Ten or fifteen years ago, when I sat around and thought about what I would do with my life, I never considered directing the technology policy program at Mercatus. It’s not exactly a career track you can get on — not like being a lawyer, a doctor, a professor.
One of the things I loved about Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One is that it is self-consciously anti-track. The book is a distillation of Thiel’s 2012 Stanford course on startups. In the preface, he writes,
“My primary goal in teaching the class was to help my students see beyond the tracks laid down by academic specialties to the broader future that is theirs to create.”
I think he is right. The modern economy provides unprecedented opportunity for people with talent and grit and passion to do unique and interesting things with their lives, not just follow an expected path.
This is great news if you are someone with talent and grit and passion. Average is Over. What you have is valuable. You can do amazing things. We want to work with you, invest in you—maybe even hire you—and unleash you upon the world.
The biggest problem we have is finding you.
There is no technology policy career track, nor would we want there to be one. Frankly, we don’t want someone who needs the comfort and safety of a future that someone else designed for him.
Unfortunately, this also means that there is no defined pool of talented, gritty libertarians who are passionate about technology for Mercatus or our tech policy allies to hire from.
So how are we supposed to find you? We need your help. You need to do two things.
First, get started now.
Just start doing technology policy.
Write about it every day. Say unexpected things; don’t just take a familiar side in a drawn-out debate. Do something new. What is going to be the big tech policy issue two years from now? Write about that. Let your passion show.
The tech policy world is small enough — and new ideas rare enough — that doing this will get you a following in our community.
It also sends a very strong signal come interview time. Anybody can say that they are talented, or gritty, or passionate. You’ll be able to show it.
I literally got hired because of a blog post. There were other helpful inputs, of course — credentials, references, some contract work that turned out well. But what initially got me on Mercatus’s radar screen was a single post.
Second, get in touch.
There is almost no downside to this.
Best case scenario: we create a position for you. No one on our team was hired to fill a vacancy. Instead, we hire people because it’s too good of an opportunity for us to pass up.
Alternatively, maybe we’ll pay you to write a paper or a book.
If for some reason you’re not a great fit for Mercatus, we can connect you with allied groups in tech policy. My discussions with people running other tech policy programs confirms that finding talent is an ever-present problem for them, too.
And at a minimum, we’ll know who you are when we see your work online.
We are serious about winning the battle of ideas over technology, but we can’t do it alone. As technology policy eats the world, the opportunities in our field are going to grow. Let us know if you want to get in on this.
Eli Dourado is a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program. Follow @elidourado on Twitter.