By Brian Aldaco
With the 85th Legislative Session on the horizon, the LEAP Center invited a trio of accomplished State Legislative staffers to participate in a discussion panel/ Q&A Session addressing careers in government. Gathered to see the panel were 25 SHSU students, with interests ranging from law school, to the legislature, to an Austin Internship en route to a career in government. Whatever their end goal, however, all the students gained a better understanding of how to make it in the professional world following college.
On hand were Sarah Tillman (District Director for Rep. Will Metcalf)…
Zachary Stephenson (Chief of Staff for Rep. Will Metcalf)…
and Eiman Siddiqui (Chief of Staff for Rep. Tom Oliverson).
Interestingly, both Representatives Metcalf and Oliverson are SHSU Alums.
Tillman offered students wisdom on maintaining appropriate social media sites. Even though her advice was targeted to prospective Austi interns, it was applicable to the entire professional world. Zach Stephenson also emphasized professionalism, discussing the pitfalls that can plague young people who get caught up in the Austin bar scene. Whether outside of work or on social media, interns represent the office for which they work, and an unprofessional facebook post or an arrest harms not only the student, but also the office.
The panelists also discussed the skill set desired by legislative offices. While the offices desire intelligence, the most important qualities are the ability to deal effectively with people, a positive and professional attitude, flexibility, and writing skills, the latter being especially stressed by Eiman Siddiqui.
During the session, hours are long and the pay is small, so many of the people with the skill set described above move on when the session is over. But the high turnover rate is also an opportunity for young people to move up in the legislative environment, making a career in the legislature a real possibility. Indeed, all of the panelists were in their 20s or early 30s.
The panelists’ youth and their wisdom allowed them to relate to us, and we plan to lean heavily on them if we are fortunate enough to spend next semester in Austin!