Last night was a must-see event for those currently majoring in political science or wishing to take part in politics based opportunities. The political science career panel, part of the 2015 “CLAS Career Series” met at the political science department in Oak Hall to discuss key concepts such as professionalism, networking and job skills with relation to the major. Furthermore, each one of the UConn alumni panelists voiced their career experiences after their initials aspirations to pursue a position in the government or academic political sectors.
The panelists included Aaron Carr ’12, John Dearborn ’13, Caitlin Donohue ’08, Gregory Hall ’13 and Melissa King ’04, all of whom are currently working or have previously worked in a political science orientated field and were very enthusiastic about their experiences.
Carr, who graduated with a degree in psychology, is currently Chief of Staff to an assembly member in New York. He discussed how his interest in the field, despite his initial lack of knowledge, motivated him to leave his position as a lab assistant at Harvard University and take a job on Elizabeth Warren’s senate campaign in Massachusetts. Furthermore, during President Obama’s reelection bid, he seized an opportunity with the ‘Work for Progress’ organization in Orlando, FL. Carr stresses that work ethic and life experience can be more vital then a high GPA in the job market. Though he achieved a high grade point average, he regrets spending endless hours in the library when there may have been more beneficial ways to ensure success after graduation.
Dearborn is currently a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Yale University and is deeply interested in the more theoretical and educational aspects of the subject. He mentioned a key point about grey areas in professional conduct. Principally there is a time and a place for certain types of behavior with coworkers and superiors. For instance, you may find yourself discussing approaches to new projects with your boss at a post-work bar night as opposed to during meeting.
Possessing a degree in journalism and history, Donohue highlighted the social aspects of the Washington D.C. political sphere and gave advice on job applications. Currently the Finance Director on the Jim Himes for Congress campaign, she discussed how GPA is no longer viewed as important after a graduate’s first few jobs. She instead highlighted the intense social culture and networking aspects of the job.
Cathleen Lisk, an eighth-semester political science major with aspirations to pursue the subject of civil liberties, stated with reference to Donohue’s emphasis of the social aspects of the sector states that “every internship I’ve had is through networking.”
Furthermore, 8th-semester student Drew Brathwaite who is majoring in political science and writes job market centered pieces for the website recruiter.com stressed the fact that “making yourself open is crucial” to finding a career.
Melissa King who majored in political science and currently works for Massachusetts as the State Aid Coordinator in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She realizes that there are many complex skills that employers value but also stresses the basics such as knowledge of computer applications, team building and professional writing; the minor aspects that can sometimes make or break a job application.
Finally, Gregory Hall, a former political science major and current student at UConn School of Law highlighted the importance of first impressions, networking and efficiency. He stressed Carr’s point that there are opportunities outside the library and that ambition and follow up in the initial contact stages are key in any job application process. Once in a position, Hall stated the importance of saving time through summarizing paperwork into a more concise form for busy superiors. He also reiterated that relationships with one’s peers outside the office are a major aspect of advancement in the sector.
Emmalee Stewart, a second-semester political science major, enjoyed the panelist’s employment stories and felt it was “nice to be informed about careers prospects” for those majoring in the subject in an increasingly turbulent job market.
At the end of the introductions students were given the opportunity to ask the alumni questions on their experiences. The discussion left the audience with a reinforced view on the importance of networking and professional etiquette in the political sector.