I have a confession to make: I was one of those annoying overachievers in high school.
Always on the honor roll. In the Honor Society. President of this and that. Captain of this and that. And, of course, I had a 4.0.
Why? Hint: it wasn’t because I wanted to spend my Friday nights studying. I did so because that’s what I was told I should do in order to get into a good college. Universities like to see strong grades and test scores, as well as participation in extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, etc.).
But then I got to college and realized there was no longer a road map for what’s next. Was I still supposed to join a dozen clubs and run for student government? What about the grades? In short: what was I supposed to do in college to make me attractive to employers after graduation?
The answer to that question depends on what you want to do after college. Future engineers need to do something completely different than those going into a career in the arts and humanities. Aspiring doctors and lawyers need to focus on test scores and GPA while business majors should focus on internships with relevant companies.
So, what about a road map for a career in the free-market nonprofit sector? I’m glad you asked! As the executive director of Talent Market, a non-profit pro-liberty talent recruiting firm, I have worked with more than 100 free-market nonprofits and have a good sense for what they are looking for when it comes to talent.
Here are five things to do if you are interested in a career advancing liberty:
1. Join Like-Minded Student Groups
Future employers love to see a demonstrated interest in free-market ideas. Whether you join a like-minded organization, get politically involved, or write for the alternative newspaper, you are showing how important advancing liberty is to you.
2. Participate in Free-Market Seminars, Conferences, and Events
If you look hard enough, you will find a plethora of liberty-oriented seminars, conferences, and events designed for students like you. Institute for Humane Studies, Foundation for Economic Education, Young Americans for Liberty, Students for Liberty, FIRE, and many other organizations offer opportunities for budding free-marketeers to learn about the ideas of liberty and start developing a like-minded network.
3. Get Internships with Liberty-Oriented Organizations
Most liberty-oriented nonprofits sponsor an internship of sorts, and that’s a far better way to spend your summer than bussing tables at Applebee’s. Not only will you gain valuable exposure to the inner-workings of a nonprofit, but you’ll also learn more about what types of nonprofit jobs are appealing to you. And, of course, you’ll continue to expand your free-market network.
Learn More: Learn Liberty Opportunities Hub
4. Don’t Worry About the 4.0
…It might be important for future docs and legal eagles to maintain a near-perfect GPA, but that’s not necessarily the case for those of us who want to advance liberty. I’ve worked on hundreds of searches for free-market nonprofits, and the only time clients place importance on GPA is for attorney openings, and even then, they are only interested in law school GPA. The opportunity cost of getting a 4.0 in undergrad is high; the extra time you’ll spend in the library is time you won’t be honing your leadership skills as a campus activist or expanding your liberty network at a weekend seminar.
Now, if you plan to become a professor or lawyer for liberty, grades will matter a lot more. A good undergraduate GPA can have a huge impact on your admission to a good PhD or law program.
5. Figure Out Where You Belong
So, you’ve decided you belong in the liberty movement — great! But what exactly are you going do to when you get there? Become a policy analyst? Development officer? Communications specialist? Outreach coordinator? Operations guru? Project manager?
Internships and networking will go a long way in helping you decide which type of role makes sense, as will perusing job boards and becoming familiar with the opportunities available. And don’t forget to talk to your internship coordinators and get their perspectives on where your strengths lie.
After you’ve done all of these things, make sure to stop for a moment and congratulate yourself. Why? Because you’ve selected a career path that will bring you a lifetime of fulfillment and make the world a freer place. Well done!