Government, Policy, International Affairs, & Law

Look below for relevant events and throughout this page for resources to help you learn about and land a position in this field. You can also subscribe to this community’s newsletter for job/internship updates, employer events, and more.

Want personalized advice to figure out your next steps? Emmeline can help! 

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Upcoming Events

Jobs & Internships on Handshake

Here’s a preview of just a few positions currently available on Handshake. Note that the date shown is not the application due date, but is the date the position was posted! For more jobs in this community, check out sites like USAJobs.gov & Wisc.jobs.

Government, Policy, International Affairs, & Law FAQs

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What specific skills and experiences should a resume include for Government, Policy, International Affairs, and Law?

For most opportunities in this field, a standard resume is a great place to start. A simple, well-organized resume that highlights your relevant skills and outlines your accomplishments is all you’ll need for the majority of GPIAL opportunities, and can grow and evolve with your career over time! That’s why it’s generally a good idea to stay away from fancy graphics and the free templates you find online, because even though they can look good at first, they can’t be adapted as you rework and add to your resume.

When thinking about what experiences to include on your resume, remember that you’re not limited to jobs and internships! Relevant knowledge and skills that you’ve gained from course papers, volunteering, student organizations, and other projects may deserve space on your resume as well. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have a few different versions of your resume, including one “Comprehensive Resume” that has all of your past work written out and can easily be cut down and re-ordered to highlight different types of experience based on the opportunity that interests you. 

Certain government opportunities, however, may require a specialized type of resume, both at the State and Federal level. For more information about State and Federal style resumes, check out the resources on the GPIAL Career Community hub.

Ready to get started on your resume? Check out the SuccessWorks Resume page, and set up an appointment with a Peer Advisor or Graduate Intern for feedback on your draft! 

What is the hiring timeline for jobs in these areas?

Most employers in GPIAL operate on a “just in time” hiring timeline, as opposed to the more proactive model favored in industries like business, tech, and other STEM fields. This means that, if you’re starting to panic because some of your friends are getting job offers and you haven’t started applying yet, take a breath! You’re probably not behind, it’s just a different industry expectation. There are always new opportunities in GPIAL getting posted, so you don’t have to worry too much about missing out or following a certain timeline. Figuring out an application timeline that works well for your personal schedule and other responsibilities is usually the best strategy. 

It’s great to start looking at opportunities as early as possible so that you don’t miss anything, but most positions in GPIAL get posted 1-3 months before a job or internship would begin. As always, there are a couple of exceptions to keep in mind. For intelligence jobs and internships (or anything that requires a government security clearance) you’ll want to think about applying about a year in advance so that you have plenty of time to go through that process. For other jobs, especially those with the federal government, take a close look at the hiring requirements. For example, if a job requires a bachelor’s degree, some federal hiring managers won’t agree that you’ve met that requirement until you have the degree in-hand, so applying even a few weeks before graduation might mean you aren’t considered for the role. Overall, just be aware of any special considerations for the type of job(s) that you’re interested in, and find a timeline that works for your long term goals and priorities!

Do I need a Political Science major to work in government?

No! If you are interested in working in the government, a Poli Sci major can give you some great insight into how the government works and interacts with its citizens. However, it is definitely not a necessity. The American government is hugely diverse, and needs people of all backgrounds and skill sets to accomplish its work. Whether your skills are in Computer Science, STEM Research, Human Resources, Communications and Writing, Business, Economics, Library Science, Languages or Linguistics, Engineering, or something totally different, chances are the government needs employees like you! Take a look on the main site for federal hiring, USAJobs.gov, and see what you find.

To work in the federal government, it’s much more important that you can clearly and effectively demonstrate how your past experience and skills relate to the position that interests you. This means that you should understand how candidates are evaluated in the federal hiring process, as well as how to write a federal style resume. Check out the SuccessWorks federal hiring resources, and make an appointment if you have further questions!

Will my first job after college define my entire career path?

In a way, yes. Applying to your first job out of undergrad can be extremely intimidating, because it feels like it will lay the foundation for your entire professional future. In a way this is true, but probably not how you think. 

Whether or not it’s the “dream job” you imagined, your first full-time job after college will help you understand the type of work you enjoy doing, what is important to you in a work environment, and how your academic knowledge can translate into tangible, professional skills. At this point, learning what you don’t like is just as important as finding what you love, and every experience will help! Your first post-grad job is just the first step in what will probably be a much longer and more winding career path than you envision right now, and that’s okay! Remember that this first step won’t determine whether or not you can reach your long-term career goals, just the route you’ll take to get there.  

This means that, when searching for your first job, don’t put too much pressure on yourself! There’s no such thing as the “right” job, so keep an open mind and focus on finding something that interests you and would allow you to gain some relevant skills. If that still feels a bit overwhelming, set up an appointment to talk it through with a SuccessWorks advisor! We can help make sure that you have the resources and support you need to feel prepared. 

Do I need internship experience in order to get an internship?

No! When you’re looking for your first internship, it can often seem like employers want you to have internship experience before they’ll consider your application. This can be discouraging, to say the least. However, there are several ways you can use your application materials to show what a strong candidate you are, even before your first internship experience. 

First, remember that when employers ask for “experience”, they usually don’t require that this experience come from an internship. Experience can come from your classes, jobs, student orgs, volunteering, or personal projects! For example, if you’re applying for an internship with an NGO that supports newly arrived refugees in Wisconsin, that 15-page paper you wrote about asylum-seekers in the European Union would be extremely relevant – and would also highlight your writing, research, and analysis skills!

There are a lot of different ways to incorporate your experience into your resume, like changing up your section headings (ex. Breaking out “Communications and Marketing Experience” and “Additional Experience” rather than just “Experience” for a Social Media Internship) or adding a “Research and Writing” section to highlight your relevant coursework and projects. If you read through your resume with fresh eyes and find that it really doesn’t show all of your relevant skills and knowledge, that’s a good sign that you need to make some changes! If you aren’t sure how to do this, check out the Resume Tips and Tools on the SuccessWorks website, or meet with an advisor

Can I get any of these jobs straight out of undergrad?

Yes! There’s no arguing that entry-level positions are competitive. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of organizations are having to cut their budgets, which means that there are less positions available and larger applicant pools. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good job straight out of undergrad.

It’s important to remember that, as a recent graduate, you have plenty of transferable skills that make you a competitive candidate. Through 2020, you’ve had to adapt to virtual learning, find new ways to communicate with your professors and classmates, and balance your academic schedule with personal responsibilities during a global pandemic. The resilience, adaptability, technical, and communication skills you’ve developed are in high demand from employers, as are the writing, analysis, and problem-solving skills you’ve gained throughout your time as a student! 

The other main thing to keep in mind as you’re looking for a job is that flexibility is key. A flexible mindset will help keep what can be a long and stressful process from becoming too overwhelming. You may also have to look beyond your ideal job title or dream organization, or expand your search in other ways if you’re finding that you aren’t getting the results you want. This can be discouraging, but is your best strategy in the long-run because, even if your first job ends up not being exactly what you hoped for, it is still a crucial step in helping you get to your long-term career goals. 

It’s also good to look for positions that are specifically hiring recent graduates because you know that you’re automatically a strong candidate! The Pathways program through the federal government is a great example of this. Pathways hires for a variety of positions throughout the federal government, but make sure you check out the SuccessWorks resources for federal hiring before you apply.

Are internships with NGOs/Nonprofits always unpaid?

Not always, but often true. Because most NGOs and Nonprofits run on very tight budgets, there is often not enough funding to compensate interns for their work. Though there are other professional development opportunities that can come from interning with these organizations, a competitive salary often isn’t one of them. 

Before you rule out Nonprofit or NGO internships completely, take a look at the SuccessWorks Intern Fund. Every summer, SuccessWorks provides scholarships for L&S students pursuing unpaid or underpaid internship opportunities. SuccessWorks also partners with local Nonprofits and Small Businesses doing essential social justice work in Madison through the Social Justice Internship Program

Is it possible to earn a good salary working in government?

Yes (depending how you define “good”)! You’ll probably never become a millionaire working in government, but there are a lot of other benefits to government work. The government is known for its benefits, including health insurance, paid time off, and professional development opportunities. Some roles even have a pension, which is an incredibly rare (and game-changing) way to prepare for your retirement! Though these benefits may not seem super important to you at this point in your life, they can make a big difference in your work-life balance and your sense of professional and financial security in the long-run.

Government roles also give you the opportunity to grow throughout your career. The GS system is a (somewhat) standardized system that defines the education and experience levels you need to be considered for a job. Most government jobs are posted with a GS range, which means that even if you enter at the lowest level, you’ll be able to regularly move to a higher level (and higher salary) within the same role! There are also a huge number of government jobs that are only open to current federal employees, so whenever you’re ready for a career change, there are plenty of options to choose from.

When should I make an advising appointment with Emmeline?

If you’re just getting started with your resume or cover letter, the Resume and Cover Letters page has all you need to put together a solid draft! Then, our Peer Advisors and Graduate Interns can help you make sure your application materials are ready to submit and highlight all of your relevant skills and experience at an Express Advising Appointment!

If you’re curious about GPIAL careers or looking for job and internship search resources, check out the GPIAL Career Community Hub. On the pages for Government, Policy, International Affairs, and Law, you’ll find examples of many popular professional paths, and all the information you need to help you decide where you want to start your journey. 

If you have in-depth questions about GPIAL careers, want feedback on your Federal or State Agency style resume, or are feeling lost and want help getting a better sense of your options within this Career Community, that’s a great time to meet with Emmeline, the Career and Internship Specialist for Government, Policy, International Affairs, and Law! Emmeline and other Career and Internship Specialists can also help you with mock interviews, honing your application strategy, or negotiating a job offer.

Featured Opportunities

Community Impact Internships

Applications Now Open!

Want to make a positive impact in local communities and get valuable experience? We’re helping to connect UW-Madison students with internships at local social justice non-profit organizations.

Learn more about current opportunities here.

Wisconsin In Washington

Want one of the best experiences to learn what it’s like working on politics, policy, or international affairs?

Spend a semester or summer on an internship in Washington, DC, focusing on domestic or international policy issues while living in the heart of the nation’s capital. As you earn academic credit for your internship, you’ll gain first-hand experience in the political sphere of Washington, DC, connecting with UW alumni and other professionals. Semester students will have the option to take a course taught by our Ambassador in Residence.

Learn more about the Wisconsin in Washington program here.

Boren Awards

The Boren Scholarship provides funding to students who study abroad including studying languages and in countries around the world determined to be of importance to U.S. national security interests. Recipients of these awards commit to working for the Federal Government for at least one year after their graduation working in positions critical to U.S. national security throughout the Federal Government, including the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, and USAID. This opportunity provides an excellent gateway into a career in the Federal Government for students with variety of academic and career interests.

Students interested in applying for this excellent scholarship opportunity can contact the UW-Madison campus representative Matt Geisler matthew.geisler@wisc.edu

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