A unique opportunity to do analytical work in state government

The policy bandwidth of the Research Services unit is one of the widest of any in Washington state government, so staff has an unusual opportunity to avoid getting pigeon-holed into a narrow subject area.

By the same token, we engage in a broad range of applied research, grant development, and program evaluation methodologies. Indeed, the unit is small enough that operations staff can also engage in research. We attract relentlessly curious “renaissance people.”

Research Services is primarily organized around ad hoc, cross-functional project teams. Younger staff are given unparalleled opportunities to develop their leadership skills with the support of more experienced staff who place a strong emphasis on mentoring.

The unit culture is more in keeping with a think tank than a typical bureaucracy. Continued funding for most of our staff is contingent upon the satisfaction of existing clients and the cultivation of new ones. High performance is thus paramount. In exchange, staff enjoy a flexible and creative work environment.

The experience gained at Research Services can be an invaluable stepping stone to higher-level research, program evaluation, or policy analysis positions in state and local government.

Types of jobs and internships

Research Services is run similar to a consulting shop. Although we manage a number of ongoing programs, a major portion of our funding comes from fee-based contracts. This has resulted in an “accordion” staffing structure that consists of a core group of permanent staff who manage a fluctuating number of shorter-term staff, consultants, interns, and work/study students.

Core staff

These positions may require a varying range of skills, but ideal candidates possess strong research, writing, and project-management experience. Specialized technical skills – such as in GIS, database programming, or performance measurement – can be helpful but are not required in all positions. Core staff will typically juggle a variety of small and large assignments in ad hoc work teams. This is why strong interpersonal and organizational skills are as important as research skills.

Staff are sometimes hired for their expertise in specific subject areas, but the unit’s policy bandwidth is so broad that what usually most matters is a candidate’s zest for interdisciplinary learning. Knowledge of research and program evaluation methods varies with the position, but higher-level positions typically require a master’s degree or equivalent professional experience. Some statistical methods background can be helpful but analytical precision is more central to our overall book of business.

During legislative sessions, most staff assists in producing local government fiscal notes, so an affinity for fiscal analysis and legislative process is a definite plus. Experience is also helpful in grant writing, client relations, and a policy-savvy approach to developing research proposals.

Shorter-term staff and consultants

We use a variety of means to meet our shorter-term staffing needs, including project or non-permanent positions or by contracting with consultants. Tasks range from highly specialized skills to entry-level research assistance. Core staff often starts out in shorter-term positions.

Interns and work/study positions

Aside from legislative session positions with the Local Government Fiscal Note Program, paid and unpaid internships are typically opened up on a just-in-time basis. Work/study positions require a financial aid commitment from a college or university.

Does this sound intriguing?

We are always looking for talent even if we don’t have any posted openings. That’s because sometimes we need assistance on short notice. Let us know you’re out there!

Please send via email a cover letter, state application, and two or three relevant writing samples to Research Services Manager Alice Zillah, at alice.zillah@commerce.wa.gov. Informational interviews are strongly encouraged; email is the best way to make an initial query.