US Government

The Executive Branch

Even in the age of economic strictures and significant budget cuts, the executive branch of the US government offers many exciting career paths with competitive salaries and impressive benefits packages. Some US government departments and agencies are almost totally devoted to international affairs, whether responsible for the conduct of US foreign policy (US Department of State), US foreign assistance (US Agency for International Development, or USAID), or military policy and national security (US Department of Defense). From the Census Bureau to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, almost all other government agencies have jobs with an international focus. One young friend was recently hired as a protocol officer for the Secretary of Homeland Security. Another serves in the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) at the US Department of Agriculture. Yet another is employed by the US Department of Education International Resource Information System (IRIS). These positions, and many more, are all a part of the mix in the executive branch.

The Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the US government offers a wide array of job possibilities at entities ranging from the Congressional Budget Office to the Library of Congress. One friend has had an exceptionally rewarding career as an analyst at the Congressional Research Service.

Capitol Hill also offers opportunities for meaningful government work that is international in scope. The oft-repeated maxim that all politics is local should probably be lengthened to "all politics is both local and global." The distinctions are increasingly blurred. Members of Congress are compelled regularly to deal with international issues. They are expected to be knowledgeable about a large number of complex trouble spots overseas. Thus, representatives and senators need globally experienced people on their staffs to handle their international affairs portfolios. Furthermore, Capitol Hill also offers opportunities to work directly for internationally focused groups such as the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

For example, we have a mutual friend with a passion for both international affairs and the politics of Capitol Hill. She was able to combine these interests first as a staff member for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, then as a legislative aide for Representative Jim Moran (D-VA), and subsequently as a staff member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations. Later, she worked as a legislative aide for Senator James Webb (D-VA), when he served on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Each of these positions has allowed her to consistently have an impact on international affairs without ever having to work off of the Hill.

Tom Garofalo, profiled earlier, is another example. Tom spent much of his career in international development, working as a field representative for Catholic Relief Services in such places as Jerusalem, Belgrade, and Havana. Eventually, he wanted to take his passion for social development via governmental participation to a new level and saw working directly in the US legislative process as his next step. He now works for Representative Moran as a legislative aide, helping the congressman on international issues as varied as gender violence in Syria to Chinese and Tibetan immigration issues in the 8th district of Virginia.

As these cases demonstrate, the US government remains a source of excellent globally oriented job opportunities. Although the application process can be daunting, salaries are still competitive, and benefits are excellent. For those captivated by international relations and who are comfortable working in a more structured environment, pursuing a career in the federal government can be worth the elaborate application procedures and security clearances that are an inherent part of the hiring process.

We would be remiss if we did not highlight the fact that there are increasing numbers of internationally oriented government jobs at the state and local levels. This trend will inevitably accelerate. Whether helping a governor attract foreign investment or working for the mayor of a large city organizing visits for foreign delegations, there are rewarding careers to be had. One of our colleagues served as chief of staff for Senator Patrick Leahy and then became secretary of agriculture for the State of Vermont. In both positions he has worked on many issues with international ramifications.

Another colleague serves as chief of staff for Senator John McCain in his Phoenix District Office. He, too, handles a wide range of international issues. One of Sherry's friends is a state senator from Iowa. He is a committed internationalist and works hard to expand Iowa's exports, welcome international students, and foster other vital connections to the rest of the world. He has taken what some would consider a domestic role and turned it into an opportunity to serve as an effective ambassador for his state and country.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >