Transitioning to a career in policy - wise or foolish?
October 19, 2015 4:02 AM   Subscribe

I've been given the opportunity to transition into international policy at my current organisation, something I have been doing for next to my more development-focused job for the past few years. Would it be wise or foolish to put this front and centre?

I've been working for an international NGO for the past 7 years. I transitioned into this organisation from my original profession, which this organisation represents and have been developing and managing capacity building programmes for several years. It is interesting and I could see myself doing development work elsewhere, except such roles are poorly paid and programme managers are a dime a dozen. I am not so interested in running a NGO, but I could do it and have run comms and membership departments, for instance. I am also interested in policy, and have been taking on increasing responsibility for policy work in my current job - analysing, writing our submissions for consultations, preparing briefings for our leadership, taking meetings with Vice-Ministers etc.

My boss has asked me to think about putting policy more in the centre of my work and how I would build a team underneath me. And also to think about my long-term career direction and goals. My big concern is - if I now focus on policy in my current organisation, is it transferable elsewhere and from international to national level? Either to governments, think tanks, or other NGOs.

For those who work in policy, what kind of career path is possible, and in what sort of organisations? Is it possible to transition between policy areas (I currently dip into governance and IT areas)? From international to national (we mostly do UN related policy)? Is more education needed? Is this a realistic, viable path to pursue for the next decade or so, before making another transition (into senior/exec roles of some type)?

Background stuff - It's likely I will always live in a big or alpha world city, I live in London, so I need a career that can pay the bills, I'm married. I will probably move sometime in the next decade, either back to my home country or elsewhere. I have a BA in Political Science and two masters in information. More formal education is not something that I am realistically interested in in the short term, but ongoing education eg short courses, MOOCs, reading whatever is needed I can do. I have a good network with other organisations but would need to focus more on this. I'm not bothered about traveling or not - I have traveled extensively in my current role.
posted by wingless_angel to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I work for a government agency with international responsibilities and, in my world at least, such a move would definitely give you transferable skillsi in policy development. Building a team under you also sounds like management and organizational development,
both of which can be useful.
posted by rpfields at 8:10 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

If it were just policy, I would say to be careful, because I've observed that people who get too far into a policy niche can have trouble moving up (their expertise means they are more valuable as an individual contributor than a manager/leader, but their pay doesn't always reflect that). But if it looks like you'll be building a team then that seems like less of a worry. (this is coming from a US advocacy NGO perspective, YMMV based on country and field)
posted by lunasol at 9:37 AM on October 19, 2015

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