Making the Most of Campaign Jobs
Campaign jobs are a good place to start your career. When you first start to work on campaigns, everything is new and exciting. For many of us, we didn’t care what kind of grunt work we did; we just wanted to be in the fight. But, if a long-term career in politics interests you, there are some smart steps you can take early on with a campaign job that will help advance your career.
Pick a Campaign Job Track
Think of each department on a campaign as it’s own set of railroad tracks. There is a communications/new media/press track, a field track, a fundraising track and a support track. Switching from track to track will slow down your career, just as it does trains. This kind of thing is true for most careers; campaign jobs are not the only careers where experience matters, obviously. But, for many folks hiring for campaign jobs, experience matters more than almost anything else on your resume.
Internships Can Help
I recommend volunteering and interning (if you can at all afford it) in a couple of different capacities to get a feel for each “track” and what you think you might like to do. That way, when you are eventually hired in a paid capacity, you keep moving up each railroad tie toward advancement.
For example, say you have always wanted to work on a campaign and decide to volunteer to do new media on a citywide campaign in the communications and press shop. It will now be a whole lot easier to get a paying communications and press job on your next campaign. If you wanted to switch to field organizing from communications and press, you would more than likely be an intern, despite your previous campaign experience. Again, this is not rocket science, but laying it out in a thoughtful way is more than many a campaign hack can say for their career.
Short Term Course in a Field
The good news is, once you start to move along the ties in your given track, you can pick up speed quickly. Campaign jobs are great because they are short-term crash courses. You can end up working on a couple campaigns per year, more if your candidate folds before the primary or you move somewhere with a later primary date, and, if you stick with your given track, each new job can advance you one railroad track tie closer to the management or executive level. In other careers, it can take years, if not decades, to reach a senior-level role: I’ve seen savvy campaign people do it in 2 or 3 cycles.
If you are reading this while in high school or college, or even a dead end job that you are hoping to change, see about volunteering a few hours a week on a local campaign. If you like it and are good at it, position yourself at the end of a track and get ready to roll.