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How To Get a Think Tank Job
In a previous article, we discussed what a career in a ‘think tank” might look like and what type of jobs exist in think tanks. Now we will look at how to get a job in this field and what it takes to do so in Calgary. Getting a career started in think tanks is not an easy thing to do. You must have outstanding credentials, show the propensity for outside the box thinking, and be an expert in the subject matter the think tank is involved with.
Experience in politics, legislation, lobbying and certain industries are all also entrées into the think tank world. If however you possess none of that experience what do you need to do?
Required for Think Tank Jobs
- Must have a BS or a BA in a field that is relevant to the area that the think tank is specialized in. For instance, if you want to enter a scientific think tank you need an undergraduate degree in the field of science that think tank is engaged in,
- Often a master’s degree in the relevant field is required and some think tanks might even require a doctoral degree.
- Types of degrees normally accepted include: political sciences, social sciences, communications, international business and international relations.
- Skills required include excellent interpersonal communication skills both oral and written, demonstrated ability to engage in research and data collection, and the demonstrated ability to analyze the results of research and apply it to the real world.
- Experience relevant to the think tank additionally including intern or paid experience in public policy, legislative processes and social actions of those in the relevant field.
Going After the Job
Entry level with an undergraduate degree think tank opportunities are not readily available, advertised or easy to get.
- An introduction from a college professor with a relationship to the think tank.
- Show a demonstrable interest in the work and policy orientation of the think tank(s) you are interested in working for. Write articles or participate in social activities supporting the positions of the think tank.
- Volunteer to work at local elections or get involved with politics.
- Demonstrate a passion for research.
- Use LinkedIn for anyone who can give you an introduction to the think tank.
Applying for a Think Tank Job
- Look for openings or the kind of think tank you are interested in from relevant organizations and websites.
- Follow the application procedure to the letter. Do not deviate from it. Each think tank will have its own process. You will, of course, need a resume geared to that particular subject matter and stressing any experience in the field.
- A list of references will be required to be included with any application not sent afterwards.
- Make sure your resume and/or cover letter highlights all the policy, legislative and social, not for profit and non-governmental sector experience that you have.
If you want to work at a think tank but don’t have the needed education or experience you could apply for an unpaid internship of 6 or 12 months. This will get you in the door and if you do a great job could get you a full time permanent position. Of course not everyone is in a position to work unpaid for a year, but if you can it is more than worth it.
Interns normally do a lot of research and/or marketing. Either way you get very valuable experience. You might even take a part time job as a research assistant before applying for an internship just to show that you do have that passion for research.