Do you care about liberty? Do you want to turn that passion into a lifetime career? You may be surprised that, whatever your skills, there is a place for you in the liberty movement. Some roles might include, but are definitely not limited to: policy analyst, advocacy organizer, communications, journalism, new media, fundraising, nonprofit management, and academia. Below you will find a few words about each of these possibilities.
The main focus for a policy analyst is crafting policy papers that critique current policy and propose alternatives. Policy analysts usually work for think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, Tax Foundation or one of the many state-based think tanks, like the Mackinac Center in Michigan or the Buckeye Institute in Ohio. In addition to writing detailed reports for policy experts, the policy analyst is also expected to distill complex topics into easy-to-understand language in order to reach a wider audience.
This may entail being interviewed for TV and radio, writing for newspapers, and testifying before elected bodies. The skills required of a policy analyst include critical thinking skills, writing for both specialists and wider audiences, and public speaking. To develop these skills and advance in your career might require you to pursue an advanced degree.
Instead of developing public policy as a policy analyst, policy advocates focus on getting the message across. Their role is to articulate and debate policy that delivers the message to an attentive but not specialized audience. Their focus is on delivering a strong, persuasive message aimed at changing public opinion.
You will need the ability to understand research dealing with complex issues and turn that knowledge into digestible facts and arguments. Here, the goal is persuasion, rather than original research. This is suitable for people with strong interpersonal skills who prefer interacting with people to reading and writing reports. Groups that focus on advocacy include Americans for Tax Reform, Drug Policy Alliance, or the National Rifle Association.
If you have the ability to explain complex ideas in a way that people can understand, a career in communications might be perfect for you. As a communications associate you will need to build relationships with journalists, reporters, bloggers, and producers. Your job is not only to convey the message, but to train future advocates for liberty on the best ways to convey the principles of liberty.
Most people are initially uncomfortable working with the press. However, dealing with media personnel is a skill that can be learned if one has a knack for public relations. You can help activists all across the country express their ideas to a wider audience.
The qualities of an effective communicator include accuracy, timeliness, a positive attitude, thoroughness, and honesty.
Journalism includes careers in newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. While it definitely can’t hurt, you do not need a degree in journalism to pursue this career. Journalism is something you learn on the job by writing. Many young people want to be “paid to give their opinion,” but a good journalist starts by reporting. Look for an opportunity to write for your college newspaper, your alternative college paper, or a local newspaper.
There may be opportunities with the university or local television and radio stations. Search for internships and jobs at the local level, as the national media is very competitive. Collegiate Network, Leadership Institute, and the National Journalism Center have programs for young journalists. Young Voices is an outlet for young, liberty-minded journalists.
New media covers a range of online networks, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Increasingly, this is how people, especially young people, have grown to engage in politics. You can develop your own online presence, with a focus on your brand, your expertise, and your connections. By demonstrating your skills online, you will then be attractive for full-time position in a liberty organization. Many liberty organizations are still trying to work out how to be effective on social media.
How can you attract an audience to your products in the world overwhelmed with information and entertainment? Methods might include a regular newsletter, blogging, Facebook, producing videos, and using Twitter. Take a look at your favorite organizations, and evaluate how successful their online presence is. Think you could do a better job? If so, then you might be a perfect candidate for a job at a burgeoning marketing department in the liberty movement.
Every liberty organization needs funds to carry out their activities. There are probably more job vacancies in Development (the nonprofit world’s fancy word for Fundraising) than in any other career track in the liberty movement. There is now a very sophisticated understanding of how successful fundraising works. The most central element is building relationships with potential donors.
Successful fundraisers are passionate about their institution, and have the ability to convey to donors how their organization is planning to bring about a free society.
Top candidates for a career in Development include those with personal skills who can interact directly with donors, those with writing skills that connect with their readers, and those focused on data. Fundraising is an essential element in building the liberty movement.
Every liberty-advancing organization, from Students For Liberty to the Charles Koch Institute, organizes a ton of conferences, seminars, dinners, lectures and more. This involves invitations, hotel reservations, audio-visual needs, meal planning, travel logistics, recruiting of speakers, etc..
The key skills necessary to excel in this career are attention to detail, the ability to remain calm under stress, an ability to meet deadlines, and a logistical mind capable of coordinating dozens of moving parts to successfully host an event. Beyond the liberty movement, those with these skills and experience have many opportunities in the corporate world.
Professors are an important entry point for students to discover the ideas of liberty. Most students discover the ideas of liberty through a liberty-friendly professor. Research, teaching, and mentoring are some ways of promoting these ideas. Academics can also reach a wider audience through think tanks and writing for a more popular audience. However, an academic career requires a long term commitment of at least 5 years to complete a PhD, and the goal must be to contribute to knowledge, and not be an ideologue. IHS has plenty of support and career advice for those interested in academia.
So there you have it. While this list is by no means comprehensive, this should still give you a good idea of the types of career opportunities available in the professional libertarian movement. Whether you’re trying to continue your education after undergrad in the hopes of becoming an academic, or heading straight to the Capital Beltway to work as a policy analyst for a think tank, there are always opportunities for those of you that are so enamored of the philosophy of liberty that you want to make it your career.