Working on a political campaign can be exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, mind-numbingly tedious, thrilling, and maddening - sometimes simultaneously! However, there is no better way to submerge oneself into the world of politics. Not only is it a groundbreaking entrée into the political environment and life - it's also a fantastic line on any resume, and can be a terrific way to hone skills and gain experience in political jobs and in nearly any other field.
Here's how to find a job on a political campaign:
- Volunteer. A bright, conscientious and hardworking volunteer can find himself on the payroll rather quickly if he is aggressive in seeking opportunities and has the right attitude. Don't be afraid to volunteer to lick stamps, make telephone calls, or to complete any other seemingly easy task. Hard workers are always appreciated, and with some good strategizing and a bit of networking, such volunteer positions just might lead to a paid position down the road.
However, if you choose this route, you must be willing to walk away from a campaign if you secure a paid position in another campaign and your current candidate's team isn't willing to hire you. In other words, if you're going to be a professional political hack, you need to make your career the top priority. You must also be willing to be aggressive in seeking opportunities above the menial tasks usually assigned to volunteers. Don't be reticent in speaking to your volunteer coordinator or team leader; assert yourself and ask point-blank what other opportunities exist; even better, find out on your own and then ask your VC for help getting the job. Political pros appreciate directness and self-initiative.
- Speaking of networking, learn to do it correctly. Networking in politics isn't about handing out your card or working a room. Focus first and foremost on building professional relationships. Don't lead with a "what can you do for me?" attitude. Rather, foster common ground by focusing on what you and your colleagues have in common - your political ideals, your patriotism, your candidate. Seek to be of service first, then you can ask for "AIR" - advice, information, and referrals.
- Make a name for yourself with your political party. Don't expect to walk in the front door of the local party headquarters the day before the primaries and be handed a golden ticket into the front-runner's campaign. Lay the groundwork in the months and years ahead of an election by showing up for bull sessions, precinct organization meetings, convention planning events, and the conventions themselves. Cultivate your reputation as a hard-working savvy political professional, and treat each event as a potential preliminary job interview. Dress appropriately, stay focused, and network effectively.
- Leverage an internship into a paid position. This is primarily applicable to young students and recent graduates, but if your life circumstances permit then an internship can be a solid first step into a more significant position. Internships can teach you basic office skills, public relations essentials, and negotiation tactics, among other things. Plus, once you're within the campaign, you may hear about job opportunities faster than if you weren't already working for them. Trade on those skills to negotiate your way into a paid position. The same rules as for volunteers apply here: work hard, dress for the next step up, do your homework, be aggressive in seeking opportunities, and network well.
- Pay your dues willingly and with a good attitude. Political campaigns have no place or patience for "what's in it for me" types who want to take shortcuts. Whatever tasks you're assigned to cover, do them to the best of your ability and with a positive attitude. You don't have to pretend to be ecstatic about stuffing envelopes, but whatever you do, don't complain. This is a ladder, and you must climb it rung by rung - not by leapfrogging over people in front of you.
- Be prepared, at all times. Keep a current copy of your resume on you at all times. Check websites like Craigslist, Hillwatch, and even Wonkette on a regular basis to stay up to date on who's going where. Invest in good mobile technology so you can keep in touch with your colleagues and members of your network.
- Last, but by no means least, protect your health at all costs. Working on a political campaign can be a 20-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week proposition, and that can take a toll on your health. If you aren't up to the challenge, all your groundwork will be for naught. So be vigilant about proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep habits to the greatest extent possible while you're working.