Megan O’Brien graduated from UNT in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts focused in Broadcast Media. She has worked for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. She currently works as a consultant.
Why did you choose to attend UNT and participate in the Honors College?
UNT is actually the only school I applied to! My older sister attended and loved it and it was just the right distance from my hometown (Mesquite) to be not too far and not too close :) - it also was a great value.
What was the most valuable thing you did or lesson you learned in college?
Choosing to get involved was key! Between my sorority (Alpha Phi), student government, the Honors College, study abroad, NT40, and being an orientation leader, I met some incredible people who ran in different circles and exposed me to different perspectives and experiences. My scope of the world was expanded and I have definitely been better off for it!
If you could do college or your first year in the workforce over again, what would you do differently?
I wish I would have slowed down a bit - I graduated early and I should have enjoyed the college experience a bit more...I had a lot of fun, but I shouldn't have taken myself so seriously!! Take a breather! College is just the beginning of your life, enjoy it while you can - ha!
How does your current life compare to what you expected it would look like while you were in school? Was there anything that surprised you about “the real world?”
I was always interested in politics, but I majored in journalism and always thought I would be a reporter or be writing...but being in the real world is all about relationships and taking chances. After graduating, a friend of mine and I were chatting (she already lived in Washington, DC at the time) and she mentioned a job opportunity. I wasn't looking to move to DC, but I took the chance! Nothing was holding me back in Dallas and it seemed like a good time to try something new. I would say, networking and building relationships is more important that I realized back in college. Every one of my jobs has actually come from a friend or colleague's recommendation. Also, be open to new opportunities and take calculated risks...I went into politics and than eventually came back around and now I'm using more of my journalism background after all.
What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?
I am so proud to have worked on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Taking the chance to move to Boston and throw myself in to the thick of the campaign was challenging, but such an awesome opportunity! I didn't know anyone and I ended up making some dear friends and a lot of crazy memories.
How did you get started working in politics? Did you have to do a lot of menial work before working your way up to higher profile positions?
I had UNT friends (Jesse and Diana Davis) who had been in DC for a year or two and worked on the hill...they mentioned in passing a job open in Senator Hutchison's office and i just figured- what the hell, may as well try for it! I think I interviewed on a Thursday and started that Monday! I moved with two suitcases (luckily, the Davises helped me out quite a bit). I was a staff assistant for a year...answering the phones, doing receptionist duties, giving capitol tours, etc. It was tough work!!! I was bumped up to assistant scheduler after that when a spot became available. Honestly, I got in to scheduling just to get out of the front office! But it lead me to be head scheduler for Congressman McCaul and eventually the Romney Campaign and the Bush Center...so it was a lucky move ;). My story is quite common though, you have to work your way up on the hill - internships are the best way to get your foot in the door!
What was it like to work for well-known politicians? Did you feel like you were part of something big or did it feel pretty normal?
It was so exciting! During key votes and elections, you do feel like you're part of something bigger! Walking through the Capitol Rotunda never got old, not after 5 years, and it is still one of my favorite places. You are surrounded my history in DC, especially on The Hill - so it is hard not to feel something. The system is hard and confusing and frustrating, but I walked away with a profound respect for the American experiment...we are all a part of something special and nobody should take it for granted. It is easy to feel removed or that the average citizen doesn't matter...but I spent 5 years watching members of congress meet with and listen to their constituents...your opinion matters, your vote matters!
What made you transition from working for politicians to working at the George W. Bush Presidential Center? What do you like about your current work?
I was looking for something new when I heard the Romney Campaign was hiring...so, for me, it was a no-brainer...if he won, I'd head back to D.C. And if not, I'd have a good reason to transition back to Dallas to be closer to my family. After the election, the Bush Center just happened to be staffing up in preparation for the grand opening and I was connected through Romney's CoS. It was the perfect place for me to land in Dallas! I loved my 4+ years at the Bush Center and have so much love and respect for the important work President & Mrs. Bush continue to do through the Bush Institute - check it out at BushCenter.org! I recently moved to Minerva Consulting, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and PR strategy...I'm so excited for my new adventure!
Do you have any advice for current college students?
Be open and try new things, meet new people! Be brave! Also, be genuine and kind - it is important.