A career in political campaigns is unique. Few careers offer the opportunity – or require the hassle, depending on your perspective – of finding a new job every November.
I’ve always looked at in as an opportunity, in part because I enjoy a regular change of scenery and in part because, over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to find something new soon after each campaign.
Knowing you’ll be unemployed by the second week in November can be stressful, but there are a few things you can do to throughout the campaign to greatly increase your chances of finding a great job. Campaigns offer the chance to develop a number of skills, and here are a few that I’ve worked on to help find that next gig.
1. Write the campaign press releases.
Public relations, public affairs and communications firms will often give a strong look at a prospect with campaign experience. Writing your campaign’s press releases will help you hone your writing skills. Have someone on the campaign edit them, and save what you write. These firms and many others will ask for a writing sample.
2. Learn to use the voter databases.
If you interview at a communications or public affairs firm, database work is a significant skill to have. Get to know excel inside and out. And get familiar with any other databases mentioned as a preferred skill in job postings of interest.
3. Network, network, network.
I used to joke after five years of working on campaigns that I was on my fifth job and hadn’t interviewed for one yet. Political jobs – more than any other field I’m aware of – are given to people the hiring manager knows. And if you don’t have a direct connection with the hiring manager, you may meet someone who does on the campaign trail.
4. Keep a notebook with you and write down what’s going on in the campaign.
Note projects you work on; if you have a difficult decision to make, journal out your thoughts as you make your decision. Keep notes on the people you meet and the conversation you had with them. It might be awkward to write in a notebook at a fundraiser, so keep a pen with you and jot some notes down on the back of their business card. This will help you fill out your resume after the campaign and give you a few stories to tell in the interview.
5. Find a political “Godfather”. Ask questions. Listen. Really listen.
Any networking book worth its salt will point out that older, successful men and women love to pass on what they know to the younger folks. They’ve made their money, they’ve accomplished a lot, and they want to pass on the wisdom gained from their triumphs and failures. Take advantage of that – but be sincere, people can often tell if you’re talking to them just to climb the ladder.
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