How to Land a Job at The White House

Photo Credit: Daily Signal

Ben Rhodes is Obama’s former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.

For 10 years, Ben was the President’s speech writer on foreign policy. They spent 2-3 hours per day together, which eventually lead Ben to state: “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”

Some of Ben’s career highlights include:

  • Writer of Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech “A New Beginning”
  • Key adviser to Obama during the 2011 Arab Spring
  • Played instrumental role in the conversations that lead to reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba

In the latest episode of Pod Save The World, Ben mentioned that he used free work to position himself early on in his career:

“I never had a real mapped out career plan, and that worked to my advantage. Because the people I know who had a rigid vision of “Here’s how I get from X to Y to Z” tended to box themselves in and not pursue opportunities.

I saw that you can only make a difference around the edges, and that you actually have to get into politics, and you have to get into the fight if you want to change direction on foreign policy.

I was adamant that I wanted to get into that 2008 cycle, and Obama was the one guy I wanted to work for.

I knew Dennis McDonough, I knew Mark Lippert who was the senate foreign policy guy at the time, and I offered to just work for free. And so did a lot of people, but you get to know people that way.

When a speech writing job opened up on the campaign in the spring, I jumped on it.

The lesson is: if you want to work in the White House, don’t have a plan to work in the White House.

Have a plan to follow people that you’re interested in.Then get on a campaign, or get in a congressional office.

People ask me about grad school. Not many people go from a masters in international relations to the White House. They go from a congressional office or a campaign to the White House.”

Full episode below:

Want to read more great “free work” case studies? Click here.

Want to land a job an insanely awesome job like Ben? Click here.

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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Video at Book In A Box. He lives with his wife and daughter in Austin, Texas.

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