How to Find a Political Campaign Job
Land a Political Campaign Job with Our 12 Tips
When I started on the campaign trail, I was lucky enough to go through the Campaign Management Institute, where I became focused on grassroots political campaigns and met mentors through college programs and internships. Meeting folks who had made careers out of political campaigns, advocacy and public affairs, encouraged me to go on the road, pursue a career in politics and find a political campaign job and become a campaign staffer.
We know how tough it can be to land a political campaign job—especially your first. With so many newly minted undergraduate, graduate, and even law school grads hunting for jobs in the same market, it can sometimes be an overwhelming and discouraging undertaking. But in the end, all your efforts will be worth it. Campaign jobs are out there. Whether you want to be a Campaign Manager, Political Fundraiser, Field Organizer or Campaign Staffer, our tips can help you get there. Sooner or later, most successful campaigns will need to hire a full team and even a political consulting firm, and you just have to make sure you get your name out there for consideration. Here are the 12 tips that I learned in my journey to landing a political campaign job, and how you can use them to do the same.
1. Build and use your network: The best piece of advice that I received when trying to find my first political campaign job was to network, network, network. If you are a college student, this may mean joining and networking within your university’s College Democrats club or forming relationships with professors in the political science department. If you’re out of college, this may mean joining your town’s Democratic club or volunteering for a local candidate. Whatever way you choose to network, know that your purpose is not just to meet people, but to cultivate a relationship with people in the political arena who may have –or can introduce you to people – with a certain level of power in local politics. Every year, most campaigns are desperate for cheap, young campaign staff who are willing to work long hours for low wages. Once you get involved and demonstrate that you are hungry for work and hard-working, it won’t be long before a political campaign job opportunity presents itself.
During my senior year of college, I conducted an independent study and my research evolved into an FEC complaint. It was through that project that I met the incredible journeyman researcher, Peter Lindstrom. Despite pleadings from relatives on "getting a real job," I knew all I wanted was to work in politics. Peter Lindstrom connected me to Jim Jontz, who in turn, hired me on as a Field Representative. I had found my first political campaign job, survived on $1,100 dollars a month and made use of any free food brought by campaign volunteers. Suffice it to say, I was hooked on campaigning and determined to stick with it.
If you want to enter the field, and you're smart and driven, you should be able to find yourself a position. To be clear, it will likely take some time, and your first political campaign job might not be the exact position that you wanted. You will probably be required to travel, eat bad food, sleep in a house with way too many people, and likely work in an office that should have been condemned long before you arrived (and will be condemned after you leave). Sound like fun? Then get on the road!
2. Intern prior to graduating: If you are in college – many of my colleagues and myself included, participated in paid and unpaid intern programs prior to graduation. Don’t be discouraged if you need to find a good-paying intern program. They are out there. Some are competitive but apply early and be consistent. They are great sources of leads for jobs on campaigns.
3. Use your existing network: Friends, Facebook or otherwise, can be a great resource for you when looking for a job. There will likely be someone in your network who has either worked on, or even volunteered for a campaign, and who may be able to offer you advice and direction.
4. Expand your network: Again, friends via Facebook or otherwise, can be great resources for you when looking for a job. There will likely be someone in your network who has either worked on, or even volunteered for a campaign, and who may be able to offer you advice and direction. Just ask!
5. Follow up: If you really want to work in politics, you need to show some moxie. There are plenty of people and resources out there that can help get you started, but ultimately you have to stick with it and not be deterred when you don’t encounter instant results.
6. Email consulting firms: Part of our mission, here at The Campaign Workshop, is to train and place progressives looking to go out on the campaign trail. There are never any guarantees in the political world, but you can begin your political campaign job search here by sending us your resume! Have other questions about finding a political campaign job? Ask us!
7. Start out volunteering: If you can’t seem to land a job on a political campaign, a good place to start is by volunteering for a political campaign. Not only will this help expand your network and meet people who can connect you to paid positions in the future, but it will also look good on your resume. Political campaigns want to hire people who have proven they are committed to the cause of getting Democrats elected and who are willing to work hard.
8. Look at job boards and sign up for listservs: Although networking and volunteering can get you many opportunities, most people you make connections with are not going to job hunt for you. If they hear of an opportunity, they may send it to you, but most interviews and job opportunities will come from religiously checking job boards and keeping your ear and eyes open for new opportunities. Be prepared. Have your cover letter, references, and resume ready to send. Somewhere among the countless pieces of advice I received for finding a job, one little comment stuck with me: You want to be one of the first people to send in their application so that there is a bigger chance the employer will look at your resume. Would you rather be the first person to apply or the 250th?
Some great job boards and listservs for political jobs in DC include the following, but please go here for our complete list:
- Tom Manatos
- Traverse Jobs
- Jobs That Are Left
- GAIN POWER
- Senate Employment Bulletin
- Simply Hired
- Political Job Hunt
- Progressive Exchange
- Work for Progress
- House Vacancy Announcements
You can also register your resume with the U.S. House and Senate Placement Service.
9. Contact existing organizations: Below is a list of organizations that are consistently looking for campaign staff during the election cycle:
10. Explore campaign placement programs: Back in the day, Campaign Corps and Participation 200 paid folks to go into the field. Hopefully, these types of programs will come back into fashion. Check this one out: https://www.blueleadership.com/
11. Attend a campaign training program: Another way to expand your network while also building the skills to work on a political campaign is to attend campaign training programs. We have already written a lot about this, but there really are a lot of opportunities out there that can train you well for little to no money before placing you on a campaign.
Some organizations that offer campaign staff and management training opportunities include:
12. Be persistent: More than anything, the best thing that you can do when looking to land a political campaign job is to be persistent. For one, this will demonstrate your tenacity. But more importantly, it will make sure you are not forgotten by those you network with or by hiring managers reviewing your applications. The world of political campaigning is very hectic, and even if a campaign is very interested in hiring you, actually going through the hiring process is almost certainly at the bottom of their list. Don’t give up after an unanswered email. Be persistent—it will pay off.
If you get contacted to run a race or operate in a higher capacity on a race in another part of the country, take it. You can always come back after the cycle and try again. I did this twice and many of my friends did as well. There will always be political jobs in DC, so don't be afraid to explore other options early on in your career.
Have more questions about how to land your first, or next, political campaign job? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line. Check out our complete list of job boards here.
DC Political Job