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As a student of Politics, I want to pursue a career in helping others. How do I go about getting into the industry?

I'm a student studying Politics and I want to pursue a career where I can help others. Ideally, I would like a role where I research and use the information to influence policy. The only problem is I have no real-world experience. Are there any good ways to get experience? I am looking at volunteering opportunities currently. #politics #research # #volunteer #policy #government

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Megha’s Answer

Hi Rob! Great to hear that you are interested in policy and want to pursue a career where you can make a positive impact. If you want to start getting some more policy experience, I would start of by making a list of organizations that interest you such as nonprofits, think tanks, and grassroots organizations. Many of these organizations work in different fields such as the environment, education, human rights, and more. Search up these organizations online and find the contact information and then send them an email about your interests and why you would like to work with that organization. While not all of them will respond and some may not have openings, it will help you build your network and connections which is really important in this field.

If you want to get some more exposure in politics, follow your local government elections and try to volunteer for election campaigns of candidates in your community. This will give you great exposure and again, help you build your network. Good luck with everything!
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Krista’s Answer

Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience. Join a campaign or a nonprofit organization and volunteer to research a particular topic. Become a public policy expert and focus on a specific area of interest such as technology, health care or public utilities. Carve out your niche as the go-to person to answer any and all questions on the subject matter. Good luck!
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Vanessa’s Answer

Hi Rob, great question! What better way to start to influence and make change, than to do it at the grass-roots level through a volunteer organisation.

Without knowing more about the specific areas of public policy you are passionate about (i.e. environment, health), my suggestion is that you look for opportunities that provide you with a grounding in generalist skills, that are transferable across to industry-specific public policy areas.

Can you join a local branch of a political party? Local branches are usually lively areas of debate (probably moved online now with covid) where members talk, present their point of view on a range of policy matters that are relevant to the local and broader area. Political parties usually have specific policy committees which seek submissions from members on policy matters to be influenced. You could try your hand there to see if a volunteer opportunity is available. If anything, the network you start to build, could potentially lead to other opportunities. And at the very least, you could hone your craft by participating in the debates, discussions, and learning about how policy is shaped from the political side.

Could you contact a local Member or Councillor's office seeking a volunteer opportunity? Or do this through your local Party? Often there are opportunities to respond to correspondence, write briefings ahead of meetings, organise some meetings. It may not be the in-depth research opportunity that you are seeking, but being around the conversations in the office, listening at constituent meetings, seeing how the decision makers respond, will give you a really good insight into how you need to structure your arguments as a policy influencer.

Have you considered volunteering with not-for-profit organisations, that have a current policy or emerging policy issue in the local media? You could use the issue as a basis for your pitch to volunteer to work with them on a campaign or undertaking research to support their cause.

I know here in Australia, organisations that support people with a disability, environmental groups, and the RSPCA, are often looking (via Seek.com or other) for volunteer support to write and advocate to decision makers on policy issues.

I've made 3 further suggestions below. I hope this is helpful, please feel free to get back in touch if you have any further questions. And good luck! There are many rewarding career opportunities to be had making a change. Well done on your decision.

Vanessa recommends the following next steps:

Can you contact your student employment office or student council for any support?
Do you have anyone in your network that you can go to, to ask if they can help you through their networks with an opportunity? Have a pitch ready, and be clear about your ask.
Have you set up a profile on LinkedIn to looking at volunteer opportunities or internships with organisations?
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