Out of the Box Advice: The Value of Campaign Work
An exciting way to begin a career in politics and public policy is to work on a political campaign. Here are a few ways to do so:
– Contact a county party: When I first moved to DC I desired to land a job in Congress. In order to make myself a viable candidate for Congressional jobs I was advised by people on the Hill to get some additional campaign experience. As a result of these conversations I received some sage advice from a man who told me to contact a local GOP headquarters about working on campaigns. County parties are a great source for ways to volunteer; and participate in the democratic process. They are always looking for new recruits, and are glad to help connect you.
– Reach out to the Campaign directly: Most campaigns have websites that make it possible for you to volunteer. You can fill out the volunteering information form, or you can contact them via email. I worked on a State Senate campaign in Virginia by simply looking at a website and hearing the candidate make a personal appeal asking for volunteers. The candidate later asked me how I came to her campaign. I told her that I saw her video asking for volunteers, and simply responded to her request. Working on her campaign was one of the best decisions I made, and value the experience gained from it.
– Apply for a Paid Position with a Campaign: I did this for the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012. While I wasn’t able to land the job that didn’t stop me from finding ways to be useful. I worked as an unpaid volunteer by going to the Arlington, VA office and speaking with the office staff about still helping out. They encouraged me to volunteer with the field operations staff by canvassing the neighborhoods. I was able to add value to their operations by making notes that led to updating voter rolls. With an umbrella organization tied to the Romney Campaign (Politicos for Romney/Ryan), I worked on deployments to two states-in my home state of Ohio and New York- with the District of Columbia Young Republicans. I knocked on thousands of doors, phone banked, and dropped literature. Paid positions will be available over the course of the election, and it is ideal to send a resume early in the campaign, and be patient. They will contact you.
There are three advantages to having campaign experience. One, you learn the value of working in a team environment. Two, individual candidates and campaign staff will need people to take on tasks that may be beyond everyone’s current experience level – thus giving you an opportunity to build new, marketable skills. Three, you will meet people that may help you in searching for work after the election ends. It is vital that you give effort, and gain the trust of your Field Director, Campaign Manager, and the candidate (if you are on a smaller race). If you are a hard worker, and want to do more and learn more about how a campaign works, these individuals will give you opportunities. I can say that working on four campaigns made me value the work of seasoned operatives, and made me a better person.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said that the only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything. If you are not active in doing something, you will never learn what it’s like to live and learn. Working on campaign is a great example of living and learning. One of the principal responsibilities of living in our society is the obligation to vote, and be a participant in the life of our nation. Now more than ever our political system is in need of people to be engaged, and make a difference. I encourage you to be an engaged individual.
The 2016 Presidential Campaign is around the corner. Join a campaign and bring home a victory!
Serge Thomas is a nonprofit and political professional living in Silver Spring, MD. He worked on the Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Campaign and on state legislative races in two states at the grassroots level.