In October 2021, we hosted a panel conversation about pursuing an advocacy career. We were lucky to have two passionate and thoughtful LEE members discuss the skills needed for success in the advocacy sector and reflect on how they transitioned to advocacy roles.
Our panelists were Stephanie Perez-Carrillo the Policy and Partnerships Manager at Colorado’s Children’s Campaign and Kerry Savage the Director of Policy at DC Parents Amplifying Voices (DC PAVE). Below, you will find a recording of the panel conversation and five important takeaways about transitioning to a career in advocacy.
1. Start networking
At first, both Stephanie and Kerry had some apprehension around professional networking. Even though networking can feel unnatural, many people in the advocacy space are very used to doing it, so they will likely take you up on an offer to meet virtually or to grab coffee. After having strategic conversations with a variety of people in Colorado and DC, they were both able to secure roles in the advocacy sector. Stephanie advised, “once you meet with someone ask about the three people that you should meet with.”
2. You can learn a lot on the job
Stephanie shared, “I came into this role not knowing how to write a white paper.” Through her organization's onboarding process and through some outside workshops and trainings (some hosted by LEE), Stephanie was able to acquire the skills that she uses as an advocate. Kerry joined the DC PAVE team when it was still in the start-up phase. “I got to learn a lot of things fast,” she reflected.
3. You’ll wear a lot of different hats.
Stephanie and Kerry both mentioned having to work across teams and manage many different types of projects in their day-to-day. Some of the workstreams that they described included building coalitions with partner organizations and stakeholders, translating policy research for parents, and running effective meetings for a variety of audiences. It was clear that no day looks the same in advocacy work!
4. You can transfer skills from the classroom or from public-facing work
Both of our panelists were classroom teachers earlier in their career. In thinking about how she trains parents and staff, Kerry noted, “I do a lot of lesson planning on a day-to-day basis.” Although they are no longer leading a classroom of students, both Stephanie and Kerry continue to use the skills like relationship building and project management that they gained as teachers.
5. Your work will be relevant and exciting
It was clear that both Stephanie and Kerry are working on issues that are impacting students, families, and communities. Stephanie discussed how the Colorado Children’s Campaign is currently building a school climate coalition that is advocating for the supports that will help turn schools into wellness centers and make them places where children can truly be successful. In DC, Kerry and the PAVE team are excited to be refining their model to even further center the voice of parents across their policy, advocacy, and organizing work.