It’s 2024 and you’re watching the messy state of our current politics in the United States and you say to yourself, I want to work THERE. You already have the signs of mental illness needed to work in politics.
But how do you actually make the leap and break into a campaign?
It Starts With Relationships
A successful political career always comes down to relationships. Your network is your most important asset. Campaigns are often the easiest way to break into a set of new relationships.
Even if you want to work on Capitol Hill or in a governor’s mansion or at the White House, your best shot is to work on a campaign.
Just Show Up
Campaigns have a lot of people offering to help out but very few actually follow through and put in the work. The fastest way to set yourself apart – and get a job – is to show up. Get to a campaign event an hour before it starts, say “yes” to the Saturday door knocking shift, or spend some time helping around campaign HQ.
Find a way to offer hands-on help and make life easier for the campaign staff. Don’t wait for an invitation because campaigners are often too busy to reach out.
Everyone dreams of working on the presidential campaign, but the most successful political pros start small, learn the ropes, and work their way up. If you’re brand new and don’t have any political contacts, find a local campaign or county party to reach out to. There’s less competition for these jobs and you’ll actually get more responsibility and experience.
Campaigns run on very lean budgets. If you want to work for one, you may have to volunteer for a while before they have the money to pay you or hire for an open position. But when they do move, they move quickly and it’s usually the person who is top of mind that gets the job.
The campaign you’ve been volunteering for might not lead to a job, but that network will. There are many different paths to working in politics and your campaign job could be with a consulting firm, a state party, or a vendor.
Be Willing To Move
If you want to work on a campaign you’ve got to go where the candidate and the voters are. You may end up in Washington, but for now it’s some county you’ve never heard of yet is somehow pivotal to elections at a national level.
In political campaigns, your network is your resume. Win or lose, the relationships you build on a campaign will determine your future success. Networking is a verb and it means showing up, helping out, and going where you’re needed.