Linds K. wrote:Thank you both so much for the quick replies! I plan on pursuing policy/government work only if my husband ends up in Washington since I think I have the best chance of one of those positions there. Renee, how accessible are these fellowships to someone directly out of a Ph.D.? I worry I am not an impressive enough of a candidate to earn something as impressive as that. Ideally, I would like to leave the bench for good but still keep my hands in science in some way.
When you were a government contractor, how did you secure the position? Did you do a postdoc first and then apply? I attended an alternative careers seminar today and a number of the speakers, all established Ph.D.'s that have gotten away from academia, said the postdoc is not a necessary thing to do for the positions I'm interested in.
Thank you so much for the advice, Dx. I am still trying to decide which area of policy that interests me the most. There is a lot to consider since I am really just beginning to explore alternative career options.
I know this policy route pretty decently as well, having tried to enter it as well as giving career advice to a few who made it as AAAS fellows.
The truth is the AAAS fellowships are THE gold standard in DC. You get one of those, something will come your way provided you look for it. That's the good news. The bad news, they are EXTREMELY competitive. To give you an idea, someone I know had a Nobel Prize winner well regarded in the policy circles write him a letter of recommendation; this person was wait-listed, ultimately got it, but non the less, an alternate.
Contrast that to someone else I know, similar background as the above person, talked all about his thesis (something AAAS people told him NOT to do), and he gets in right off the bat.
Contrast w/another person I know, didn't talk about his thesis, had some basic policy experience too, and wasn't considered at all, ie no interviews.
A postdoc is not necessary per se, but it often puts you in the right geography. Such as getting your ticket punched at the NIH, and through networking converting that into a policy job.
IMO, for policy slots, it's like real estate "location location location", if you aren't near it, you won't get it.
Whatever you do, DO NOT count on the AAAS or any other fellowship at all as your path to policy. You will likely regret it. There used to be a small amount of people who applied to these, now there are tons. The competition is fierce.
The best way is to move to DC. There are numerous societies (they don't have large policy staffs mind you, and these jobs are rarely open), and assorted NGOs.
That's your best bet really. If you count on the various fellowships you'll regret it.
Apply, but do not at all count on it.
If you want to learn more about cracking the AAAS Fellowship, OR the others that exist, do yourself a favor. Just network, be it LinkedIn or elsewhere with former members. They typically have a good idea of what they are looking for, more so if they are one of the "judges".
Lastly, some states offer their own fellowships at the state house. Again, don't count on it, but apply. The same is true for some Mayor offices, usually larger cities though, eg NYC, LA etc