One way to change the world is to work for a group that is changing the world. These organizations need good people, and their success or failure depends upon the people they hire. So recruiting people for those groups can make a big difference. Claire Kittle Dixon, executive director of Talent Market, talks with me about recruitment for the Overton Window podcast. She specializes in finding people to work in free market groups like the Mackinac Center.
Kittle Dixon recommends that more people consider careers in the field. Too often people believe that they need intense political and policy experience in order to be qualified to work in policy advocacy. “I think there’s a preconceived notion that we only accept wonks. But we need all kinds,” Kittle Dixon says.
“Fundraising is the first need, followed by fundraising, and then maybe followed by fundraising after that,” she jokes. “The next biggest need is communications and media.” Around a third of job openings posted at Talent Market are in fundraising and 20% are in communications and media.
Kittle Dixon says that there are many different kinds of jobs in fundraising — it’s not just meeting donors and asking them for money. There are grant-writers, digital fundraisers, donor researchers and more, and these different roles require different skills from people.
These are jobs in institutions that believe in ideas, so the people applying need to believe in what they stand for. “I have interviewed a number of people over the years,” Kittle Dixon says. “Not that many, but enough who have said this like, ‘I’m mostly aligned with this group’s mission but I disagree with this and this. But you know, it’s a job. I’m totally willing to overlook those things.’ And to me that’s just a huge red flag.”
She also helps employers figure out what they want when they’re looking to fill roles.
“It’s helping clients to understand that if they’re not getting what they wanted it probably means that what they wanted is outside of the realm of possibility,” Kittle Dixon says. Talent Market can help organizations answer questions like what kind of person they can get when they’ve got a modest number in the budget.
“They’ll say, ‘We want all this and a bag of chips and we want to pay $50,000.’ And then I’ll say, ‘I wanted to be a super model. But these things don’t always happen the way we want them to,” Kittle Dixon says. “But let’s trade some things off and figure out where we can both be happy.”
There are more organizations and more roles to fill than ever. There used to be only a handful of organizations working on free market issues, and now there are dozens. The groups also do more than research and write about public policy. “There are dozens of litigation centers now popping up in the states but also at the national level,” Kittle Dixon says.
There are also more people interested in working for the groups. “I think I’ll pick on myself. I didn’t think about this as a career. I studied art, by the way. I didn’t know about it ‘til I was probably five years out of school and I was getting upset by what was happening in our country.”
After recruiting for so long, Kittle has placed many people in roles where they scored major victories. “It’s kind of cool when you step back and look at the landscape and see that you’ve placed executives in all of these different organizations,” Kittle Dixon says, “I’m very proud of all this because I know what those organizations are doing every single day.”
“There’s a state-based entity where we have placed every single member of their policy team,” she says, “And every time I talk to their president he’s like, ‘Our policy team is so great and Talent Market helped us hire all of them!’ And I just get so excited.”
“Before I came into this world, my job was not fulfilling. It was just something I did,” Kittle Dixon says, "Now I put my head on the pillow and think, ‘I am helping make the world a freer place.’ You can’t put a price on that.”
“I cannot imagine doing anything else, and I’m so lucky that I do what I do. Every time I hear about someone who’s advanced the ball it just makes me really happy.”
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
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