How to Get on a Political Campaign
When I told a girlfriend of mine that I was going to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign she said to me, “Jessica, campaigns are like camping and you’re like the Ritz.” Needless to say, beyond being a little embarrassed she thought I was such a snob, I had heard the horror stories and recognized that political campaigns can be a super tough slog. But I knew in my heart it would be well worth the discomfort, and it was.
It wasn’t my first rodeo in terms of campaigning. I was inspired to do the work I do by first working on a campaign when I was in college. I worked for an Assemblywoman from California. It was a thrilling experience and even though I was just a volunteer, I possessed a lot of responsibility. Working on a campaign uses a multitude of skills and develops them at a rapid pace. I did everything from persuading voters to support my candidate, to event planning for a huge fundraiser, from scheduling my candidate’s massive calendar, to dealing with very challenging personalities and negotiating a resolution. It was quite an experience for a young woman in college, and gave me a great leg up even before I stepped foot into the working world.
Since then I have been fortunate to consult thousands of races and have seen a wide range of campaigns in action. I have come to realize some simple tips that will help you move forward with the rewarding and absolutely brilliant decision to volunteer or work on a political campaign. Here are some suggestions to find your way to a great campaign.
- Work for a candidate that inspires you – Start by researching candidates out there. Go online and visit websites like Politics1 or Politico to find a list of races. Then start honing in on websites for candidates or articles and read up on them. Look for candidates that share your political ideology and focus on policy issues you care about. If you’re inspired to help more women become elected, work for a woman candidate. Working those long hours will be worth it when you feel that you are sacrificing sleep for a person who you believe in.
- Start with a lower level race – As I mentioned earlier, working on a campaign can give you a lot of responsibility at a young age or as a volunteer. This is increased by working on a local or state level race that typically does not have as many resources as a congressional or statewide race. These races rely almost exclusively on volunteers so your activities will be substantive.
- Staff or volunteer – You don’t need to be a full-time campaign staffer to have a great campaign experience and reap the benefits of working on a political campaign. Volunteering after work or on the weekends can be great introduction. Often times, this is the entry point to be hired onto a race. If you want to work for a campaign full-time, realize that the pay isn’t typically great, but often supporters will give free housing to campaign workers. This cuts down on costs a lot and allows you to live comfortably on a smaller salary.
- Be proactive – Campaign managers and candidates are juggling a lot of balls in the air. When you get on the campaign be aware of your surroundings and try and be proactive to help out the team. Being proactive and assertive will go a long way to be noticed by the candidate and campaign manager.
- Do it when you’re young! Campaigns are not the most glamorous of professions, but when you are young, who cares! You don’t have a family or a mortgage, so get to it. You only live once and hopping around couches and supporter housing can teach you life lessons you will always remember.
- There is an end date – Campaigns end on Election Day! While this may seem scary in terms of your next professional step, it is nice to know that there is a clear time-frame to achieve the goal. Mentally, there is a finish line. If your candidate is successful you may get a job working for them as an elected official. Even if you don’t, your experience on the campaign will help you develop a network of individuals you’ll always have a bond with and cultivate a skill set that will help you no matter what you do in life. So campaign it up this election year!
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