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Thread: A career in security policy - advice needed

  1. #21
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    And on a lighter note, don't sell the US short when it comes to high school diplomas. That's one smart cat.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    And on a lighter note, don't sell the US short when it comes to high school diplomas. That's one smart cat.
    I'm thinking now maybe it was a cat who designed initial Phase IV operations in Iraq?
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  3. #23
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    Entirely plausible, though I doubt that cat was smart enough to have earned an online diploma.

  4. #24
    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Graduate credits for SWJ dialogue

    This dialogue has gone on so long today that this poor UK recently graduate can get 3 graduate semester hours credit for just eliciting and reading and replying to all of us!

  5. #25
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    Hahaha - can I have a certificate to prove that George? I'm wondering if I should start enrolling my pets in Ivy League undergrad degrees to boost my applications further!

    That's certainly a lot of advice to digest, and all of it is very much appreciated, as it has opened up a vast range of prospects. I now feel that if I don't get into any US programs this application cycle that I have other avenues to try in the UK.

    A beltway internship would be great if I could afford it, as it is I'm spread fairly thin post-undergrad. I've applied to the NATO internship scheme, which is obviously based in Brussels rather than DC, and I applied to that primarily as you get a bit of cash. If I was going to do another unpaid internship I'd probably need to try and save up some cash first. I'm planning on doing an Economics grad diploma from LSE through the University of London distance learning program over this coming academic year to pick up the micro/macro credits that US universities seem to require, and unfortunately it doesn't come cheap (but seems to be the cheapest option).

    I think at the minute, the best thing for me to do is apply to MA/PhD programs for next September. I'll go for MA programs that are policy orientated, and based near DC or NYC (for internship opportunities) and that have a chance of funding me. With the PhDs I'll go for IR/policy focused ones in the big schools and in/around the beltway. I don't really think I've done enough research or preparation to apply for any JD programs this year, and haven't even looked at the LSAT. At the minute my driving passion is to keep studying security issues, and I think if I threw myself into law I'd find the delay too frustrating having just finished a three year undergrad that didn't let me study the things I wanted to in as much depth as I wanted! I loved writing my dissertation (on COIN in Iraq and the interaction between tactical, operational and strategic planning) but I feel like I only got to scratch the surface – I’d like to have the time/space to try something a bit more full on.

    The main thing I need is to get into a program that'll offer me a full ride (scholarship plus stipend), be that MA or PhD. If I apply and don't get that, I can reassess and (hopefully) get a job in the meantime. If I got NATO and impressed them that might even open up a job opportunity (apparently they had 3000 apps this year though, so I'm not too optimistic!). It seems like a lot of the MA programs are cash cows, so a PhD is more likely to fund me. The only places I know that definitely offer a full ride for an MA are American and Princeton WWS. A PhD also gives me a long time in the USA to network and work with other practitioners. I know I’ll probably want to teach eventually, so a PhD won’t be a waste in terms of time, it’ll just mean a slightly longer wait before hitting the policy track.

    I’ve always been fairly good at networking (without sounding like some sort of glad-handing slimeball!) and I had good practice at uni as president of our departmental society and working in the Students’ Union. I’m on good terms with quite a few lecturers/professors from university who I feel are almost approaching the ‘colleague’ stage now I’ve graduated. I don’t know how much use those contacts will be for US applications, but hopefully it shows I’m not a social pariah or bookworm. I hope I’m pretty pragmatic, and I’m hoping I can learn what good policy consists of either in a postgrad course or learning from jobs/internships and practitioners I admire. I’m hoping that interning at the Carter Center for four months will bring me on a lot and give me good project management experience.

    It's good to hear I'm not too over the hill either - I felt a bit self-conscious seeing as all the other kids graduating with me were around 21! I guess it just feels a bit odd to have not yet had a proper ‘job’, just a string of internships and volunteer positions. I thought my life would be a mite more settled by this age. The best laid plans of mice and men I guess.

    I’m certain the USA is where I want to be for a lot of reasons. I focused my degree on US politics because it’s what I’m most interested in and I know that’s where I want to live and work. I have a huge amount of respect for DFID, the British military and the FCO, I just don’t have a lot of faith in the British party political system a lot of the time. I also think the think-tank/government relationship is a bit more porous in the USA, which hopefully benefits me as an aspiring wonk lol.

    Thanks to absolutely everybody who has contributed to this thread so far, I don’t think I’ve ever posted on a community forum before where everyone has given such helpful replies, and also replied in so much depth. It’s rare to find people willing to give so much of their time to help someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing – so thanks a lot. The hardest hurdle so far has been that not a lot of people I encountered during my undergrad career had experience in policy, let alone in the US, so couldn’t really direct me.

    Let me know if the above (huge) post brings up any other thoughts! Anyone who’s even read this entire thread deserves a bronze star (or cat diploma)!

  6. #26
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Nothing to do with cats!

    If you stay in the UK, especially London, consider as Rex said the TA, or the other reserves. Consider joining the BTP as a Special Constable, I understand they get free travel on London Transport. Look around for internships in London, I know IISS does them and you can't beat them for networking - especially across the Atlantic.

    davidbfpo

  7. #27
    Council Member CR6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rearviewmirror View Post
    Anyone whoís even read this entire thread deserves a bronze star (or cat diploma)!
    I hear it's harder to earn a cat diploma.

    Good luck Rearviewmirror. I have nothing to add to the sage advice of my colleagues (and will take what applies to my own situation...)
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Look around for internships in London, I know IISS does them and you can't beat them for networking - especially across the Atlantic.
    Ditto Chatham House.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  9. #29
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    Default Good advice from Rex but

    there is a certain cachet in the US policy arena for a PhD from OXBRIDGE or LSE... See for example John Nagl - or his policy wonk mentorm Michelle Fournoy (USD - Policy) with her MA from Oxford.

    Cheers

    JohnT

  10. #30
    Council Member jenniferro10's Avatar
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    Default Two cents from a normal lower/middle class girl

    Glad to hear the support for graduate education, as we in the US have become anti-intellectual lately (a shame).

    I have found, much as schmedlap highlighted, that rich dummies keep getting richer, and it is all about the network. Since I am unaware of your social/economic background, I offer this advice from a normal lower/middle class girl:
    1. Does the UK have a Peace Corps equivalent? I've heard there's a six month/1 year-type thing, but I am talking at least two years...As the first person on either side of my family to go to college, Peace Corps really helped me build that network of influential people I wouldn't have had otherwise. Many of my fellow volunteers were former mayors, ex-pro ballplayers, PhDs, etc. We all help each other because we've been through a lot together. Professionally, this has paid off for many of us.
    2. and how does military service work there? Excuse my ignorance on this- is it possible to become an officer? I think the military would provide a similar network for someone who wasn't "born into" one.
    3. A plus of the law school route in the US, which may not be the case in UK: many schools have loan options that will be forgiven (or at least substantially reduced) based on public service. This includes both NGOs and government work. As you choose programs, ask about this and factor it in your decisions.
    Maimonides: "Consider this, those of you who are engaged in investigation, if you choose to seek truth. Cast aside passion, accepted thought, and the inclination toward what you used to esteem, and you shall not be lead into error."

  11. #31
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    RVM, I come more than a bit late to this, as you have already received a heap of good advice. So, I would only add that there are more beltway bandits (errr, policy shops) around DC than it is possible to count. Many do consulting (contract) work for the govít (ie, RAND is probably one of the biggest) while others (CNAS, Brookings, etc. come immediately to mind) just work independent policy positions. A fair number of these have internships which if you are successful in getting can be door into the DC policy world Ė a significant majority of paying jobs in these shops are only discoverable through the DC networks. So worth checking around these many places to see what is available.
    The one caveat is that, while I am sure there are internships for people with just a BA, my experience is that most people I have run across with a permanent salaried position have at least an MA (if they are salaried employees) or extensive policy world experience (ie civ govít or military),while many have a PhD.

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    there is a certain cachet in the US policy arena for a PhD from OXBRIDGE or LSE... See for example John Nagl - or his policy wonk mentorm Michelle Fournoy (USD - Policy) with her MA from Oxford.
    John: Yes, quite right.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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