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Rising Stars: Government: From the Outside, In

By Laura Gordon

Eli's undergraduate background in interdisciplinary studies led to his first job at a non-profit organization in public policy. He then became interested in the inner workings of the government which ended up in law school, where he is currently furthering his education on the road to career success.

Name: Eli Richlin
School: Harvard
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Chief of Staff
Company: Staff of New York City Councilman?
First Steps

After graduating in 2001, Eli worked as an Environmental and Clean Energy Advocate for a non-profit organization called the California Public Interest Research Group, and for Environment California.

"It was a great opportunity to gain a lot of responsibility straight out of college: The training program was comprehensive, and I learned a variety of new skills in community organizing, public advocacy, lobbying, research, fundraising, and media relations. The work was hard and the hours long, but the job was definitely rewarding. Working to influence government policy from the outside made me more interested in what goes on from the inside, and this led me to my next job, within the New York City Council."

From Then to Now

Eli's undergraduate experience provided him with an ample intellectual background for a job in government. "My major was an interdisciplinary blend called Social Studies that combined political science, history, philosophy, economics, and sociology, and so helped provide the theoretical underpinnings that led me to desire to do public interest work."

For those who aspire to jobs in the government industry, Eli recommends "an interest in social justice, promoting democracy, and in supporting the public interest," as well as a "demonstrated desire and capacity to do this type of work."

Challenges Faced

"Finding a job with a nonprofit can involve a non-traditional career search: non-profits don't always hire regularly, or engage in campus recruiting. To find work with a non-profit, it pays to be more proactive, and to decide what areas of work interest you directly."

My Experience

Now, as the Chief of Staff for city councilman Eric Gioia, Eli does a variety of different things during his typical day. These include developing and implementing policy agendas, improvement strategies, and service programs for their 180,000 constituents. He also acts as a sort of publicist, generating "positive public coverage of Councilman Gioia's achievements through numerous stories in The New York Times, Post, and Daily News."

He has the exciting responsibility of representing councilman Gioia in meetings with "members of Congress, the State Assembly and Senate, the Mayoral Administration, advocates, lobbyists, and labor and community leaders."

Eli also gets to work on legislation himself. His accomplishments include the "passage of bills to register thousands of high-school students to vote, alleviate child hunger by improving access to food stamps, and increase government accountability and transparency."

Next Steps

After working in the public sector and on community initiatives, Eli wanted "to gain a deeper understanding of how to evaluate and work with the law." He says that all of his "practical experience working to change and impact the law over the past five years made my desire to attend law school more compelling." He is currently attending law school in New York City.

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