The Two Most Underutilized Networking Tools in the Conservative & Libertarian Movement

#1. If you want to learn the conservative/libertarian movement, you have no better friend than www.policyexperts.org. Dubbed as “The Insider Guide to Public Policy Experts and Organizations,” Policy Experts, a tool created by The Heritage Foundation, is exactly that. But I’m always a little bit shocked at how literal the “insider” part is. Almost none of the networkers or job seekers I speak to have heard of it! With 789 organizations and 2591 experts in an easy to use database, this web site is pure platinum for networking within the movement.

This online directory is searchable by name, affiliation, location or issue expertise. Want to focus your networking and job search to Pennsylvania only? Well, with two clicks, Policy Experts tells you that there are 26 organizations to choose from. Just graduated law school and want to do a nationwide search of public interest litigation groups? Well, you’ve got 41 potential employers to consider. Interviewing at a think tank and want to know the interest areas of a few of the scholars there or even want to take a peek at some of their resumes? Policy Experts lets you do that, too. Or maybe you want to contact someone at one of the non-profit organizations listed for an informational interview? You can do that too! (Follow the advice I provided about LinkedIn and tweak it: http://americasfuture.org/freethefuture/2013/01/10/networking-advice-how-to-best-use-linkedin)

Additionally, the Policy Experts web site allows you to click through to each organization’s web site. So if you’re interested in learning more about American Enterprise Institute, you just click on the hyperlink and it takes you to www.aei.org. Once there, you can investigate to see if there’s a section that says “Opportunities,” “Employment,” “Jobs,” or “Careers.” At the very least, you’ll find out about groups you had no idea even existed and at best can discover some wonderful job opportunities in the movement to apply for.

www.policyexperts.org is ridiculously underutilized! Go there, bookmark it, and use it for all of its potential!

#2. Every year, thousands of people descend on a DC-area hotel for the Conservative Political Action Conference (it’s at National Harbour in MD this March 14-16) and obviously CPAC is not exactly obscure. Thousands sit in on conservative luminaries giving wonderful speeches to packed rooms, dine at banquets, and attend after-parties like Reaganpalooza, and no one would deny all of these are great networking opportunities. But, I would argue that the single best networking location during CPAC is the exhibit hall. Yes, the exhibit hall! It’s not just for getting conservative swag and stealing candy from the exhibitors when they’re not looking! It’s the best place to network during the entirety of the conference.

How do you network in the CPAC exhibit hall? A week or so before the conference, take a look at which organizations are going to exhibit. Research each a bit in advance (and yes, Policy Experts is a fine tool to use for this purpose!) and then show up to the exhibit hall and introduce yourself to the employees working on behalf of their organizations during the conference. While exhibiting on behalf of The Federalist Society, I’ve had several people walk up to me confidently, compliment the wonderful organization for which I work and then tell me a little spiel about themselves, inform me they’re looking for work, and ask me if they could give me a copy of their resume should there be an opening at The Federalist Society. And you know what? I passed their resumes along and forwarded them around every time.

Wait a second? Isn’t that pushy? I wouldn’t characterize it as pushy. It shows gumption. Remember when you go into the exhibit hall, some of the exhibitors are stuck behind their booth table for three full days! They’re bored! Ask them about their work and get to know them and their organizations. I’ve met many wonderful people at CPAC or other conferences like that, and the exhibit hall is a great place. Take advantage of that boredom and make new friends. You can really meet many people in the movement this way, and from the ground up.

For the impatient, this’ll give you an idea of which groups have sponsored in the past and are likely to be there this year:
http://conservative.org/cpac2013/sponsorship/past-sponsors-2012

Every year, you’ll find me in the CPAC exhibit hall. I’ll listen to that awesome Rand Paul speech online after the conference.

Next week…A list of networking no-nos or “not-workings”…

Peter Redpath is Vice President and Director of the Student Division at the Federalist Society. This blog is part of a series based on his remarks at the AFF Networking Lunch in November 2012.

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