This post is a continuation of Dr. Davies’ remarks on Continuing Your Classical Liberal Education.
The British politician Dennis Healy argued that all politicians needed what he called a hinterland. That is a set of interests and avocations that are independent of their political career or at least not directly connected to it. He himself had a great interest in both music and literature. This gives the politician or analyst the vital quality of perspective and makes him or her a more three- dimensional person rather than a flat two-dimensional figure who knows and cares only about one narrow thing.
Washington, D.C., and state capitals are full of people who know all about the details of the latest hot policy topic or the bills going through the legislature, but have lost or never developed their hinterland. They no longer have a framework they can fit all this technical information into, a larger picture that gives it meaning. They have forgotten most of what they learned at school and haven’t learned anything new. They may look sleek in their sharp suits, but intellectually they are flabby. They can’t bring new thinking and insights to bear; they are responsive rather than creative. Eventually, the tide of ideas sweeping past them outside their bubble will sweep them away and leave them stranded. At some point, they will realize this and wonder why they are doing this and what happened to that intellectual curiosity and idealism they felt when they started out. Don’t be like that!
So all this is well and good, but what should you do? The good news is that continuing your education and keeping up with scholarship has never been easier. At one time you would have had to go back to school or take part-time or evening classes if you wanted to do this. Now though, there has been a revolution in the world of ideas, and it is easier than at any time since the 1880s to be an intellectual, a student, or even a scholar without being in full- or even part-time education. The basic point is to make your education a part of your life and a continuing project. The main thing therefore is to make time for it. There are a number of things you can do. The basic thing is to do this in a structured way. Give yourself a manageable intellectual project on a subject that interests you, the equivalent in terms of time commitment of a full-credit class. So you might decide to learn about the intellectual and political history of the Progressive Era, or the philosophy of crime and punishment, or the economics of an area you haven’t really studied before.
The most obvious thing to do is to read regularly and systematically. Compile a list of books on a topic or subject area that you want to look at and go through it. One way of doing this is to look at the lists produced by institutions such as IHS or Liberty Fund (whose own publications list is a great resource—even better are their online resources at www.econlib.org and http://oll.libertyfund.org). Don’t just read books that are clearly policy-relevant, read pure academic ones. Also, start to explore ones in areas you didn’t study in college. One good resource is the Amazon list of related books for any particular one you’re reading. It isn’t just books either; if you’re lucky, your school will give you access to things such as JSTOR so you will be able to keep up with journals as well. As well as reading books, take out subscriptions to magazines. Not the obvious polemical ones but the more scholarly ones that are not purely academic but halfway between the academic and the popular. Think of titles like Independent Review, Foreign Policy, National Interest, American Interest, Reason, and Dissent.
As well as reading regularly, look out for public lectures in your area given by universities and other organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities. Accept invitations to events put on by nonprofits and other think tanks that have an intellectual element, even (or especially) when they are in an area that isn’t directly to do with the one you’re an expert in for policy.
There are now a wealth of other ways to educate yourself. You can subscribe to and get regular updates from many sites. Among the thousands of blogs are some that are seriously scholarly and either tell you a lot, or even better, direct you to other resources. Many older books are now available online at Project Gutenberg and other sites. There are also excellent courses on CD or DVD on a wide range of subjects, put out by The Teaching Company and other firms, usually of a very high quality and sometimes with a distinct classical liberal twist or interpretation.
Don’t feel that this continued education need be a solitary exercise. You can join or help set up reading and discussion groups either online or preferably where you meet for lunch or a social event as well as to discuss what you’ve read or seen. Also, it is very important to not only read what is ideologically congenial to you (hence the reference to Dissent earlier). You don’t want to suffer from confirmation bias. Rather, you want to be exposed to the best arguments the other side has to offer, as this will sharpen your own thinking and keep you on your toes. Just as the best teams want to match themselves against the strongest opposition, so you should want to engage and debate with the strongest critiques of your own beliefs so that your own arguments are as strong and well-informed as possible. (Of course, you may actually learn something or even change your mind on something, which is not a bad thing if that’s where the evidence and argument leads.)
Getting that policy position is not the conclusion of your academic career. Far from it—for all sorts of reasons, you should look to continue it, and if you do, you will gain a lot for yourself and also be more effective in the fight you are committed to for things you believe in
On November 19th, AFF Atlanta hosted The Advocates for Self Government’s Sharon Harris for a presentation titled “The Invisible Hand Is a Gentle Hand.” Mrs. Harris spoke to a crowd of nearly 40 attendees.
Mrs. Harris gave a very interesting and engaging talk on how to talk about liberty to different people. Her lecture was interactive and included exercises on listening and communicating. Mrs. Harris used her knowledge of psychology to illustrate the fact that there are many different types of people who are going to respond to information and ideas in different manners. She pointed out that certain methods of communication can be wildly successful when used to communicate with some types of people, yet can do nothing but fail when used to communicate with others. Mrs. Harris talked about the importance of both understanding and listening to your audience. Her presentation was enjoyed by all and AFF Atlanta is looking forward to having Mrs. Harris back at a future event.
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.
America’s Future Foundation wishes you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!! This year, we are especially thankful for AFF’s wonderful staff, friends and supporters!!
Image credit: http://armsbyabbey.com
For many, a mentor or a book opened their minds to the possibilities of a free society. For others, an affinity toward liberty happened through experience. As I discovered during the recent Atlas Network Liberty Forum, a great many leaders in today’s worldwide liberty movement did these things along with attending a FEE seminar.
FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education, has been prompting that “ah ha!” moment in people for decades, and now works exclusively to light the flame of liberty in the hearts of high school and college students.
Now FEE is calling on you. Are you a FEE alumnus or alumna whose worldview was changed for the better through a FEE seminar? Are you an entrepreneur or liberty movement leader who once interned at FEE? Have you been a loyal reader of The Freeman magazine?
We want to hear from you. Send us a short note with your contact information and the program and year you attended FEE so we can cite your success.
And for those particularly accomplished among FEE alumni, we invite nominations for the inaugural Leonard E. Read Distinguished Alumni Award. Named after FEE’s founder and teacher to many, this award recognizes one alumnus or alumna who has made a particularly strong impact for liberty. The award will be given at a dinner following FEE’s Inspire, Educate & Connect Summit in Naples, Florida on February 1st, 2014. The award includes a $2,000 cash prize and recognition among the more than 10,000 FEE alumni.
Nominations are open now through December 6th, 2013, so feel an urgent sense of unease and act now!
Richard Lorenc is the Director of Programs and Alumni Relations at the Foundation for Economic Freedom.
Romina Boccia is the Grover M. Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at the Heritage Foundation. An advocate for fiscal reform in the United States as well as a native of Germany, Romina makes an intriguing spokeswoman against the culture of entitlement in the United States.
Romina’s interest in economic policy began when she was traveling in the early 90s to Southern Italy with her family. Romina recalls her observations of the blatant differences in the societies, “Dirt roads instead of pavement, stray dogs and cats left to fend for themselves in the road, and people who had access to many fewer amenities than we enjoyed in Germany.”
Later in Gymnasium (German college-preparatory school), Romina wrote her thesis on the Cuban Revolution. Through studying the philosophy and history of socialism in Cuba, Romina grew more skeptical of socialism’s means and ends. Before attending University, Romina moved to Washington, D.C. as an au pair and began attending events at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Cato Institute where she learned more about development theory. Romina decided to enroll in George Mason University to study economics. During her first semester at GMU, Romina attended a conference hosted by the Foundation for Economic Education where she received a copy of Bastiat’s The Law. Romina credits this conference as her introduction to the liberty movement, which has provided further opportunities to learn about economic freedom such as the Koch Internship and Associate Programs and seminars at the Institute for Humane Studies.
Growing up in Germany also influenced Romina’s ideology. Romina explains that, “Before the Hartz reforms to welfare and labor took effect, I saw directly how poorly devised government policies encourage dependence and a gaming of the system. In contrast, my extended family members who grew up working the land were intuitively conservative and emphasized the values of hard work and personal responsibility.”
Romina describes that while her mother was ill she took self-responsibility to help provide for her family: “ A neighbor helped me get a job delivering the catholic weekly paper at the age of 11, two years before the legal working age in Germany. I held that job until leaving for the U.S. and added several others, including childcare, social work, and teaching first aid. My experience shaped me to place a very high value on independence, accomplished through hard work and personal responsibility. These are also values I espouse through my ideology.”
Romina’s hard work has not come without reward, when asked what her greatest accomplishment in her career is she replies, “To have an impact on the public discourse and in the ideas that shape policymaking. Rather than look back at individual breakthrough moments, I get to wake up every day to make a small difference towards liberty and a free society. I am in a great place at the Heritage Foundation, where we have a talented and dedicated team to help get our policy ideas out and make a difference in Washington. Seeing my ideas and products appear in the media and being used by policymakers in a way that moves the country in the right direction is a powerful feedback mechanism.”
When asked what advice she has for young professionals, Romina encourages entrepreneurship: “Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do and how to do it. Continuously improve your abilities through learning and practice.” Liberty Toastmasters, an organization that provides public speaking practice and which Romina is a founding member , is a great example of this initiative. “Become known as the person who gets stuff done” Romina adds.
America’s Future Foundation is another resource Romina describes as a great tool for success, “AFF is a very helpful resource when it comes to networking within the liberty movement and learning about ideas in-depth in a comfortable and inviting setting. AFF’s social events enable young professionals to meet peers and identify collaborators on projects and contacts for career advancement. AFF has helped me become better at networking and forming strong working relationships with peers.”
Jordan Pic is an intern at America’s Future Foundation. To learn more about other leaders in the liberty-movement, please visit AFF’s Profiles in Liberty.
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.”
A disturbing video appears to show that two LA gangsters are now mercenaries fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Calling themselves “Wino” and “Creeper,” the two gang member. […]
Thanks to the recent Winter Olympics, the city of Sochi has two gorgeous ice hockey arenas. However, it doesn’t have an ice hockey team to play in them. These arenas are just two of Sochi’s many. […]