Four Ways Political Science Prepares You for a Career in Marketing

It’s that time of year when Williams seniors are carving out well-worn footpaths between the library, the office of career counseling and the Purple Pub. The days of balancing senior seminars with 100-days parties, prioritizing the hunt for a post-college job over the hunt for a costume for Saturday night’s theme party. When it was my well-worn Converse high-tops wearing down that footpath, I recall wondering what, if anything, would come from this major that I spent so much time declaring and pursuing. It can be challenging to draw a straight line from a major at a liberal arts college to a cohesive cover letter, and later, a career.

For me, there was no straight line whatsoever. I recall senior spring in Sawyer writing my 45-page paper required for a seminar on International Relations, skimming the boulders otherwise known as political science reading packets on hegemony and thinking through position papers. But really, most of my time in the library was spent socializing. I’d say 25% work time, 75% time spent wandering, chatting, checking PINE for email and getting yet another Diet Coke out of the finicky 3rd floor machine.

The fact that I could both write 45 pages and talk a blue streak should’ve been my first clue that a career in marketing would be a good choice for me. It wasn’t. In fact, it took me four jobs—none of them in marketing—to find my way to one that actually makes use of my major. I recently heard Arianna Huffington, Chief Editor and Founder of the Huffington Post, say that “your life only makes sense looking backwards, never forwards.” I try to remember that when I face-palm my way through wondering what took me so long to figure it out. So for all my fellow political science grads and current students, if any of the below characteristics describe you, you can stop wondering how to put that major to use. A career in marketing might be a perfect fit if:

  1. You love to argue. Most of the work required in political science classes revolves around taking a stance on an issue and convincing others. You’re graded not on if what you are arguing is accurate, but rather how well you make your point. For example, I once got an A on a paper in which I stated—and backed up, with proof points—how France would never become Americanized due to major differences in policy and culture. You can now purchase a Happy Meal and a Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Latte on the Champs-Elysees. Sigh. Marketing, “the art and science of persuasive communication”, according to the CEO of Likeable Media, also involves convincing someone to do something: Read your blog; follow your brand on Instagram; purchase your product. There’s an art and a science to arguing, too…which you learned in PoliSci 101.
  1. You can write…and might even have a degree in BS. Without a high level of dexterity in the art of bull, how else could one cobble together a comprehensive 45-page paper on one political topic that makes sense? If you can write 45 pages on one issue, you can create blogs, emails, ads, social posts, speeches, reports—darn near anything—that tells a story about your brand in a snappy and convincing way.
  1. People compliment you on your creativity and/or imagination. Are you always the one to create your beer pong team name? Do you love a good group brainstorm activity? Could you spend hours in the photography studio? Marketing requires immense creativity—from graphic design concepts to punchy titles—the whole “art” of communicating in a way that will provoke and stimulate.
  1. You like challenging the status quo. I remember with awe the classmates in my American Politics: 1945 Through Today Billed as a lecture, it was anything but—with so much student participation, an idle observer wouldn’t know who the professor actually was. Not only was there tons of conversation, but most of it centered on disagreeing with almost every conclusion that the professor would put forward (see #1, above). Some of the best marketing is challenging the status quo or standard-held beliefs. For example: the Dove marketing campaign for Real Beauty, which uses actual women rather than models to “provoke discussion and encourage debate”. Or Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign, arguing that the sturdy omnipresent business computer wasn’t as great as it told you it was. If you often find yourself rooting for debates over easy decisions, eager to topple what is “normal”, marketing could be a great fit for you.

Sure, it took me a few years, but I love my job and am passionate about marketing. Each day affords me opportunities to experiment with new tactics and evaluate their success. There’s so much happening in marketing, you learn something It sounds crazy, but I really do love my career…and I’m using my BA degree (not the BS one) to make that point.

Amanda (Gramse) Swiatocha ’02 is currently the Executive Director and Head of Marketing and Communications at The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If you are debating whether a career in marketing is right for you, she’d love to help you and can be reached at [email protected].