Jillian McGrath ‘17

Title: Economic Policy Advisor

Employer: Third Way

Major: Economics, BA

Minor: Global Poverty


What do you enjoy the most about your position?

My position is great because it seamlessly combines my passion for politics and effective economic policy. I closely follow political debates in DC and write analytical pieces on economic policy, both things I enjoy recreationally and have the privilege to pursue during my formal job. I most enjoy opportunities to cut a dataset in a unique way and create headline-grabbing statistics, with an eye for appealing to national news outlets to move the needle on issues I care about, such as job creation, child care, or food insecurity.

What is a typical day like in your position?

A typical day begins by consuming a LOT of news! My job is very sensitive to political shifts, so developments such as a double Democratic win in the Georgia Senate race will move my priorities considerably. I usually have a few long term, more detailed analytical projects on my plate, and will spend considerable time researching and writing most days. I have scattered meetings with staff on the Hill each week, discussing policy initiative and offering research support as needed.

How did you find your current position?

I found my position through a previous connection I’d established during an undergraduate internship! I worked as an hourly intern before finishing my Master’s in Applied Economics and was able to build positive mentorships, one of which developed into the job I currently have today. You can’t underestimate the benefits that will come from showing up and working hard, even when you’re only organizing binders or stuffing envelopes.

Which undergraduate experiences did you find most helpful in preparing you for your current position?

I found my internships to be the most helpful for career development. I participated in the UMD Federal Semester (currently Federal Fellows) program and interned on Capitol Hill for my Congressman, which was instrumental in kicking off my professional career in the city. I highly recommend students take advantage of their proximity to DC and the wealth of opportunities for undergraduates while they can.

How has your coursework helped you in your current position (i.e. quantitative skills, research techniques, communication skills)?

Quantitative skills are absolutely essential for any economics student wanting to go into professional policy analysis! A familiarity with major government datasets, survey data, and data visualization are a huge comparative advantage for young people looking to join the DC economic policy space. I’m almost certain my familiarity with programs such as Stata, Tableau, and SAS moved the needle in my hiring, and I’d recommend future students spend time building strong quantitative skill while they can.

Any job or internship advice for students seeking a position in your field?

Ask the best professor you’ve had to spend 15 mins proofreading your cover letter! Cover letter writing is an acquired skill and its extremely different than academic paper writing. The only way to get better is to seek feedback and learn from others who have written and read many cover letters during their careers.

I also recommend creating a *professional* Twitter account to follow prominent policy people, reporters, and Hill staff. There are almost daily debates on #EconTwitter concerning issues like the minimum wage or student debt forgiveness, and the Twitter interface allows you to interact and understand the thoughts of very senior thinkers and acclimate yourself to professional economic conversations while still in school.

What piece of advice do you have for students pertaining to being successful during the pandemic?

Spend time browsing the websites from places you’re interested in pursuing and don’t be shy about sending cold emails to younger staff! I’ve fielded many inquisitive emails from undergrads (from around the country!) who are interested in the DC policy space and am happy to jump on a thirty minute call and impart any wisdom I can. Almost everyone who works in DC remembers the grueling nature of the job hunt and wants to make it easier for the next class, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help when you can.