I’ve mentioned before that I am currently facilitating a Graduate Career Intensive Seminar at George Mason University for the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR). My course runs six Wednesday afternoons, February through April. A total of 13 PhD and master’s students are enrolled.
For two of the classes we take field trips to DC based entities where students upon graduation might seek employment. Today (3/6/19) we visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies or CSIS. My colleague Alan Gropman, who also teaches at S-CAR and served as chair of its advisory board, coordinated the visit.
CSIS is a “think tank” – one of the most well-regarded. The work of CSIS focuses on national security, foreign policy, and global challenges. It does not look at domestic issues. Founded in 1962, CSIS has been named the world’s number one think tank for defense and national security by the University of Pennsylvania’s “Go To Think Tank Index.” CSIS hosts about 2,000 events per year of which 800 are large public events. CSIS is a nonpartisan entity and closely adheres to that. Employees need to have come from a nonpolitical environment before joining CSIS. It is also a not-for-profit.
We were hosted by H. Andrew Schwartz , the chief communications officer. He has been at CSIS for 14 years. He provided us with a comprehensive briefing on CSIS sharing about his work in advancing CSIS digital and communications strategies. Among the initiatives he is involved in is The Evening, which comes out daily and focuses on global issues of the day. He also co-hosts the About the News podcast. Andrew shared with us about the recent identification of North Korean long range missile activity that CSIS shared through social media.
Regarding the job market, Andrew emphasized the critical importance of developing digital and multi-platform skills. CSIS handles its media “in house” and has developed a strong social media strategy. He emphasized, for instance, the importance of developing podcasts and 90 second videos on YouTube. Andrew also stressed that Twitter is the primary means of communication in DC. Language skills could be important in some units at CSIS (Arabic in particular). But research and writing are important throughout the organization.
He also mentioned the importance of networking. Online engagement and job hunting is good, but nothing is as beneficial as meeting people. As he said, “Keep showing up!” Practical experience and academic work are also important. He also emphasized the value of being in DC and taking advantage of the networks and events available (CSIS events are open to the public).
Typical positions for graduates (of master’s and PhD programs) are research assistants and program assistants. CSIS also accepts interns, but mostly as undergraduates. Summer is very competitive with some 10,000 applicants for 60-70 positions. Here is the link to current CSIS job listings.
He stressed the “cut throat” nature of the think tank world of DC. It is high paced and exacting. Those working in this environment must be committed to the work. Being innovative is also important. CSIS keeps moving into new areas of social and digital media to advance its work.
Andrew has a love for popular music and culture. In his daily newsletter, he ends it with a clip to something that caught his attention. A student asked him what song would best characterize CSIS’s work. He answered, The Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit” (This is from their 1977 Washington, DC concert…back in the day!)
If you are following my other “Event Reports” go here. Recently I have visited the World Bank, Johns Hopkins University/SAIS and the SIDW career fair at George Washington University.
David J. Smith is a career coach, speaker and consultant based in Rockville, Maryland, USA. He is the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace(IAP 2016). He is an official member of Forbes Coaches Council and member of the PCDN Career Advisory Board. David is also the president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. and teaches at School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and the School of Education at Drexel University. He can be reached at email@example.com.