Thanks, Ben. I'll be taking your suggestions on board! A small note:
It might only be a small negative update about your long-term chances.
I think this is highly likely. Several Cabinet Ministers and Shadow Cabinet Ministers were told at a young age that they were either not a good fit for their party or would never achieve ministerial office, or struggled to get their foot in the door.
Despite this, they persisted, and I would love EAs to embrace this attitude more. Currently it seems that people are shutting themselves off from long-term paths too early because they're not seeing near-term success or think they won't be among the best of the best at something they really care about.
Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Michelle! I find your framing of the process of applying taking its toll on me particularly useful.
You haven’t said anything about other options you’re considering. I wonder if there are other career paths that actually might be pretty appealing to you? For example if you were working in the civil service you'd still be an important part of the political process.
Thank you for the suggestion. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm well-suited to the hierarchical, rigid culture of government. My parents and several of my close friends agree, and I was a bit underwhelmed when I spent a day shadowing a civil servant working in policy. Government is obviously a huge organisation, though. So I'm careful not to tar all policy roles in the civil service with the same brush.
Ultimately I care about working through political barriers to achieve policy change. MPs believe that they are not constrained by quality evidence in support of or in opposition to a policy. Rather, the bottlenecks (p.11) are that they lack the time to sift through the evidence, or the evidence contradicts the party line or their own ideology. Dislodging these bottlenecks could unlock so much value, and this problem seems to be a good fit for my strengths, if not my temperament.
Until now, I've been excelling in a marketing role in the private sector. So I need to consider whether I should push again on the civil service, or more unconventional roles that a) could make progress on the above or other means of improving government, b) make use of my professional experience, and c) are more suited to me ('do-er' personality, strong communication skills, do well in flat hierarchies and with uncertain projects). For several years now, I've also had a strong interest in starting a business, but (to me at least) this seems small fry compared to achieving policy change, improving how policy is made, or improving how government budgets are spent, as 80k has previously argued.
...it would be really useful for you to know if you should actually take the lack of offers as evidence that it isn’t as good a match for your skills as you thought, or if there’s simply one particular area you need to work on, or just that you were unlucky.
Thank you for the suggestion - I will definitely push for this more.
Thank you for your kind words, and taking the time to give your thoughts.
Admittedly, I could be doing more networking. I made a few attempts to parlay a campaigning role for several candidates into parliamentary jobs for those candidates (they lost or directed me to official channels), met with former special advisers, current parliamentary staff through my own network as well as through cold emails and events, and cold-emailed MPs.
But I have done so in short bursts, and could do better in being more consistent over a sustained period. Hopefully this will be easier post-COVID.
What's a good rule of thumb for letting go of your Plan A?
Over the past three years, I have submitted 60 applications and 200+ requests for volunteering to get a job working for an MP. I was convinced that British politics was a strong option for me: I was extremely intrinsically motivated, and it remains a strong match for my skills.
Even the additional paid experience I eventually got in 2018 for a few months has had no impact on my ability to get an interview; of the job applications, I received just one interview, which I failed. Of the requests for volunteering, I got two offers of a work experience placement and managed to do one of them.
I have conflicting feelings about this lack of success. During this time, I have had phases of doubting my personal fit (modest background, few political contacts), convincing myself it's a bad option, and wanting to give up. But I then get a sudden surge of optimism: to try again, submit another application, pad my CV, until rejection slaps me back down. I feel it is too important to give up on, it's a strong match for my skills, and it seems strong for information value and career capital.
Thoughts welcome! Thank you.