Three Ways to Kick-Start a Career in Policy & Advocacy

In a recent panel, we heard from three PhDs who work in the field of policy and advocacy. Below are three of the strategies they used in their transition from academia to the nonprofit world.


The panelists volunteered at nonprofit or government organizations to gain some expertise in the field of policy with a focus that interested them. While policy positions are usually filled by people with policy-making experience and advocacy positions by people with organizing and political experience, there’s no limit to how you obtain this experience. Volunteering can help you acquire necessary skills to advance your job search. Check local listings for volunteer positions in the policy area you’d like to work in. It’s worth it! Browse Charity Village (Canada) and Volunteer Match (US) to see where volunteers are needed. 

Letting your expertise take the back seat.

If you follow our blog, this one shouldn’t come as a surprise. While one of our panelists had some overlapping expertise that matched the nonprofit agency where he works, the other two emphasized that you need to check your specialized knowledge at the front door. We leave grad school with a bag of expertise that can turn into actual baggage when applying for policy positions. Focus on what you can do rather than what you know! Employers are interested in your practical skills rather than your specific (and often niche) knowledge. Rent our webinar on how to pitch yourself to employers here.

Moving to where you want to be.

One of our panelists describes how he relocated to the geographic area where he wanted to work. While this was mandated by his spouse’s work, it may be a strategy that you can use if you’re mobile and not tied to your location. Want to work in government? Why not move closer to the state or provincial capital where the magic happens? Our panelist describes how moving facilitated the networking that ultimately led to his next career.

Rent and watch the full panel to discover diverse strategies that will help you move into policy and advocacy work. Learn how to market the skills you already have, and recognize and supplement the ones you are missing to work in the nonprofit sector.

Beyond the Professoriate Community Members attend events like this for free each month and access replays free for two weeks. Ready to launch your next great career? Join the Online Career Hub for PhDs.

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