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Want a Job in Politics? Check Out These Books

From the president to Congress to the American people, the refrain is the same: jobs, jobs, jobs.

The presence of the federal government ensures that there will always be a need for staffers, lawyers, bureaucrats and many other government-related workers in D.C., but the competition is fierce.

To help you find a job in politics and impress potential employers during an interview, we’ve asked three experts for their book recommendations: Jennifer Carignan and Christopher Hughes, career advisers for American University’s School of Public Affairs, and Stuart Gottlieb, director of policy studies at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.

“An Insider’s Guide to Political Jobs in Washington” by William Endicott

Endicott knows a thing or two about the Washington jobs scene, having worked for three Members of Congress, the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton White House.

Carignan said Endicott’s book provides an “insider perspective on finding political jobs in D.C., whether on Capitol Hill, with political parties or in the White House.”

Specifically, Endicott “emphasizes the importance of networking in the political job search, regardless of where you end up,” she said.

“Getting a Job in Politics, and Keeping It” by Ben Wetmore

Carignan also suggested Wetmore’s book, which seeks to help people get hired for entry-level political jobs with campaigns, political offices, activist groups, nonprofits and other organizations.

“Wetmore does a nice job of walking readers through the various steps of the job search process, from determining what type of position might be most appropriate for them to offering the actual nuts and bolts of finding and landing a job,” Carignan said.

Wetmore has worked in many of these positions, which Carignan believes puts him in a unique position to help others start their careers in politics.

“Wetmore has worked in various political roles and shows his thorough understanding of the process,” she said.

CQ Roll Call’s Politics in America 2012 edited by John Bicknell and David Meyers
National Journal’s the Almanac of American Politics 2012 by Michael Barone and Chuck McCutcheon

Hughes said the ubiquity of the Internet has made books less essential for finding a job, but for applicants seeking positions with Members of Congress, he still suggested checking out these books published by CQ Roll Call and National Journal.

“With the immediacy of the Internet, books don’t really cut it anymore, but they can be useful to get a good overview of the political scene,” Hughes said.

Both books provide biographies of lawmakers and details about their Congressional districts, their voting records and other bits of information.

“These books are a good resource to find out where Members stand and basic facts about them to know for an interview,” Hughes said.

“What It Takes: The Way to the White House” by Richard Ben Cramer

This book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist delves into the psychology of presidential campaigns and their candidates, which Gottlieb said would be particularly useful for budding campaign workers.

Gottlieb — who has worked for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and the 2000 presidential campaign of  former Vice President Al Gore — calls the book “a classic.”

“What It Takes” follows the Republicans and Democrats vying for the presidency in 1988. Cramer tries to get inside the candidates’ heads to illustrate what it’s like to run for president — a perspective that any potential campaign worker would benefit from knowing.

“Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

While not specifically about politics or government, the third book suggested by Carignan teaches readers how to develop critical networking skills.

The book “offers some guidance on building relationships, which we know is critical to finding political jobs,” she said.

Ferrazzi and Raz share some of their insights from running Ferrazzi Greenlight, which helps clients to strategically manage their relationships. Establishing relationships with the right people can be the key to finding the best jobs and then snagging them, and the authors identify the steps to making the most of human connections.

“For job seekers, this book may be helpful in developing networking skills that might land them a political job in D.C.,” Carignan said.

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