The word “networking” may make you cringe, but it’s something everyone needs in order to grow and advance in campaigns. The broader your network, the more opportunities you’ll create for yourself. So-called ‘weak ties’ are often more valuable in business opportunities than close friends.
Another benefit of having a robust professional network is that, in politics, a strong reputation builds credibility. When you move on to your next campaign, if someone that you’ve worked with says good things about you and vouches for your competence, it will make tough conversations about budget and strategy easier.
Here are some ways to build your own political professional network.
Connect on LinkedIn
Connect with everyone you interacted with on the campaign via LinkedIn, including your fellow staff, consultants, vendors, and supporters. You never know when one of these ‘weak ties’ could result in an opportunity or help you make an introduction.
LinkedIn is an especially valuable tool in politics where people are transient, always moving from job to job and state to state. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because important contact info was lost when your campaign email account closed or you only have someone’s campaign email address.
Develop a Narrative
Identify a key insight that you learned from your personal experience on the campaign and create a story around it. Think of it as your personal stump speech for when you’re talking about the campaign. Win or lose, political professionals know there’s always something to be learned from a campaign.
Being thoughtful about lessons learned will help you stand out in your conversations with your new network connections.
Meet with Consultants and Vendors
Schedule meetings or phone calls with every consultant and vendor that worked with your campaign. These are political professionals who have been in the business for many years and have built their own extensive network. They’re going to continue to work on campaigns and will be eager to help you with future opportunities.
Don’t be afraid of reaching out. Years ago, they were where you are now and someone took the time to help them. They’ll pay it forward. Share your campaign narrative with them. Also use the opportunity to explain exactly what you did on the campaign, what your skills are, and where you’d like to go next.
They may not have something for you now, but when an opportunity presents itself they’ll want to know your capabilities before recommending you.
Meet With Party and PAC Staff
Now’s also a good time to meet with staff from the state party, party committees, and PACs. Not only are they valuable additions to your network, but they’ll be able to offer good feedback from a different perspective.
They’ll let you know what they think the campaign did well or not so well. On future campaigns, you’ll always have outside groups supporting you so these insights are invaluable.
Reach Out to Your Counterpart
After a hard-fought campaign, it’s tough to reach out to your counterpart on the other side, especially if your candidate lost, but you’ll be glad you did it. My professional relationships with Democrats have been very valuable.
Their perspective is unique and helps escape the groupthink that often circulates within one party. You’ll be surprised at how much you have in common and realize the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Make a Plan for Keeping In Touch
Effective networks aren’t merely transactional. Your goal should be to add at least as much value to your network as you extract. Don’t be the person who just checks in with someone when you need something from them. Staying top of mind is the best way to tap into your ‘weak ties’ because you never know when an opportunity arises or someone in your network hears of a job opening up.
An easy way to keep in touch is to create calendar reminders for getting in touch with specific people. You can also organize happy hours or write newsletters as ways to maintain contact and grow your network.
In between celebrating and catching up on all of those things you said you were going to do after the election, take time to work on developing your professional network. It’s an investment that will compound in value over time.