People ask me for career advice on a regular basis. If you are interested in public policy and working for the liberty movement, my best advice is to consider a career in development. Far too many students and new graduates think they should go to law school and/or become a policy scholar. The reality is that most people are not the right fit for law school and there are few openings available for policy positions. At the same time, there are ample openings for development and a real need for talented people. When I was a student, I didn’t realize this was a career track. Here are some further thoughts on this topic:
1. Development officers generally make more money. The reality is that people who bring in revenue instead of spend it tend to make a higher salary. This is not always the case (and won’t be for the first part of your career), but generally is for most of your career. Also, in order to be the president or executive director of a nonprofit, you need to have experience with development and will spend the majority of your time doing it.
2. The mission is not achieved without development. You can put on the best programs, produce the best research, educate the most people, and have the coolest website, but it will not continue to grow unless you have a talented development team developing donor relationships for the long term. An organization is simply not able to meet its mission without raising the funds necessary to stay open and grow over time.
3. There is always demand for your skills. The most talented development officers are often recruited away by other organizations because there is so much need for their services. While people in other fields may have a hard time finding new opportunities, there are almost always new jobs in development. Just take a look at Talent Market and you will see that most openings are in development.
4. You meet incredible people and help them achieve their goals. One of the most rewarding parts of development is the opportunity to meet and work with successful, hard-working, dedicated donors who are passionate about your work and looking for ways to establish their legacy. Few career fields allow you to become friends with such incredible people and help them make an impact.
5. Not all development jobs require face to face asking. One common objection to development is when people are uncomfortable asking for money, especially face to face or in someone’s home. If that is not your strength, there are other tracks in development that might suit you better. Larger organizations hire people who work on direct mail, research, writing and editing, online fundraising, foundations and proposal writing (although that does involve some in-person meetings), and event planning. Maybe you should consider those tracks if you don’t want to be in major gifts or in-person asking.
Development is not for everyone and is an art, not a science. Each donor is different and it takes a lot of time, patience, and energy in order to develop relationships that result in major or transformational gifts. With that said, my advice is to consider a career in development because it may be a great fit for you in the nonprofit liberty movement.
Roger Custer is executive director at America’s Future Foundation.
When applying for a job, the cover letter is important. However, it can also hurt your chances if the hiring manager discovers some common errors. In a highly competitive job search, don’t allow your cover letter to be a hurdle to your dream job! Here are the top five mistakes to avoid in your cover letter:
5. Cookie Cutter / Bland: These cover letters show that you only slogged through and did not spend the time and effort to customize a letter. Avoid cliches and write a personalized letter that is catered to the specific organization.
4. Exaggerations: Be honest and sincere without exaggerating your credentials and experience. It may show that you think very highly of yourself if you use rhetorical flourishes and inflate yourself above where you are and what you can offer the employer. Humility is a key virtue that an exaggerated cover letter will crush. If you say you “think outside the box,” please provide an example or phrase it differently.
3. Verbose: A long cover letter (more than a few paragraphs) is not necessary and may indicate to the employer that you have trouble with concision. Get to your point and respect the hiring manager’s time by keeping your letter to a few paragraphs, and certainly to one page!
2. Repeat Your Resume: Your cover letter is separate from your resume. While you want to highlight the same themes and explain why you are the right fit, don’t simply repeat your resume or cut and paste the bullet points in the letter. Spend some time drafting a genuine, unique letter that shows your marketing skills, writing skills, and why you are the right fit. Give specific examples that don’t fit on the resume and let your resume speak for itself on your specifics.
1. Cut and Paste: The worst cover letter mistake is when you cut and paste your entire letter, fail to proofread, and make a mistake on the organization or business to which you are applying. I’ve thrown out resumes like this before because it is clear the person does not value the potential employer enough to customize the cover letter or proofread. If you do cut and paste some parts of your letter, be sure to have someone else read it and triple check that the addressee and the potential employer are correct. It’s even worse if the potential employer is correct at one point and wrong at another.
Your cover letter can be a key selling point or a huge hurdle for your job search. Avoid these mistakes and use the letter to sell yourself, be genuine, and show off your writing and marketing skills. Best of luck to you!
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
You’ve probably heard the expression “don’t sweat the small stuff.” While this may be an admonition to reduce stress and not worry too much, I think there is value in sweating the small stuff when it comes to details in your life. Details might make or break your chance for a new job. They might also affect your reputation when accumulated over a period of time. Here are a few points you should consider for why details matter.
1. Check your spelling and grammar. One of the biggest problems with job applicants and young employees is sloppy spelling and grammar. Sometimes spell check hurts more than it helps because it doesn’t pick up contextual errors such as there, their, and they’re or it is, its and it’s. If you need improvement in this area, don’t hesitate to ask for proofreading or become more familiar with grammatical rules. Another common mistake is misuse of a possessive apostrophe as in “want some hamburger’s?” or “patient care and what the driver’s are.”
2. Prepare for meetings. You should comprehensively prepare for any meeting you attend in order to best use your time. This applies to individual face-to-face meetings, staff meetings, and even parties, happy hours, and other gatherings. Learn who will be at the meeting and have some prepared questions or points about the content of the meeting. Consider making a goal in advance that could be a question you need answered, an agenda item to add, an amount to ask the donor, points to rehash from your last meeting, or some other relevant goal. Don’t be the person who lost a document or agenda that was emailed or distributed to you before. It is a real hassle for the meeting organizer to have to remind you the location and content of the meeting that was already sent out.
3. Don’t overpromise, and always follow up when you promise something. Be careful when you commit to anything, even as small as “I will get back to you” or “let me look in to that.” Recently, I invited someone to lunch and he said he would get back to me the following day. He didn’t and I asked again, only to be promised an answer the next day again. When he didn’t reply by his own deadline, I didn’t think he would reply at all, but he did the day after. Needless to say, he didn’t keep his word on what he promised himself. Think twice before you promise anything. When you do promise something, write yourself a note with a deadline so you remember.
4. Search your emails before you ask someone to re-send. I’ve had people ask me again for documents and messages that I sent them and others received. There may have been an issue with spam or a technical error, but the majority of messages arrive and all the recipient needs to do is search his own inbox before asking the sender again.
Small details like those mentioned above are very important when added together. Do you want to have the reputation as the person in your office who has it together and is on top of details, or do you want to be the person who is scatterbrained and has a reputation for missing details that cause inefficiencies for others? Consider reviewing how you organize yourself and how you deal with the details in your life. Some small changes can produce big results. Just sweat the small stuff.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
Interested in reading other AFF posts on career development? Visit our Professional Development page for a full list of resources.
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.
Last night, my wife and I saw a friend around 7:00 pm who complained she had to return to the office and continue working after 8+ hours already that day. When asked if she had a specific deadline or reason, she shrugged and said she didn’t.
Maybe this woman or her manager wrongly think success is measured by the amount of hours worked. Maybe she had a deadline or project on which she had procrastinated. We’re not sure, and each situation is different. Often, smart work does require long hours, but smart work must be focused on the results and not on the amount of hours worked or the location of the hours worked. Employees and employers should both reconsider the notion that “hard work” is defined by the amount of hours worked. Here are some ideas on how to think about smart work as opposed to long hours.
1. Work with your manager to have a specific, measurable, timed outcome. You should mutually discuss and agree on reasonable expectations so that you can make it happen without micromanagement. Some people work better late at night yet are required to work from 9 to 5 which damages productivity. Others might thrive from 9 to 5 and not be productive at other times. Some morning people are more productive from 5-10 am. The point is that a measure of success based on the number and timing of hours worked is sometimes used instead of a measurable outcome of the work, whenever it was done.
2. Sometimes, the most productive work is done outside the office or during non-business hours. Networking, conferences, travel, and spending time with clients or donors on their timing is often more productive than 9-5 desk work.
3. This principle can be easily abused. Don’t. For example, an employee might ask to leave a few hours early one day to spend time with friends or participate in a hobby. That’s probably fine as long as that employee is meeting deadlines and meeting expectations during the time he or she is working. It’s not fine when the same employee just had a meeting with the supervisor in which they discussed failure to meet expectations and discussed remedies. It’s plain and simple: don’t be the one who abuses this principle! Use it to your advantage, not your detriment.
4. Use effective time management strategies, scheduling, and prioritizing. This way the hours you do work will be productive and you won’t feel guilty leaving early one day or taking a day off every now and then. If you find yourself working long hours, is it because you procrastinated and dawdled during regular business hours or because you have a legitimate reason like a deadline or special event? How much did you look at Facebook, check your personal email, discuss non-business issues with colleagues, and watch YouTube when you are complaining about how many hours you have to work?
5. Employees with a smart work attitude are usually more productive than workaholics or those who think long hours equal productivity. When you are working and focused, you are more productive than when you are trying to work at all hours from all locations.
There are exceptions, and most jobs require some long hours to meet deadlines or cater to special events or times of year. For example, Capitol Hill hours are determined by voting schedules and people often have to work long nights or weekends. Nonprofit employees often work extra when there is a gala or special event. The main point is that you examine how you are spending your time during the hours you do work in order to be the most productive.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
Um, so, you know, um, I think…um, yes, this is a professional advice column about how you can distinguish yourself by speaking more clearly without using filler words. Most people, whether they realize it or not, speak using filler words. Something about silence is bothersome to the point that people make it a habit to add words in their sentences including like, you know, um, so, and uh. Do you use those words regularly?
You will be judged by your speech in job interviews, donor meetings, public events, and even in conversations at receptions and happy hours. It is very important that you speak clearly and articulate your ideas so people can understand without filler words as a distraction. Here are some tips to cut the extra word habit from your speaking:
1. Assess the situation by listening to yourself. You could record yourself talking with your phone or computer and then play it back. Also you should simply keep in mind the extra words when you are talking to people so you consciously refrain and instead pause between words and sentences.
2. Have a friend monitor your speech. Have the person flick the lights on and off every time you use a filler word so you quickly become aware how often you do it. Continue this practice once a week and monitor how you improve.
3. Listen to articulate speakers and study their cadence. You will notice that the most effective speakers do not use any filler words and instead they put silence between their most important points. We are programmed to speak quickly with filler words, but the opposite is actually the best method for communicating clearly. Explore some of the talks on TED and watch the delivery closely.
4. Slow down! Most people talk very quickly but it is simply not necessary. The Bible teaches this is James 1:19when it says “you should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” While the Bible is not a book about public speaking (although I doubt Jesus said um, you know, like, so, and uh very often) it is right on this point. You can practice this by taking a deep breath before you say a sentence and deliberately slowing down the pace. There is no rush – people better understand when you speak slowly and clearly.
5. Never finish your sentence with “so.” The word “so” is a transition that helps you finish a phrase, but many people use it to end their sentences for some reason. Add this to your practice routine described above so you actively think not to say “so” at the end of a sentence.
Roger Custer is the executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
America’s Future Foundation is pleased to announce the addition this month of Max Ukropina as Director of Programs.
Max will manage AFF’s suite of programs and events in Washington, D.C. including policy roundtables, professional development programs, leadership dinners, the gala, happy hours, and crabfest. He will also oversee the organization’s marketing and social media including Facebook and Twitter.
Prior to joining AFF, Max worked at LivingSocial, launching their new products across major North American markets. Before that, Max was at FoodMe, a former Idealab startup in Los Angeles, where he was Vice President of Business Development.
Max is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business with a concentration from their prestigious Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Max is a life member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.
“Max’s entrepreneurial background and deep passion for liberty is perfect to build America’s Future Foundation,” said Executive Director Roger Custer. “We look forward to his leadership and new ideas which will strengthen AFF’s important networking and professional development programs.”
“We are honored to have Max join our team as Director of Programs,” noted AFF Chairman of the Board Kmele Foster. “Max’s talent, energy, and determination make him exactly the right person to lead AFF’s programs toward continued success.” The Board of Directors is also pleased to announce that Ukropina will participate in the Koch Associate Program for the 2012-2013 year.
“Free the Future” will focus on career advice, along with guest commentary and occasional opinions on policy matters of interest to young professionals. Tom Palmer, Andrea McCarthy, Heather Lakemacher, Emily Miller, Rodney Vessels, and others will provide exclusive career advice, while Jacque Otto will offer Profiles in Liberty with interviews of thought and opinion leaders in our movement.
We also invite you to enjoy the improved features of americasfuture.org. A simpler menu of options on the left bar helps you find what you need quickly. Specific links for each chapter will keep you posted on activities and opportunities throughout the country. Doublethink magazine’s page is easier to use so you can find the latest essays on policy and culture at your fingertips. Last but not least, you can now become a member or make a gift with a simple, one-click process.
Thank you for all you do to make America’s Future Foundation possible. Whether you are a member, regular attendee, financial supporter, Doublethink reader, or otherwise a fan, you play an important part in AFF’s mission to identify and develop young professional leaders for liberty.
2011 was a transitional year for the organization. The board of directors maintained continuity and helped me get started on the right foot during the summer. We worked hard to re-engage our supporters and re-launch AFF’s core programs while also building on the success of AFF’s regional chapters.
Highlights of the year included AFF’s 15th anniversary gala, a return of the monthly roundtable discussions in Washington, D.C., a leadership dinner with Senator Rand Paul, and numerous happy hours, and co-sponsored programs. A new group of talented staff joined us in the fall and improved programs and communications for members and attendees. Doublethink magazine was re-launched with editor Noelle Daly and has already published 15 feature pieces covering issues from marriage to tax policy, and more. In addition, the “Conventional Folly” blog included colorful commentary from AFF members and friends.
AFF’s mission does not stop at the beltway. Richard Lorenc was hired this year as National Chapter Coordinator to replicate his success as the Chicago chapter leader over the past three years. In addition to leading 17 events in Chicago last year, he mentored the Pittsburgh chapter which had three events, and helped launch the New York City chapter. Highlights included visits by Governor Gary Johnson, author Richard Miniter, and Cato Institute scholar Mike Tanner along with events about religion and liberty, free markets, entitlements, and a film screening.
In 2012, America’s Future Foundation is positioned for growth to further our mission of identifying and developing young professional leaders for liberty. In addition to strengthening AFF’s core programs, we will try new programs and build on partnerships with other groups advancing liberty. Details will be announced soon, but we are also open to your ideas and feedback. What do you want AFF to become and how do you see yourself participating in that vision? Please let us know.
Roundtables in Washington, D.C. are scheduled for each third Thursday and happy hours are scheduled for each fourth Thursday. We hope you can join us for these and other AFF programs. The annual AFF Gala will be held in May and a Leadership Dinner will be held March. Details and invitations will follow.
Regional chapters are growing and AFF is working to expand them even further. In 2012, we will strengthen existing chapters in Chicago, New York, and Pittsburgh, while also starting new chapters in Raleigh and several other cities. If you are interested in AFF coming to your city, please contact Richard Lorenc at Richard@americasfuture.org.
Membership will be a key component of America’s Future Foundation in 2012. We will strengthen our offerings for members, increase personal follow-up, and further solidify the connections needed to advance liberty in Washington and around the country. In addition, AFF’s Crabfest will return in the fall as a much-anticipated social event in the DC area!
A reflection on the American
‘s for Prosperity Defending the Dream Summit
by Jacqueline Otto
This past weekend, a few thousand conservatives inside the Washington Convention Center were enjoying dinner and patriotic music. A few hundred protesters with Occupy DC sat outside the same building in the November cold. Those inside chorused the National Anthem and saluted the American Flag. Those outside yelled at and heckled police officers and denounce the American Dream. Those inside memorialized a great American, and brought their children to learn about freedom. Those outside vandalized private property and brought their children to learn about civil disobedience. The difference is stark and stunning. The significance is unmistakable.
The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) hosted the Defending the Dream Summit primarily to educate. The Summit offered breakout sessions on issues ranging from state spending to how to produce effective YouTube videos. The event featured authoritative scholars, journalists, and current and former Presidential candidates.
A couple of friends from Florida who own a small technology company came to learn how to use their skills in helping local campaigns. A family came from Arkansas to teach their children about current legislative issues and the importance of limited government. Many people came seeking to find organizations to which they can donate their time and money, a sign of robust civic association.
Not so with the Occupy DC protesters outside. They came not to respectfully learn, but to violently dispute. They came not to donate time and money, but to demand more benefits and money from the government.
As they attempted to shut down Massachusetts Avenue, I witnessed a protester in a wheelchair roll herself in front of a moving car. Other protesters who were blocking streets ended up hospitalized. Some protesters brought their toddlers, who were caught up in the mob that rushed the convention center. While some were trying to break down the front door, others yelled “We are not violent!” When we were finally able to leave, security guards funneled us through a back door.
Before these events, AFP Summit attendees had mostly afforded the Occupy protesters the benefit of the doubt. Surely they were sincere, just a little (or very much) misguided. Surely their moral indignation was rooted in an admirable ideal, but their lack of leadership is what has lead them to chaos. Most people believed that the Occupy Wall Street protests had many themes in common with the Tea Party aura of the AFP Summit.
But as National Review’s Jonah Goldberg said at the event, “any similarity between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party misses the fundamental differences.” Namely, while both were against bailouts, the Tea Party opposes them in principle, and because they were footing the bill. Occupy Wall Street opposes them because they didn’t get a bailout for personal debts.
In 2008 Goldberg prophetically described the Occupy Wall Street protesters as “The Spoiled Children of Capitalism”:
It’s an old story. Loving parents provide a generous environment for their offspring. Kids are given not only ample food, clothing and shelter, but the emotional necessities as well: encouragement, discipline, self-reliance, the ability to work with others and on their own. And yet, in due course, the kids rebel. Some even say their parents never loved them, that they were unfair, indifferent, cruel. Often, such protests are sparked by parents’ refusal to be even more generous. I want a car, demands the child. Work for it, insist the parents. Why do you hate me? asks the ingrate. . . .
We’ve all witnessed the tendency to take a boon for granted. Being accustomed to a provision naturally leads the human heart to consider that provision an entitlement… And so it goes, I think, with capitalism generally.
Capitalism is the greatest system ever created for alleviating general human misery, and yet it breeds ingratitude.
While these protesters raged against capitalism, and specifically David and Charles Koch, who have been both beneficiaries and benefactors of capitalism, the AFP Summit attendees celebrated the ability of capitalism to reduce poverty and alleviate suffering. Recall that the name of the gathering was the “Defending the Dream Summit.” The dream of the attendees is that of free markets, limited government, and freedom for humanity. It is a belief in the dignity of liberty.
Not surprisingly, Ronald Reagan was often cited through the event. And it is Ronald Reagan that most aptly described the juxtaposition of these two social forces.
You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to a man’s age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order. Or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.
Commentators like to describe political thought as a kind of spectrum, where every distinct position could be plotted. We have all seen the charts and the Cartesian planes and have taken the quizzes and discussed our results. But the real lesson of this event is that we must set these distinctions aside. It is up and down that is important.
Freedom lifts up. Violence drags down. That is the distinction that matters most.
Jacqueline Otto blogs at www.ValuesAndCapitalism.com, a project of the American Enterprise Institute.
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