What (for him) to do?
December 24, 2008 5:51 PM   Subscribe

ForA(Best)FriendFilter: What can a smart, idealistic kid do out of college in the DC area which relates to law & the study of the constitution?

One of my very good friends is graduating college this year (as am I) and has lots of interests (law, rights, environmental), but can't find any actual work which will let him let loose with his intellectual power. Is there anything like this (especially in DC?) deets inside.

So, one of his big things is the Constitution: he isn't conservative as far as holding it as biblical truth; rather he's very interested in it becoming better understood and more commonly used in law - to this end, he started a student group at his school (Pomona College) for reading the constitution, one bit at a time. It's been quite popular.

Next up is essentially rights-type-stuff: Gay rights, especially. Then comes environmental policy, urban planning (public transportation, etc.) Working on improving the political process, like MoveOn or Real Clear Politics...

He's a Philosophy/Politics/Economics major, and a very hard worker when he's passionate about what he's doing.
posted by tmcw to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
He should write to the Alliance Defense Fund and to the Federalist Society, they both have paid internship programs.
posted by parmanparman at 6:22 PM on December 24, 2008

Law school? Does he want to be a lawyer?
posted by k8t at 6:46 PM on December 24, 2008

Pomona students often/occasionally come over to Cambridge in the UK for a semester or two. Maybe he's be interested in that, and it would be great on his CV whatever.
posted by djgh at 6:59 PM on December 24, 2008

He should certainly be looking at law school eventually. In the meantime, I'm going to be Grinchy (and at Christmas!) and say it will be difficult for him to find an intellectually challenging job right out of undergrad. He should expect to start out as an admin assistant type and work his way up. This is true everywhere, but especially DC. However, there are a million and two orgs dedicated to his intersts in DC so he is in luck there. He should check out idealist.org and contact orgs he's interested in, even if they don't have openings - he can always do informational interviews.

Another option is working for someone on the Hill who is good on his issues. He would probably start out as a staff assisstant.

He should know that it can be hard for recent grads to find a job in DC, especially if they are "picky" in terms of type of job or issue area. I'm not saying this to discourage your friend, but he should be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into networking and applying. If he doesn't have a job by the time he graduates, he may want to consider an internship to get his feet wet, get some DC experience and make connections. This is what a LOT of recent grads do, and many find jobs that way.

Good luck to your friend!
posted by lunasol at 7:07 PM on December 24, 2008

Get a job/internship with the American Civil Liberties Union - or another NGO - but that one covers a lot of the things he cares about. You don't need to be a lawyer, they mostly work in communications and research.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:57 PM on December 24, 2008

Check your MeFi mail.
posted by sinfony at 10:16 PM on December 24, 2008

Well.. it sounds like your friend has a lot of interests and talents which is fantastic, DC is a place that definitely has a lot of opportunities, but I concur that it may be.. overly high expectations that he'll be able to leap right in to a job here that.. meets these expectations. You kind of have to be willing to do the crap work for a while, if you're entry-level. Keep in mind that this is an area with a very high number of people who have advanced degrees in the fields he cares about, though - he'd need a law degree if he wants to do work related to constitutional law. Did he think about becoming a teacher at some level and bringing this inspiration to his students?

There are a lot of nonprofits here though.. Human Rights Campaign for gay rights issues.. Center for American Progress would be the progressive think tank and a good place to look for opportunities.. I don't have a lot of time to write now but I'll hit you up with a message if I think of more (I'm sure I will).

Also, not trying to rain on your parade here, just trying to give a dose of realism: from employers/colleagues' point of view, don't forget that a job is not an opportunity for him to let loose his intellectual abilities - that doesn't really matter to them - it's an opportunity for him to work for the organization. I guess it wasn't all that long ago that I graduated with my liberal arts degree and was super keen on finding a gig here in DC that was good enough for my intellectual abilities.. I was looking at it all backwards. Eventually after a number of years and some decent and some terrible jobs, I landed at a DC nonprofit that does afford the opportunity to do something meaningful, is progressive, has a great work environment, etc. Am I engaged in the fields of interest I had as an undergrad? Not so much. Things are better this way though.. :)
posted by citron at 10:17 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

DC is full of smart, idealistic, hardworking recent grads, so I second everyone above who said that he'll probably have to start at the bottom with the rest of them, doing work that isn't intellectually thrilling, but at least a) it can be for a good organization whose work he believes in and b) he can gain experience and connections. If he can afford to intern, that might be a good way to get his foot in the door somewhere.

I'm in a somewhat similar situation at the moment. I've been at the bottom of the totem pole both on a political campaign and in a Congressional office (is he interested in either of these options, by the way?), but I'm looking to move to the nonprofit world, and I'm not having any luck so far. As someone who loves the things your friend loves and also craves a more intellectually stimulating job, I really am sympathetic to him, but I think it's a tough time to be job-hunting in any field and there's a lot of very qualified people competing with us.

Some resources I've been using, albeit to no success yet:
idealist.org (I assume he knows about this one, but just in case...)
Democratic GAIN (campaign-heavy but other things too)
EMILY's List job bank (also campaign-heavy)
Foreign Policy Association job board
Jobs That Are LEFT (join the GoogleGroup, and also the Tom Manatos group linked to on this page is worthwhile)

Good luck!
posted by naoko at 3:37 PM on December 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oops, I screwed up one of those links:

Democratic GAIN. Unfortunately, your friend *just* missed their career fair.
posted by naoko at 10:48 PM on December 26, 2008

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