Volunteering for a political campaign can be an exciting experience, especially if you are lucky enough to play a role in a large, energetic campaign that is ultimately victorious on election day. I’ve done political campaign management work for years, and have seen firsthand the enthusiasm and dedication in volunteers who work their hearts out to make sure a candidate wins the race.
After their first election experience, many volunteers and paid workers decide that they want to go into a career in political campaign management work, which is terrific. If you’re the right kind of person for the job, professional political campaign management, fundraising and organizing can be a rewarding career.
But a word of warning to young people thinking of starting a career in politics and election strategy: political campaign management work is not for everyone. While working on a high-profile campaign can be an unforgettable experience, a full-time job in campaigning is stressful, demanding, and often heartbreaking. It often involves a significant amount of travel, and political campaign consultants can frequently find themselves without a job due to the unpredictability of elections and the quirkiness of candidates.
Regardless of how hard you work as a campaign manager or how flawless your political candidate is, the possibility of defeat looms in each campaign. You might do everything right on the campaign trail and have the perfect strategy, but a single event or gaff can derail a campaign quickly. Those derailments can affect your confidence and your reputation in future campaigns, but no consultant is without them; in fact, some of the most famous and successful political consultants in the country have more defeats than victories under their belts.
When it comes to political campaign management work, you often get none of the glory in a victory and all of the blame in defeat. Politics is a business of big egos, and many candidates don’t like to admit that they need the help of a professional campaign consultant. If the campaign is successful, you might find that the candidate thinks he could have won without you; if it is a failure, you might find that he thinks he lost it because of you.
One of the reasons why I ultimately left full-time political campaign work is because of the difficulty it presents to someone who wants to settle down and raise a family. Travel requirements, job insecurity and unpredictable hours all combine to make campaign field work a decidedly difficult career to have if you want to be a dedicated family person. There’s a reason why many key players in successful political campaigns go on to take full-time government positions; it’s much more stable and reliable.
If you still want to become a professional campaign manager or consultant–even in the face of the difficulties–then you may have what it takes to be successful in the political campaigning field. I’m thankful for my experiences on the campaign trail, and I’m sure you’ll look back on yours with appreciation, too. Always be on the lookout, though, for ways to translate your talent in campaign management to a more reliable, stable and lucrative career!