We talk a lot about how to be a great candidate on this blog, but political consultants, campaign managers, volunteers and activists are very important elements of the political process, as well. Without hard-working campaign teams, many talented politicians would never get elected to office in the first place.
That’s why I want to shift focus away from candidates for a moment and give prospective campaign managers and volunteers some advice on how to build a great political campaign resume.
Getting intimately involved in the inner workings of important political campaigns doesn’t take as many years of toiling as you might think. In fact, a job in politics–both as a candidate or a consultant–is a career where you can rise to amazing heights relatively quickly. You only have to look at the political history of some of the most successful elected office holders and consultants to realize that many of them climbed to the top of the pack surprisingly fast.
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take an immense amount of dedication and hard work to succeed as a top-notch political consultant or campaign organizer. But getting started is both fun and can provide diverse professional experience that can help your career regardless of what field you are in.
Most professional campaign managers started out as volunteers in local or statewide political campaigns, where they cut their political teeth by making phone calls, going door-to-door or raising money for their candidates. Political campaigns are always looking for motivated volunteers, and you’ll be surprised at just how many tasks a campaign will let you take on if you prove that you are trustworthy, hard-working and dependable.
To start building a great political campaign resume, start out by approaching the campaign staff of a local campaign and inquiring about becoming a volunteer. Let them know what your talents and affinities are, and what kind of free time you have to work on the campaign.
But don’t just focus on doing the things you are already good at. Ask to take part in campaign tasks that you aren’t familiar with, and watch how things are done. Take note of what seems to work and what doesn’t. Pay attention, listen, help and learn.
Regardless of whether your candidate wins or loses, volunteering on a campaign of any size gives you valuable political experience. The next time you volunteer for a campaign, ask to be put in charge of a more important front, such as fundraising, volunteer recruitment or door-to-door efforts.
You’ll find that it won’t take long before you’re being looked at as a possible campaign manager–although your first experience will probably be for a smaller local campaign, and without being paid. By that time, your political resume should be pretty appealing to larger campaigns that do pay for your time.
Races for your state’s house of representatives, the state senate, county commissioners and even congressional campaigns are all great places to start distributing your campaigning resume for a paid position. While you might not get a high-level job early on, keep in mind that each new position makes your resume more impressive . . . and, perhaps even more importantly, it shows candidates and managers that you can be trusted to do a great job.
Remember to keep track of every task you perform as a volunteer or paid staff member, and always save copies of campaign literature, news clippings and pertinent materials from every election you work on. Before you know it, your political resume will be full of the kind of marketable talents and experience that campaigns love to see.