Seven experts in the political field offered their knowledge and experience to DePaul students in an event called “A Life in Politics,” hosted by the career center Thursday.
The event was part of a week-long set of activities called “Life After LPC” to help students with their careers after university. The panelists’ political experience ranged from a campaign field-worker, political fundraisers, a press secretary, to a former Illinois State Senator.
DePaul professor Zachary Cook led discussion by posing several questions to the panel, and then every panelist had a turn to answer.
The panelists first discussed what they thought were the most engaging aspects of politics. They had different answers, from enjoying the fast-paced campaign trail to the teamwork involved in electing an official.
“The most rewarding part of politics is being part of the change in the world,” Eleni Demertzis, a press secretary in the U.S. Senate, said.
“You’ll work 30 hours a day and they won’t pay you, and you’ll say thank you can I have another,” David Rosen, who was finance director for Hilary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign and a DePaul alumnus, said.
The panelists then discussed skills they thought most necessary for a career in politics. They all agreed that students must be willing to work hard and oftentimes for no pay.
Philip Molfese, president of Grainger Terry and DePaul graduate, recalled in his youth he once followed a politician around and did menial tasks, often for no pay. Eventually a student could obtain a better job by proving your worth.
“If she asked me to go get laundry, ‘yes, I’d be happy to get your laundry’,” Molfese said.
Demertzis concentrated on the attitude she thought one must have. “You need thick skin,” she said. “You can’t take things personally.”
Students also had a chance to ask their own questions. One asked how the panelists avoided making career-threatening mistakes.
“Don’t blindly follow orders unless you understand the legal aspect,” Molfese said. “You don’t want to put yourself in a position of risk.”
Demertzis said that her mentality “is to trust nobody.”
Politics has been known to contain shadier elements, especially in Chicago. The panelists discussed this aspect in light of social media, where it is increasingly easier to find information about politicians and their staffers.
“Things you post on social media can hit you in the back,” Caroline Kwan, a political fundraising consultant and theatre major, said. “Be careful, because they can hurt your current job or future job.”
The panelists who were DePaul alumnus said that the university had been very useful in furthering their political career.
Casey Clemmons, Deputy Field Director for Chicago for Rahm Emanuel and DePaul alumni, advocated that in order to increase their network of contacts, students should utilize their professors, the career center, and DePaul alumni.
Rosen went straight to the chase: “DePaul is the only reason I have a career.”
After the hour-long panel session finished, students had the opportunity to meet individually with the panelists.
“Hearing tips about networking was the most important part because I’m really new to the whole politics field,” Catalina Datton, a DePaul political science student, said.
Hugo Gonzalez, another DePaul political science student, said that “it was really interesting to hear from some in the non-profit field how networking works for them, what they look for, and how they hire interns.”
“You need to talk with your professors because they might know somebody,” Edith Carrasco, a DePaul political science student, said. “Since I’m going to be graduating this summer, it will be something that I’ll need to use to get a job.”