I want to write about politics. How do I land my second, step-up job?

If you are up for it, I’d really like to hear how you landed your first and second jobs, and how you knew it was time to move on. I would also love to hear your perspective on whether or not the feminist/female-oriented writing space is saturated and how you figured out what you like to write about. (As they say, write what you know… but I really do want to be useful and employed.) 

I’d love to get some tips on how to fake it till you make it in terms of writing about politics. I am interested in writing about policy and political issues (not so much candidates), but I don’t have any formal education or experience in the arena. 


As for your politics (but not campaigns) question, there are a few writers I think do a really good job of this. You can learn a lot by reading the work of writers who cover policy and politics the way you want to. I like Jamelle Bouie a lot-- who tends to take a more historical/political science view of things, and Bryce Covert, who often has a policy emphasis. Both of them are not campaign-oriented (though they do some interviews and cover campaigns) and more about reading reports, talking to academics and experts, and drawing on books and historical accounts to inform their opinions. If you start to follow the work of writers you admire, ask yourself questions about where certain facts/insights came from. Do they quote a policy expert? Do they cite a report? Etc. Sometimes articles are surprisingly easy to pick apart and figure out the sourcing. It's definitely a special skill to talk to people who take the long view-- academic types and authors-- and figure out how their expertise applies to the current political moment. But it's a skill you can learn, for sure.

I'd also encourage you to use your questions to your advantage. If you see a news article about cuts to food stamps and you're like, "how many people are on food stamps, anyway? Were they always stigmatized? I don't even know the history!" Start there, with your questions. Figure out which expert might be able to walk you through it, or what book might explain the history. And once you do an interview or give that book a close read, you'll probably gain some insight into the current moment that just might make a good angle for an article or opinion piece.

As for my first/second/third jobs, here is the truth: 

1. Internship, Mother Jones - my first "job" in journalism. I cold-applied and was accepted.

2. Managing editor at a political website - creepy older-dude boss hired me even though my resume wasn't very deep. I lasted just 2 months.

3. Web editor, American Prospect-- my then-boyfriend landed me this job because he wanted me to move to DC. Seriously. He was also a journalist and he applied to it, and then, at the last minute, told them he didn't want the job but they should hire me. And they did. SERIOUSLY. 

So the answer is: My second and third jobs are a direct result of dudes. Sexism is real. It's shameful. There is no good advice for you to be found here. But I'm being honest.

BUT after I got in the door at the Prospect, I rose through the ranks because I worked my ass off-- it actually helped me to stick around internally and be promoted rather than move to a new publication where I would have had to start over. I stayed 4 years. And all my jobs since have not been due to dudes, but to my own merits. It gets better.