I recently spoke at the 6th Annual Turkish American Youth Leadership Conference, organized by the Turkish Coalition of America on career development and women’s leadership in traditionally male-dominates fields such as security and politics.
I had the opportunity to speak on a panel alongside our moderator, Ilayda Aydin, a political science student at George Mason University. Other panelists included Liz Clark, Manager of Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Daphne McCurdy, Syria Deputy Country Representative at USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives.
Some of my favorite takeaways from our panel included the following:
For anyone who is interesting in having a career in policymaking, having Capitol Hill experience is invaluable. Internships are a great way of getting diverse experiences and having different roles at think tanks, advocacy organizations, non-profits, as well as different branches of the government.
Having an open mind
The flexibility to adjust to the status of the job market and the willingness to take different roles in teamwork (even in cases where the task initially may not be the best fit for your qualifications) will give you the opportunity to step up when a better position opens up.
Maintaining active connections is as important as growing your network. Seeking guidance and feedback on your work, requesting informational interviews, updating your contacts with career updates are great ways to keep your connections informed and alive.
Knowing your audience
Tailoring your policy brief to the interests and priorities of your target audience is key in having effective communication. You may be a subject matter expert on an issue, and you may find yourself in a situation where you need to give a 1-minute high level overview and your top line recommendation to a decision maker. Perfecting your message, as well as your “elevator speech” about yourself, require practice.
Be at the table and speak up. Take initiative. Do not doubt your knowledge. It is also important to maintain the momentum that women have gained in politics and security field through several gender equality initiatives.
Nilsu Goren is the Program Manager for Nuclear Security at CRDF Global’s Nuclear Security Practice Area. She is also a Research Associate at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM).