Political campaigns are an excellent way to get your foot in the door for a career in public policy and public relations. Throughout college and early in my career, I worked on several political campaigns, gaining experience and skills I use every day here at LS2group.
However, political campaigns can be a challenging prospect. Going into the situation with clear goals and expectations is crucially important. So here are five tips before taking that first campaign job.
Make And Keep Your Connections
One of, if not the most important aspect of a campaign internship or job is making (and keeping) connections. The people you work for and with on the campaign will be immensely important contacts moving forward in your career. They will not only be your references for future application processes, but these connections will often reach out to you when they hear of opportunities that may fit you. And more importantly, some of my best friends have been made on campaigns. The bonds you make on a campaign are unique and something you should definitely seek and maintain.
Select Your Races Carefully
No two campaigns are the same and not all campaigns are good opportunities or the right fit for you. When you’re considering applying for a campaign do your homework. Research both the candidate and the internal workings of the campaign. Ask yourself, are you particularly passionate about the candidate or their platform? Are they building a campaign that will fit your career or personal timeline? And are they offering opportunities that interest you? Being selective when choosing a campaign is ok. The more you’re invested in the campaign, and the better fit the campaign is, the better the experience it will be for everyone.
Save Up For After Election Day
If, like a lot of people, the campaign is your first job after college, remember all campaigns end, often quicker than you anticipate. Knowing that, save up for the forthcoming end and temporary unemployment after Election Day. You may get lucky. The candidate or the campaign’s senior staff may really like the work you’ve done and might offer you a permanent staff job (if they win of course). However, you may often find yourself left with great work experience, and (hopefully) the satisfaction of a job well done. So be realistic and save.
Get Experience in Different Campaign Departments and Skills
Campaign jobs for entry level staff generally are in the campaign’s field department. Field means the grassroots organizing that good campaigns are built on. These jobs do mean a lot of phone calls and door knocking. This is okay and can even be fun. I loved my time working in field, but I also focused on gaining different campaign skills beyond field work. Do some donor research and help organize a fundraiser for the finance department. Draft a press release or staff a radio interview for the communications team. Even try to staff the candidate at a local committee meeting. Find a wide variety of different skills to develop while on the campaign. These skills will definitely help when you begin building your career and applying to jobs, whether on other campaigns, a public affairs firm like LS2group, or any other opportunity that may present itself.
Take Time For Yourself
Finally, take time for yourself. Cook dinner when you can. Go see a movie. Do something fun that is not related to work. Your days are busy, and fast food for every meal, little sleep, and weekend events take their toll after a while. Find time to practice self care, even if it is as simple as setting aside an hour before bed for free-reading.
Working on a campaign can be stressful and is certainly hard work. That said, the experience and connections that can be made on a campaign are unparalleled. The lessons I’ve learned in my various campaign jobs have ultimately proven rewarding, and given me experience I can use each and every day in my work at LS2group.