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A Day in the Life: Policy Analyst in a Nonprofit Advocacy Group (Energy)

by Laura Walker Chung

8:00 a.m.: Arrive at the office and start the morning with your daily review of the news wires to see what developments are afoot in the energy world:  corporate merger rumors, congressional legislation proposals, updates on the latest accounting scandal, announcements by a foreign government about a new infrastructure project or environmental policy.

9:00 a.m.: Your phone rings – it’s a Legislative Assistant from a Congressperson’s office on "the Hill."  She wants to get more information about the press release your group issued last week, which called attention to an energy policy change you and your colleagues found buried in the latest congressional appropriation bill. This LA’s question is fairly detailed, so you pass her on to your legal specialist down the hall.

9:15 a.m.: Your main task for today is to call and email a long list of local activist groups, congressional staff, and reporters, spreading your organization’s message about the harmfulness of the 11th-hour policy change that ended up in the appropriation bill.  You start down the list with the reporters, hoping to get one of them to pick up the story for tomorrow’s paper.

12:00 p.m.: The policy director is going to lunch with someone from one of the foundations that funds your organization, and asks you to come along to discuss the initiatives you’ve been working on lately.  While the energy policy bill is your latest overwhelming concern, this foundation wants to hear about work on the topics it earmarked its funds for:  a recent campaign about municipal waste incineration emission standards, and an ongoing study about nuclear waste disposal alternatives (of which you are to be the primary author).

4:00 p.m.: Fielding and placing calls related to last week's press release has taken up your whole afternoon.  Now you carve out a few hours to work on background research for that nuclear waste study – you have a hefty reading list to get through, including a stack of company annual reports, magazine articles pulled from an online research database, and existing studies by other research organizations.

8:00 p.m.: After a long day, you walk down the street to the neighborhood bar and have a few beers with your friends who work at other nonprofits.  Your college roommate had emailed an invitation to a cocktail hour at a posh new lounge, but you declined in favor of $1 drafts.  Sometimes it bothers you to not be able to keep up with your banker buddies’ lifestyles, but then again, you find your chosen career very fulfilling – while they chat over martinis about the prospect for a next promotion, you will enjoy an animated intellectual debate about the virtues of offshore windpower development.


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