5 Key Takeaways From the Political Science Career Panel

25 January 2023

By Stella Min

The ADSA's Career Development Network recently facilitated a discussion with three data scientists with training in political science: Dr. Emily Gade - Assistant Professor of Political Science at Emory University, Dr. Andrea Jones-Rooy - Director of Undergraduate Studies and a Visiting Associate Professor at the NYU Center for Data Science, and Dr. Gonzalo Rivero -the Associate Director of Data Labs at Pew Research Center. Each panelist shared helpful tips for applying and interviewing for jobs, along with advice on how to think about and pursue meaningful careers.Below are 5 takeaways from the conversation.

PoliSci career panel series

1. There Are Multiple Ways to Pursue A Career

There are no “correct” and “incorrect” ways to find and land a dream job. Each person's skillsets will uniquely position them for particular roles and the way to find that role will be somewhat determined by their circumstances.

The panelists themselves embodied this message. All three love their jobs and got there through different means. Emily followed a more traditional path into academia, specializing in political science while integrating data science techniques into her research. Hoping to land a job in academia, Gonzalo took a similar approach as Emily but wound up at a research think tank (thanks in part to the Great Recession) which eventually led him to the directorship position that he holds now. Andrea, on the other hand, was drawn to many different topics in school (they were a triple major) and ultimately pursued work in both academia and industry.

The panelists’ experiences show that the path to a meaningful career isn’t always planned. It also may not be linear. Given that, the panelists recommended preparing for the job market by speaking with folks in roles you’re interested in and reading career advice for particular industries and positions you would like to pursue. For those seeking faculty positions, Emily recommended reading advice on the website The Professor is In. While conducting research, keep in mind that there aren’t any tried and true methods for landing a job. You’ll have to use your best judgment about what works for you.

2. Stay True to Your Interests

While job hunting, people often feel pressure to present a very different image of themselves just for the sake of getting a job. The panelists emphasized that this is a mistake. Whether it’s exaggerating certain technical skills or hiding/downplaying certain hobbies and passions, little deceptions like these can result in a bad fit with the organization and role. Both you and the employer will be unhappy in the end and the job you worked so hard to get may be short-lived.

Instead, embrace your background and training. Look for positions within organizations that truly fit your interests and skill set. This will set you on a sustainable career trajectory. One where you do not feel the need to hide aspects of yourself in order to do the job.

3. Get Comfortable with Rejection

Rejection is a common experience when applying for jobs. There are a limited number of positions and several highly qualified candidates. Try not to take it personally if you’re one of the highly qualified candidates that are rejected. As a hiring manager who has hired people for several technical roles, Gonzalo emphasized that the rejection isn’t necessarily about you. Sometimes it just takes time to find a role and organization that best fits your skills and career aspirations. Market conditions can prolong the amount of time it takes to find a good match.

4. Prepare to Impress Interviewers

The panelists pointed out two important things that every candidate should do once they reach the interview stage: 1) thoroughly research the role and organization and 2) practice your job talk - a lot.

As a hiring manager, Gonzalo said it’s obvious when a job candidate hasn’t researched the organization. Don’t waste your time or the hiring committees. Before every interview, go to the organization’s website and read about the work that they do. Identify the organization’s mission and be prepared to explain why you want to contribute to it. Highlight how your skills and background are a great fit for the role and the culture of the organization.

If you’re applying for a research or faculty position, rehearse your job talk and practice answering questions about your research. Emily mentioned that she recorded her job talk and listened to it over and over again before her interviews. When it comes to questions about your research, she said to try not to be defensive. Understand the limitations and be prepared to talk about them and ask for feedback. This will signal that you’re a good colleague who is capable of engaging in critical and productive discussions.

5. Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture

The panelists pointed out that a common career mistake is pursuing short-term goals at the cost of what you may want in the long term. This can look like specializing in a particular method that you’re not really interested in or delaying something important to you until you’ve reached a certain milestone. This list of professional pursuits is endless and can take you down a path that is further and further away from the life that you have envisioned for yourself.

At any career stage, it’s easy to get caught up in doing all the things people say you “should” do. Be open to advice, but also keep the big picture in mind when pursuing certain career decisions. Also, step back and reflect on decisions that you’ve made in the past. Ask yourself what were the consequences of those short-term investments or sacrifices in relation to what you really want to accomplish.

Summary

The Political Science Career Panel was chock-full of helpful advice for anyone who is in the process of looking for and interviewing for jobs. The panelists offered practical tips for preparing for interviews such as carefully studying the organization and rehearsing your job talk. The panelists also shared personal experiences that nearly anyone who has ever applied for a job can relate to. Acknowledging the frustrations of the job market, they also addressed the pros and cons of giving into certain temptations like overselling technical skills and repeatedly making sacrifices for short-term goals.

Dive into these tips and more by watching the recording of the Political Science Career Panel. Also check out the Sociology Career Panel, which offered targeted advice for people with training in social science and seeking jobs in academia, government, and private industry.

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