I worked all over the place. The cocktail party (and I suppose website) answer is that I held a variety of public policy jobs for my first two years after college, spent two and a half years in a graduate program in English literature, and then worked as a litigation paralegal in preparation for law school. That glosses over some odd jobs here and there, but it’s more or less true.
I wanted to get back to doing the sort of public-minded work that I had done before graduate school, and wanted to do it with a better professional credential than a Master’s in English literature.
I think that the biggest thing was just learning how to be a working professional. I think that I was able to accomplish more over the course of my summers because I was already comfortable in an office environment.
I spent my first summer at the District of Columbia Public Schools; I talked about the time that I had spent working for a municipal agency and a nonprofit group committed to urban redevelopment. My second summer I spent mostly at the Department of Justice. At one point, my interviewer said “You look like someone who doesn’t really know what he wants to do.” I laughed, collected myself and said “Well, I think that’s a plausible but ungenerous reading of my resume…” and then gave him whatever my “life in 18 seconds” speech was at that point. It went fine.
I finessed some of the time that I had spent doing piecework freelance writing and tried to highlight my pre-grad school experience in public policy.
Remember why you’re there. One of the great advantages that non-traditional (by which I suppose we mean “old”) students have is the life experience that they’ve acquired. They should have a better sense of themselves and what matters to them than they did at 22… and perhaps than their 22-year-old classmates do now. Having struggled at something helps.
I found OPIA to be a huge source of advice and moral support (and I promise they didn’t ask me to say that).