On what to do next

I finish grad school at Harvard in May and will be living in D.C. I am lost. I will be well positioned to work in the nonprofit sector. What should I do?

Pick your favorite Democratic candidate for President, apply for a job with her campaign, and spend the next twenty-two months saving the world.


39 thoughts on “On what to do next

    • KittyNinja says:

      How about helping out local Democratic community groups instead? You can still create a lot of impact without shooting for stars on this first get go.

    • J Lynn says:

      I think that as a non-citizen, you are allowed to volunteer but not donate. If you contact the campaign of a candidate you like, they will probably be able to tell you what’s allowed.

      As far as being a paid employee, that would be harder as you’d need a work visa, which I think would require employer sponsorship (??), which a political campaign is unlikely to bother with unless you have rare skills.

      There’s also the possibility, I think, of volunteering with a nonpartisan advocacy org like a voter registration/access group, or an issue group like ACLU or Planned Parenthood.

      Thank you for caring! This is a rough time in the USA and those of us who care are working hard to turn back fascism/white patriarchal supremacy.

  1. Patrice O'Neal says:

    Serious question, Coke: what’s your opinion on supporting centrist Democrats (perhaps too loaded/broad of a question)? Better scenario than supporting the other side of the aisle, no argument there, but I’m still dismayed in considering a Congress run by Pelosi and Schumer whose pockets are neck-deep in corporation backing and have proven throughout history to be largely ineffectual. Pelosi’s committee nominations and broadcasted rebuttal to Trump’s Wall speech with Schumer at her side didn’t inspire much optimism in me. I am ambivalent about any impeachment, and it is far too easy to mythologize candidate hopefuls than fairly assess their political history and how they’re currently playing the game (Beto, Kamala).

    Hate to contribute to the same mentality that caused the Democrats to eat each other over the last several years, and things have been looking up for what seems like the first time in a long while, but I’m still hard-pressed to consider the current Dem party as anything progressive beyond the obvious outliers you can count on one hand without using up all fingers.

  2. lolitsjesus says:

    I do fully agree with Coke, esp. with your educational credentials, but as a DC resident in the non-profit/social services sector I gotta add that not all of us can be effective in roles on the Hill (speaking also as someone with friends working there). Community work can drain your fucking soul in a different way, but for me it’s still always worth it and desperately needed in this city too. (OP, I don’t know your background beyond what you’ve shared but am happy to elaborate about what that can look like.)

    • AwkwardSeagull says:

      OP here. I never considered politics in the past, but I ignored Coke’s advice once many years ago and ended up learning the hard way to consider her words very carefully.

      My undergrad is in law but I ended up deciding law school wasn’t for me. I work now running child, teen, and young adult programs for my local LGBTQ community center. I love it, but I can’t live on it and they don’t have the funding to take me on full time.

      I’m curious about what you have to say about community work.

      • lolitsjesus says:

        The tl;dr version (or attempt at that) is that I sold my soul to a national non-profit right out of undergrad that exploits the passion, lack of experience, and (often naive) idealism of new graduates. I ended up spending more time writing SOPs for upper management that were crafted to police lower-level staff than actually doing meaningful work that this particular org (like many DC-based natl. non-profits) is widely regarded as doing. Friends who’ve worked on the Hill and/or political campaigns basically expressed that the level of bureaucratic fuckery and incompetence/exploitation by upper management I experienced pales in comparison to the daily stress of working with similarly incompetent and narcissistic senior officials in DC politics. Like I said previously, I do agree with Coke, I just think it’s important to note that you have to have a particular tenacity and ability to deal with folks like that that I really struggled with. (The other obvious distinction is the huge impact those political roles can have versus largely ineffective non-profits.) I know many really talented people here who care deeply about fighting this fascist administration, but have had to find their niche.

        For me and many others, it’s community-based work – a lot of folks I know work in local orgs to combat DC’s housing/homelessness crisis, racist gentrification, overdose crisis, high rates of violence (particularly DV), etc. For those with the energy for it, it’s often coupled with advocacy/activism of various sorts since there’s a protest every damn weekend here. It can be similarly draining and soul-crushing, and still requires navigating a system designed to fail, but I’ve never felt more impactful in the work I do daily and I’m generally surrounded by similarly passionate folks who genuinely care and aren’t self-serving egos. (Thank you for elaborating more on your background, it sounds like you’re already aware of what I’m saying from your own experiences.)

        Most people I know do work two jobs or have some sort of side hustle, or at least did when starting out. But having a grad degree from Harvard obviously makes you more well-positioned than most, and there are opportunities here to make a living running the type of LGBTQ program you’re describing.

        Anyway I said I’d tl;dr this and it’s Coke’s advice column, not mine. Just wanted to elaborate a bit since you said you were curious! Good luck with everything.

      • Chris says:

        Great job. My oldest goes to a Friday night hangout at a NFP, and while it costs her nothing to go, the nerds she hangs with might not have another place to hang without donations, so she brought $50 one time, and will likely do so again.

        2 of my girls accompanied the youngest to make a donation to the children’s hospital where she was a patient. They collectively donated a little under $200. It won’t go far, but it’s more about them than the hospital at that level of giving.

        Consider a candidate you believe in.

      • flblbl says:

        Your trying to pretend like you don’t get it just so you can find something to be offended about is childish and miserable.

      • Quinn says:

        Or maybe Coke was being cheeky and alluding to someone specific. Couldn’t say who, though. Or maybe she was just hoping it would attract your exact comment.

      • PolFan says:

        Right now, the best announced Dem options are both female (Harris, Warren), with Gillibrand in the wings. Even without the laudable intent of normalizing women’s campaigns, ‘her’ is the natural pronoun to use by anyone who’s been paying attention.

        (Not saying Julian Castro’s not great, I like what I’ve seen, but Harris and Warren seem to have a slight edge)

        • Chris says:

          Gillibrand’s initial ad really turned me off. “I’m a mom, and ‘m going to love your kids, too.” Barf. How about, ‘I fought against military CO’s calling the shots on investigations of sexual assault when everyone said it couldn’t be done’?

          But I’ve been hoping Sen. Duckworth will run since about 2012. I’m also interested in what Andrew Yang has to say beyond UBI.

          • PolFan says:

            Gillibrand is not my favorite, no. Duckworth would get my support in an instant. She is the only person who I’d be more interested in than Booker or Harris. She’s demonstrated both the ability to lead and the ability to look at the system not just the symptom.

            If she doesn’t run for pres this time around, I’m hoping she accepts a VP slot. Her resume doesn’t show much foreign policy expertise, so I’d like her to spend some time on that to be totally perfect, but it’s not like Booker or Harris are ex-Secretaries of State or anything.

          • Chris says:

            For 2016 I was hoping either Booker or Franken were going to be the VP picks. Kaine was worthy of the office, but a stronger looking man would have been a better pick.

            The moment the 2016 election was over I emailed Duckworth’s office and said if she was running in 2020 I wanted to do what I could. She’s my first choice at the moment.

          • G says:

            Can we democrats avoid electing a “tough on crime” prosecutor? Prefer Warren over all others, and while I like Harris I am tired of our USAmerican glamorization of prosecutors

      • PolFan says:


        The standard assumption is still that ‘presidential’ = ‘his’. The more we normalize that the office is open to either gender, the more likely we are to seriously assess either gender, looking for the best talent and skills, not the biggest ‘hands’.

          • flblbl says:

            …but did she win ?

            “While many historians and authors agree that Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States, some have questioned that priority given issues with the legality of her run. They disagree with classifying it as a true candidacy because she was younger than the constitutionally mandated age of 35. However, election coverage by contemporary newspapers does not suggest age was a significant issue; this may, however, be due to the fact that no one took the candidacy seriously”

            ha, well,,,,,

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