a real-life setting. One of the biggest ideas Joanna has gotten to test is the efficiency and legitimacy of capitalism. She says proudly practicing capitalist ideas has helped her business flourish.
You wouldn’t believe how many people, even at the small business level, don’t appreciate capitalism and are even a little embarrassed by it. My belief that it’s a moral system that improves people’s lives informs my product and the culture of my company.
Robinson has also discovered that running a business has surprised her by informing her already-existent philosophy about free markets. Not only has she been able to test her ideas about markets in the real-world, but these markets taught her a lot in reverse and helped her to grow her knowledge in ways she did not anticipate.
Theories, graphs, and statistics are all very clean. The truth is that human beings are hot messes, and entrepreneurs perform a profoundly unnatural act trying to bring order out of chaos. Those facts influence what we think of as the market much more than policy nerds and commentators can know.
AFF helped Joanna grow as a professional.
Joanna advises young professionals to be involved with AFF since it has helped her find her passion and hone her skills in preparation for her own business ventures. Her previous experience working with the organization prepared her to achieve entrepreneurial success.
My experience working at AFF as a Membership Director years ago had a direct effect on my ability to start and run my business. I built a program from almost nothing and saw it flourish. It gave me a passion for building programs and connecting people. I think AFF is a fabulous training ground for people to take risks, try things they can’t do in their jobs, and take initiative with their skills and interests.
Joanna Robinson is the owner of Lunar Massage and a board member at America’s Future Foundation. If you are interested in learning more about Joanna’s business, you can visit Lunar Massage’s website at http://www.lunarmassagedc.com/.
No one will deny that people—especially professionals—are becoming more and more dependent on the use of cell phones and smart phones. The constant chance that your boss will need to get in touch with you, the possibility of a family emergency, or the emerging if-you-can-google-it-don’t-ask-it philosophy all contribute to our increasing dependence upon these devices.
While everyone understands the prevalence of cell phone use today, not everyone acts sympathetically towards this movement. It is still considered, by most, highly unprofessional to check your phone or take a call during any type of business meeting or dinner.
Situations happen, though, when such cell phone use becomes necessary. Here are some tips on how to navigate these situations professionally.
1. Be upfront and honest. If you know that you’re waiting for an emergency call, such as a call regarding an ill family member, let everyone know before the meeting starts. Be clear that you may have to excuse yourself during the meeting to answer a specific but urgent phone call. If you don’t inform anyone of this urgency and interrupt the meeting later on, most people will jump to conclusions and unfortunately assume you are just unprofessional. And of course, leave the room as quietly as possible if the call occurs. Never take the call at the conference table.
2. Establish with all of your contacts what an “emergency” is. Not only is it a good idea to tell people not to call you during business hours unless there is an emergency, but it is also essential to establish with them what is important enough to interrupt a meeting with. For example, a call to tell you that one of your parents is in the hospital is an urgent emergency, but your friend calling to tell you she just got engaged can most likely wait until the meeting is over. Be clear about what topics you can accept calls about during the business day with all family and friends.
3. Take advantage of the “silent” and “vibrate” settings. Keeping your phone on silent or, when you just can’t miss a call, vibrate is a good rule of thumb to follow in the workplace in general—not just during meetings. If you do get a call, ringtones can be disruptive to your coworkers or others in your meeting.
4. Wherever you are, excuse yourself. No matter where you happen to be when your phone rings, if you absolutely must take the call, excuse yourself from the room. Whether you are in the middle of a conference, working in a shared office, or at a dinner reception, always step outside to take personal calls. Taking such calls in the company of others is distracting and will be seen as inconsiderate to those trying to get work done or continue their conversation.
5. Buy a watch. Today many people skip out on buying a watch because their phones carry the time. However, relying on your phone to do a watch’s job could be a mistake. Taking your phone out to check the time during a meeting can quickly turn into thoughts like, “I’ll just make sure I didn’t get any emails”, or, “I should just quickly check twitter to see if there’s any breaking news”. The only way to avoid this trap is to avoid taking your phone out at all. Furthermore, even if you do only check the time, most others at the meeting won’t know that is all you are doing and may, once again, jump to conclusions that you are just unprofessional.
6. Never interrupt a conversation. Even if you are not in a formal meeting setting, one-on-one conversations in the office, at receptions, or at happy hours should still be treated as a top priority. That being said, you should never answer or scroll through your cell phone in one of these situations. The face-to-face conversation you are engaged in should always be considered more important than any phone call or email, unless it falls under the category of “emergency” as discussed above. If you truly do need to take a phone call due to an emergency, politely end the conversation and excuse yourself from the room. Never answer your phone in front of the person you are conversing with.
Cell phones and smart phones are quickly becoming a part of everyone’s daily lives. While cell phones are a useful addition to our lifestyles, it is important to find a professional balance for their use in the workplace.
So many young people today are afraid to take risks because they are afraid to put themselves on the line and face the possibility of failure. After all, most organizations that are proposed never actually make it off the ground. However, Alexander McCobin, the Executive Director of Students for Liberty, is living proof that a person can be young and still make a huge difference. All that’s needed is passion and some hard work.
When it seems easier to become a Socialist
Alexander’s passion for promoting liberty began in ninth grade after he read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. From then on, McCobin dedicated his time in high school to learning more about liberty and reading as many libertarian works as possible.
When Alexander began college at University of Pennsylvania, however, he started to feel unsure of himself after he realized not as many students outwardly promoted liberty as he previously expected. Alexander shares, “I began to feel so isolated that I actually thought to myself, ‘Alexander, if you’re the only one who thinks this way, you must be crazy. Give up and become a socialist—it will become so much easier.’”
Alexander didn’t give up though—and the results of his dedication for liberty were more positive than he ever expected. He took a chance and started the Penn Libertarians to find out if there were other students in support of the libertarian movement. Fortunately, over 200 people supported the movement within the first year which convinced McCobin that he was not alone in his beliefs. He and his like-minded classmates just lacked a common meeting place.
The Penn Libertarians’ movement continued to expand when McCobin interned with Reason Foundation during the summer before his senior year. During the summer, Alexander met libertarian student group leaders from all over the country that faced the same challenges he did in gaining support. These meetings led to a very successful roundtable for sharing libertarian ideas, which then led to an even-more successful “Students For Liberty” Conference—the first in history. The New York City conference hosted over 100 students representing three countries.
“That’s when we realized there’s a demand for something like this. We had to turn it from a one-time conference into a full non-profit organization with year-round resources for students. We’ve just been growing ever since.”
Being a young leader comes with its challenges
Alexander says the biggest hardship he’s faced while establishing a full non-profit at such a young age is getting people to take him seriously.
“The biggest difficulty is getting people to take you seriously, especially with the student stereotype. When we started, many representatives from non-profit organizations worried that students couldn’t run a non-profit organization and going to speak at student groups wouldn’t be worth their time because students were immature, irresponsible, and lazy.”
McCobin also shares, however, that Students for Liberty makes combating that student stereotype their top priority and takes professionalism very seriously to instill a serious and professional message in all of their student leaders. This is why the organization has grown so rapidly.
Alexander’s AFF membership also helps him along the way, he claims, stating that the networking opportunities AFF provides are valuable.
I first got started with AFF when I was interning with the Reason Foundation because it’s a great place to meet other pro-liberty individuals—it’s a great networking opportunity in particular. I knew I wanted to get involved to meet other individuals and find out what other opportunities are available in the DC area. Networking is really important, especially here in DC.
A final piece of advice from Alexander
“Don’t just come up with an idea. Everyone has great ideas, but ideas aren’t enough. The people who stand out and who we need in the liberty movement are people who are willing to translate those ideas into reality and put in the work to do it. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of time and work, but it’s the most rewarding thing to do.”
If you’re interested in the work of Students for Liberty or interested in starting a student
group on your own campus, be sure to visit www.studentsforliberty.org.
You can tell a lot about a person just from hearing about his or her political hero. One familiar with John Lilburne—an English political Leveller during the 1640s—associates his name with advocacy of liberty through “freeborn rights” as opposed to rights granted by the government as well as advocacy for a small government role in society. Iain Murray, the Vice President for Strategy at Competitive Enterprise Institute and the director of the Center for Economic Freedom, declares Lilburne his “political hero” and leaves no doubts as to why that’s true after explaining his political beliefs and motivations.
Early political exposure that shaped Iain’s career
“I was exposed to the political power of trade unions very early on”, Iain stated during an explanation of his career path. He claims that his interests and career choices have been influenced by his early experience with the dysfunctional British bureaucracy.
Iain grew up in industrial northeastern England during the time period where the two major industries, coal mining and shipbuilding, were dying as a result of technological innovation. Rather than let the creative destruction run its course, Iain witnessed the trade unions from these industries fighting the government “tooth and nail” to keep the failing industries alive so workers would not lose their jobs. He soon realized that unions had enough power to build up the leaders who agreed with their views and completely destroy those who did not. This reality concerned 14-year-old Iain, causing his interest in politics to take root and continue throughout his career.
Not “all talk”.
With each story Iain tells about his life, it becomes apparent that he takes his fear of big government very seriously and always does what he believes is the right thing to do, even if it involves sacrifice on his own part.
Murray’s first job was, ironically, part of the civil service in the British Department of Transport. He jokes about the most important thing he learned from his first job in a bureaucracy, saying, “I really got to learn how the government works. Or, rather, how it doesn’t work.” At the Department of Transport Iain looked after large transit projects and contributed to the privatization of British rail. He says, “I helped privatize British rail, which we did, and I privatized myself out of a job”. Iain believes in small government so strongly that he gave up his job to fulfill his vision. That type of risk-taking proves his great dedication to his beliefs.
After the loss of his job at the British Department of Transport, Iain moved to the United States. He became frustrated with the bureaucracy in this country as well, explaining that it took him two years to fully immigrate to America. Iain was even unemployed for nine months, but not because he didn’t want to work or didn’t look hard enough to find a job. It was simply because the INS did not provide him with a work permit and he did not feel right working illegally. This is just another example of Iain’s sacrifices for the sake of his political values.
When Iain was finally able to work he joined the team at the Statistical Assessment Service and later moved on to work for CEI, where he remains today as the Vice President of Strategy and the director of the Center for Economic Freedom.
Four short words explain Iain’s success: “I want to win.”
Murray explains that just the possibility of defeating the threats of big government is what keeps his commitment to his beliefs strong.
I want to see the constitutional republic re-established. I want to see that tradition continue. I want to see a tradition of liberty continue. At the moment it’s under threat, in many ways under even more threat than it was in the 1930’s. But I want to win. I want to beat back those threats, because somebody’s got to do it. That’s what drives me in my job—the possibility of winning.
Final advice from Iain.
Besides suggesting that ambitious young people read all of the “classics”—including Adam Smith, John Locke, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and the Letters of Cicero—Mr. Murray advises that we all consider the words of the courageous Margaret Thatcher when we consider how to handle tough situations.
During the run-up to the first gulf war, when President Bush was starting to worry about kicking Sadaam Hussein out of Kuwait, [Thatcher] turned around to him and said, “This is no time to get wobbly, George!” We all face times when we’re tempted to go wobbly. But if we remember Mrs. Thatcher we will remember that there is no time to be wobbly.
If you are interested in the work of Iain Murray and CEI, be sure to visit CEI.org and check out Iain’s books: Stealing You Blind: How Government Fat Cats Are Getting Rich Off of You and The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don’t Want You to Know About—Because They Helped Cause Them.
You may be surprised how someone can express a career of several diverse jobs in one inspiring sentence. However, Roger Ream, the president of The Fund for American Studies, is able to articulate his experience in the public and non-profit sector succinctly. Ream’s success, he claims, is a result of his “passion for economic education and improving economic literacy.”
A passionate career that started with two “chance meetings”.
Roger’s passion for economics began during his undergraduate career at Vanderbilt University when he met David Jones, The Fund for American Studies’ founder. That meeting was the result of a chance meeting with David Boaz, a classmate at Vanderbilt and now executive vice president of the Cato Institute. Boaz invited Roger to a meeting with David Jones the following day. Jones encouraged Roger to partake in a Fund for American Studies summer internship program and that fostered a friendship that eventually led to Roger being offered a position at The Fund.
Roger did not always have his sights set on becoming the president of The Fund for American Studies. He spent more than a decade trying his hand at a number of diverse jobs: Field Representative for Congressman Philip Crane, a position on the Senior Staff as Director of Seminars with the Foundation for Economic Freedom—both of which were the result of internships—a job as the Special Assistant to Congressman Ron Paul, and as a co-founder of a grassroots citizen group called Citizens for a Sound Economy (now Americans for Prosperity). It wasn’t until 1991 that Roger joined The Fund for American Studies’ team as the Executive Vice President, and it wasn’t until 1998 that he became President after founder David Jones passed away. “It’s funny how it works”, Roger said after some reflection, “how you can meet someone in college and they have such a huge impact on your life!”
The moral of this story? Don’t shut out your options and be flexible in your career path. An unexpected opportunity or meeting may change your life.
All of Roger’s positions have aligned with his aforementioned passion for economic education. He explained that all aspects of his career path involved cultivating an interest in economics in people and the importance of economic literacy to some degree.
What matters most is what people in society think and therefore reaching young people with ideas is crucial, because policy is ultimately the outcome of the ideas that people hold.
He wants the next generation to be interested and educated in economics and devotes his work at The Fund to carrying out that goal; running programs on four continents dedicated to political and economic literacy in young professionals.
Roger also takes his goal far beyond his profession. He serves on the boards of many foundations dedicated to increasing political and economic interest in young people. He avidly supports AFF’s conservative and libertarian efforts as an advisory board member. In addition, he serves on the boards of Foundation for Economic Education, the U.S. Air Force Academy Foundation and the International Freedom Educational Foundation. He is also past president of the Philadelphia Society and a member of the Mont Pelerin Society and Talent Market.
Persistence: the key to success and happiness.
To young, ambitious professionals, Roger recommends networking and building as many strong relationships as possible. “Be persistent,” he says. “Follow-up is extremely important. Don’t hesitate to call people multiple times.”
Roger believes that following ones passions is extremely important in a career, stressing the point that if possible you should not settle for just any job:
Follow what you are passionate about. You won’t be satisfied with your job unless you are doing something that you think is worthwhile and you’re doing the best job you can do.
A final piece of advice from Roger.
In life there are always highs and lows, times where you face setbacks and challenges and other times where you can enjoy great accomplishments. But you always have to realize that’s part of life. You have to stay focused on certain goals that you want to reach at the end of the day and not let the setbacks get you down too much.
If you are interested in the work of The Fund for American Studies, make sure to visit their website here.
Christine Smith is an intern with America’s Future Foundation this summer through the Fund for American Studies.
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