You’ve probably received the advice to “go above and beyond” or to “think outside the box” before. What does this practically mean for a student or new graduate in a first job? How can you use this advice instead of dismissing it as a cliche?
It is difficult to teach the skill of proactivity. Its not a skill you can learn from a book or in a classroom, but it is one of the most important skills you can use to advance your career and get ahead. Here are some ways to think about proactivity that might help you “go above and beyond.”
1. Start where you are now. You don’t need to make radical changes in order to be more proactive now. When was the last time you asked your supervisor about how you could improve or how you could be helpful with other projects? When was the last time you did something you weren’t asked because you saw a need? Take small steps toward proactivity if you haven’t before.
2. What do you do with down time during work? Do you think about ways to help others in your organization, or do you waste time with non-work related social media, YouTube, or other activities? Do you come up with ways to improve your organization or do you complain and gossip about others? Going above and beyond in this case is when employees add value to the company instead of wasting time. You don’t need to work extra hours, and you certainly don’t want to get in other people’s way, but you can ask if others need help, or propose new ways to be more efficient.
3. What do you with free time outside of work? Do you improve yourself by learning about best practices in your field? Do you attend networking events where you can meet others and learn about their work and explore possible collaboration? Do you have hobbies you enjoy that improve your skills in other areas like sports, reading, spiritual activities, or charity? Those who go above and beyond use their free time outside of work constructively to improve themselves while also finding a healthy balance and getting enough rest.
4. Does your resume contain a list of jobs or a story about how you were proactive? I sometimes receive resumes from students or recent graduates that literally are a list of jobs without any context or reason why I should further consider the applicant. This might be a result of the applicant’s poor resume preparation or because the applicant has not been proactive. For example, candidate A attended a top-tier university, earned decent grades, and held some side jobs in retail and landscaping. Nothing else is listed on the resume. Candidate B attended a reputable university and earned decent grades, but lists a leadership position in a campus liberty organization, published an academic paper as an undergraduate, and worked jobs in the campus center during which the candidate improved efficiency by 13% and saved $150,000 last year. Although candidate A might be as impressive and worthy of consideration, it seems like candidate B is clearly more attractive to the hiring manager.
5. Never do the bare minimum. In today’s economy and competitive workforce, you will not achieve your full potential by completing minimum requirements and waiting for something to happen. You need to demonstrate how you will be valuable to employers by taking initiative and creating value. You can start as a student through campus organizations and activism, or through academic work that supplements basic degree requirements. If you are already in the workforce, what are you doing at your current job that distinguishes you from employees who complete the bare minimum? Do you have a good attitude that is encouraging and makes others want to be around you?
If you were candidate A from the example above because you had to overcome adversity, you can use that to show a potential employer that you will be valuable. For example, if you were caring for your elderly relative with cancer during college, but still able to earn decent grades and pay for tuition, you should explain that in the cover letter. Situations differ and you will be evaluated on how you handled each one.
Next time someone asks if you “went above and beyond” or “thought outside the box,” will you be able to give examples and prove that you are the best candidate for the job?
Roger Custer is executive director at America’s Future Foundation.
What if I told you that the best way to write your resume is to write it backwards? That’s right, scratch everything you’ve learned about building your resume and start at the end instead. Let me explain:
How would you feel if you were in an interview and, as the interviewer began to read your resume, your accomplishments began to magically vanish from the page? Most people, I imagine, wouldn’t exactly enjoy seeing the fruit of their labor disappear before their eyes. What if I told you, however, that it’s possible to harness this negative experience to help you build your motivation to succeed? I call it building your “proactive resume.” Here’s how to do it:
Grab a copy of your resume and start looking for gaps. Do you want to move into a communications role but don’t have much writing experience? Identify an organization that will let you write for their blog. Want to learn more about public policy? See if there is some freelance research you can do for a nonprofit. Next, make a list of all your options and pick the top two or three choices.
Now comes the fun part: add them to your resume. Put in the title you want – be as specific as possible – and then add in the responsibilities. Shorten your resume accordingly, chopping out the excess to fit your accomplishments onto one page. Then, include your own initiatives and improvements, outlining as specifically as possible how they remedied a problem or improved upon a previous system. Your imaginary achievements may be impressive (we hope!), but also make them reasonable and attainable.
How is this helpful? While it is easy to add imaginary accomplishments to your resume, taking them off is easier said than done. It’s like your resume disappearing in an interview. By proactively adding new positions and responsibilities to your resume, you feel the new found “weight” of your “accomplishments.” This will help you build the motivation to succeed.
In addition, identifying possible future responsibilities and personal initiatives is particularly useful when it comes to thinking critically about what you have to offer an employer, and imperative if you are to succeed in an interview. Having to add positions to your resume also forces you to think about the most realistic options available to you.
One important caveat, however: building your proactive requires you to be realistic with yourself. A recent college graduate should probably not start out with “President of the United States” or “CEO of Microsoft” as proximate roles. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. The goals you choose ought to push you towards the implementation of steps that lead to those goals, but this is only possible if your goals are reasonable.
Christopher Roberts is a Project Manager at the Philanthropy Roundtable.
Continuing Your Classical Liberal Education: Practical Benefits
So, you have gotten that position you’ve been working toward. You are now safely ensconced in a think tank, policy analysis firm or public policy research organization. Surely now school is behind you and you can do what most graduates do when they finally complete and get a post : put their books to one side and draw a line under their education? Not at all. This would be a mistake in a number of ways, as well as being bad in itself. You should now be thinking of how to continue your education in classical liberal ideas and arguments and look upon it as a long-term project that you carry on alongside your regular job. Fortunately, it has never been easier to do this, and it’s a lot of fun, as well as helps you in your new career in policy.
Why though should you do this? Obviously, one basic reason is that learning and knowledge are good in and of themselves. However, there are lots of practical reasons why you should not stop your education once you graduate. In the first place, there is still so much to learn, much of it directly relevant to the work you are now doing. In the whole of your time as an undergraduate and at graduate school, you will have only touched on part of the rich and varied continent of classical liberal ideas. Suppose you have specialized in economics. There will still be many aspects of economic thinking that you hardly know even after that. There will be even more opportunity to learn new things in other areas, such as political science, international relations, philosophy, and history. All of this is a source of arguments, information, and explanatory analysis that you can bring to bear in your career in public policy. Why let it lie fallow and unexplored?
Moreover, the sum of classical liberal knowledge and argument (or indeed intellectual and scholarly argument in general) is not fixed and unchanging. Scholars are constantly producing new theses and undermining old ones, discovering new things and looking at established and known facts in a new way. You need to keep up with these developments, both because they are interesting in themselves and because they will often have a direct bearing on the kind of more practical policy-oriented research that you are now doing. If you are looking at criminal justice policy for example, new findings in sociology or psychology will have direct relevance for you; they may lead you to rethink your line of argument or the kind of policy recommendations that you make.
In addition to these practical benefits of continuing your education, there are more fundamental reasons for doing this and making it a life project. These have to do with the kind of person that you want to be or become. If you stop learning and exploring the ideas you believe in and are committed to, you will eventually forget why you got into this business in the first place. You will become concerned only with the process of politics and public policy and lose sight of the goal, the ideal you had that shaped your choices and that you went into the policy world to help realize or defend. You will become a technician and stop being an idealist. One result is that your mental horizons will shrink, you will lose the vision you once had, which helped you to think in original ways. Increasingly, you won’t ask fundamental questions. Instead, you will only look at the practical mechanics of policy and lose sight of the deeper questions.
Dr. Stephen Davies is the Education Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. This post is an excerpt from Dr. Davies’ chapter in the IHS Policy Career Guide. The next excerpt from this chapter will discuss various steps young professionals can take to pursue a lifetime of learning.
Are you a mid-career young professional in the D.C. area interested in learning more about conservative thought? Are you also interested in a great opportunity to grow your professional network? If so, the National Review Institute is looking for you! We are now accepting applications for the prestigious 2013-2014 Washington Fellows program and invite you to take advantage of our extended November 18th deadline.
Each year, NRI invites 25 early- to mid-career young professionals to join it’s Washington Fellows program. Its goal is to introduce succeeding generations — not only young people working in the world of politics and policy, but those in the productive economy, as well — to the conservative movement’s most important thinkers, institutions, and writings, and to build a network of talented, like-minded individuals who can assist one another professionally and personally for years to come.
Beginning this year, the program will institute a new curriculum — designed by NRI board member and celebrated academic Daniel J. Mahoney — that will foster a rigorous examination of conservative principles and how they apply to the issues of the day. Incorporating readings from Burke to Buckley, the syllabus focuses on the foundations of conservative thought.
Washington Fellows will meet for ten weeknight dinner seminars from December 2013 through June 2014. For each session, Fellows will be expected to complete a 25-30 page reading assignment, which they will discuss with a leading conservative thinker. In addition, Fellows will receive invitations to exclusive networking happy hours and other conservative events in DC, as well as an annual alumni gathering.
An ideal candidate has at least ten years of full-time work experience and does not currently work in public policy, but all are welcome to apply.
If you’re interested in applying to become a Washington Fellow, please send a résumé and cover letter explaining why you think this program would be beneficial to you. Be sure to submit your application materials to email@example.com by Monday, November 18th, 2013, at 5:00p.m.
Katie Poedtke is the External Affairs Manager at the National Review Institute. You can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Part 1 of How (and Why!) to Grow In Your Role, I gave my personal story about how I’ve learned to grow in each role. Here are some specific lessons I learned that you can use to grow in your position:
1. Open and honest communication with your supervisor is absolutely critical for professional development: Why? Your supervisor can’t read your mind. It can often be scary or intimidating to approach your boss about taking things off of your plate; however, if you don’t tell them you’re dissatisfied with aspects of your current role – the number of different priorities, kinds of tasks you’re working on, or skills you need before you can be successful, how can they help you? Keep the lines of communication about your long-term goals open, and be open to any experiments that might be available to help you get there.
2. Think about communication in terms of comparative advantage: your time may be better spent in areas in which you are passionate about and skilled. Seek honest feedback about your performance and your goals, and learn from what you hear.
3. Be patient: growing within an organization doesn’t happen overnight. Be willing to put in the time to really add value in your current role before asking for changes. But don’t sit back and expect growth to just happen.
4. Be proactive about learning and seeking mentorship: you may have a great supervisor like I did, or you might have a supervisor who struggles to see your potential and think in terms of development. Don’t let that stop you from finding people who can help you talk through your career trajectory. Wise counsel is worth more than you can imagine. Find friends, mentors, or industry leaders from whom you can learn. You may need to find multiple people to mentor you. Take classes in the evenings; get certified for a new computer program; do whatever it takes to build the skills you need to get to where you want to be. Also, actively look for needs within the company and fill them. Show interest, help co-workers who are doing what you want to do – you never know which “extra” things you are doing might become your next full-time role.
If you do these things, you’ll find that even during times when your role is frustrating, it is easier to keep the end goal in mind: a long-term career path where you will be fulfilled and make a difference.
Liz Hine is a recruiter for the Center for Shared Services. These remarks were delivered at the October 2012 AFF Roundtable, “Climb the Ladder Quickly: Advice for Your Next Job.”
On October 22nd, AFF Atlanta hosted Carl Oberg, Chief Operating Officer at the The Foundation for Economic Education, for a presentation entitled “1913: Not Just The Fed and Income Tax.” Carl spoke to a very interested crowd in a packed room of over 50 attendees.
Mr. Oberg explained that the year 1913 is often cursed in free market circles for being the year in which the Federal Reserve, the Income Tax, the direct election of Senators, and the Woodrow Wilson administration came into being. As such, many liberty-minded people conclude that 1913 was the year that “ruined everything.”
With that in mind, Carl decided to tailor his presentation to talk about other events that happened in order to give attendees a fuller and more realistic picture of the year. As he discussed various events, the audience was given a picture of change and advancement that occurred in areas as wide-ranging as art, music, architecture and business. For example, 1913 was the year in which Henry Ford began to use the assembly line to produce the Ford Model T, a feat which would strongly impact the future of the automobile industry.
Mr. Oberg argued that no year is essentially different from any other year, and pointed out that in areas where society was more free and able to adapt and accept change, conditions tended to improve.
Interested in learning about AFF opportunities or events in your area? Check out our Local Chapter Highlights to learn more!
Kathryn Shelton is the Director of Chapter Advancement for America’s Future Foundation.
Congress on the Shutdown: “What, Us Learn?”
On October 4th, Rasmussen Reports released poll results of 1,000 likely voters. Participants were asked to rate congressional performance. With almost seventy (70%) percent disapproving, it’s safe to say that the American public is unhappy with their lawmakers.
Further, seventy-four percent (74%) of those polled indicated that they believe congressional leaders value the opinions of party leaders in Congress more than those of the constituents they represent. (See the full poll results here.) Congress’ 11% job approval rating hovers just one point above the worst rating in Gallup’s 75 year history. In fact, the last time congressional job approval averaged higher than 20% was December 9th of 2012.
Congressional approval has been on the decline for months but the October government shutdown gave Americans the opportunity to stop blaming Congress as a whole and start blaming Republicans. While I blame both parties equally for Congress’ poor ratings, the Republicans should have known better. In 1995, House Republicans, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, were eager to confront President Clinton using the shutdown as a tool in budget debates. Once the government closed, however, the House GOP was heavily criticized and lost their leverage.
Following his reelection, President Clinton spoke to Congress: “On behalf of all the [Americans] who are out there working every day doing a good job for the American people, I challenge all of you in this Chamber: Never, ever shut the federal government down again.” This warning from Clinton, which came in the form of his 1996 State of the Union Address, has obviously been ignored by Republicans in the 113th Congress.
Recently, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post’s Fact Checker reflected on the 1995 shutdown and the lessons the Republicans should have learned from 18 years prior. The three lessons he emphasizes are: “don’t lose control of your message”, “don’t get hung up on numbers” and most importantly, “accept the winning headline.” In both 1995 and 2013 Republicans chose to close the government because the alternative, keeping it open, meant an outcome they didn’t like. In 1995 the outcome was Clinton’s budget and in 2013 it was Obamacare.
Of the 113th Congress, 52 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the House were also in Congress in 1995; similarly, in today’s Senate, 11 Democrats and seven Republicans were also onhand during the ’95 shutdown. Taken together, these Members make up nearly one-fifth of the current Congress that has taken a class in Shutdown 101 before. Why, then, does it seem like only the Democrats have learned that when the government shuts down, the Republicans get the blame?
Daisy Letendre is an intern in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Trinity College.
AFF Pittsburgh welcomed Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-PA) on October 17 to discuss the pressures that principled representatives face in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Rothfus shared a play-by-play of the government shutdown to about 30 attendees, and he explained that the hectic schedule and lack of input fromm constituents at home create a hyper-partisan atmosphere where little is accomplished. He encouraged each attendee to reach out to their elected officials on a regular basis, arguing that constituent interaction really does make a difference.
Interested in learning about AFF opportunities or events in your area? Check out our Local Chapter Highlights to learn more!
Kathryn Shelton is the Director of Chapter Advancement for America’s Future Foundation.
How Do I Become a Nonprofit Manager?
If you read the last post on nonprofit management and are interested in learning more, then perhaps a role as a nonprofit manager is right for you. So now the question is, what’s the best way to pursue such a role?
As you might expect, there are many paths and none of them is necessarily right; it really depends on each individual’s interests and talents, and the specific opportunities available.
However, there are some timeless truths for managers. Many of these are described at length in other sections of the IHS Policy Career Guide, so I will only give details for those that are not covered elsewhere:
• Personnel management is usually required. There is a huge difference between project/program management and personnel management. The latter, as mentioned above, is much more challenging, and many folks are not good at it. If you have experience and skills with managing people, you are in a much better position to earn a management role and command a higher salary. If you don’t have such experience, try to take on a project in which you will have to supervise an intern or an assistant. That is a good start.
• Be entrepreneurial. Don’t just talk and gripe. Instead, take action, seize opportunities, and solve problems. Being entrepreneurial is how you get things done. So, for example, when you run into a problem, don’t just go to your boss with your hands in the air (doing so exports your work to your boss— which is not good). Instead, when you have a problem, go to your boss with a clear understanding of the problem, an analysis of ways to potentially solve the problem, and your recommendation. Then, your boss can simply react to your analysis and recommendation, and you win points for being entrepreneurial and getting things done.
• Don’t be a mercenary. Both growing within a single organization and moving around a bit have their advantages. Of course, it’s fine to change jobs when the right opportunity comes around. But you don’t want to be (or earn a reputation as) a job-hopper who can’t commit, doesn’t know what she wants, and/or can’t live up to her obligations.
• Be humble.
Chad Thevenot is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Institute for Humane Studies. This post is an excerpt from the Management chapter of the IHS Policy Career Guide. The next excerpt from this chapter will discuss some of the challenges faced by nonprofit managers.
Navigating the Hill: Part 2
It can be a challenge to figure out who to contact in a congressional office, because the job titles don’t always make it clear. How is a Legislative Assistant different than a Legislative Correspondent? Should you contact committee staff or personal office staff? Knowing who does what and contacting the correct person makes it more likely that your request will get answered and you’ll start off on the right foot with that office.
House and Senate personal offices are similar in structure, though Senate offices typically have larger staffs. The Staff Assistant is who you run into when you walk into an office; staff assistants handle phones, office visitors, some constituent requests, and often times manage tours and interns. These are the staff who bear the brunt of angry phone calls from constituents, so be nice, because you might be the only nice phone call they get all day. Many offices often promote from within as well, so don’t dismiss staff assistants just because they aren’t necessarily working on legislation or because you think they aren’t important – people always remember courteousness early on.
Similarly, the Scheduler is an integral part of any office, as he or she is the point of contact for meeting and speaking requests.
Legislative Correspondents are part of the policy staff, though they often handle some constituent, tour and intern issues as well. They also have a legislative portfolio, meaning they are responsible for a handful of policy issues and any corresponding committee work, legislation, or upcoming votes on those issues.
Legislative Assistants are more senior staff and have a broader portfolio of issues, often encompassing some of the more high profile issues, such as appropriations or defense.
Legislative Assistants and Correspondents report to the Legislative Director, who is responsible for coordinating all of that office’s policy work to the Member. The Legislative Director works closely with and reports to the Chief of Staff, who manages both the policy, political and administrative aspects of the office.
Additionally, each House and Senate committee also has committee staff, who work for the committee itself rather than an individual member. These staffers usually have significant background in the policy areas of their committee as well as procedural knowledge. Just to make things a little more confusing, senior Members of committees often have staffers in their personal office who work solely on those committee issues.
Each office and committee does things a little differently, but two things are always true: 1) There is a lot of movement within offices and between offices, so be nice to everyone regardless of their position, because you never know where they’ll end up, and 2) Staffers know that it’s hard to figure out who has what responsibility in a given office, so never be afraid to ask!
Laura Odato is the Director of Government Affairs at the Cato Institute.
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