2016 Presidential Election: Start Your Career on the Campaign Trail

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Marriner_S._Eccles_Federal_Reserve_Board_BuildingUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that the U.S. is in the midst of a heated election. But that’s not the only political contest happening at the moment. “This year in politics is the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup rolled into one,” said Matt Keelen, a former Republican campaign operative and president of the Keelen Group, a public relations firm in Washington, DC.

If you’re interested in getting your feet wet with a job in politics, now is the time to get involved! Thousands of paid and unpaid opportunities are available, from the Republican and Democratic Presidential races to the House, Senate, governorships and local elections.

Keelen advises political newcomers to start volunteering in a campaign that could quickly lead to a paid job. “It’s a great time to break in as a political operative. There are probably more contested races than there have been in last several years.”

Wondering how to break into a career in politics?

To succeed in the political arena, many would say you have to start from the bottom of the ladder and work your way up, and it can help immensely to know someone on the inside. So use your own network and do anything you can to expand it!

First, figure out where you want to live and what candidate you want to work for, advises Michael Fulton, director of public affairs at the Asher Agency in Washington, DC. Fulton helps job hunters find temporary campaign positions at both Democratic and Republican campaigns.

There’s a long list of job possibilities, he said, from door-to-door canvassers, phone bank coordinators, fundraisers, drivers as well as social media managers. Media outlets, ramping up their political coverage, are looking for temporary employees to fill out their ranks. Pay varies depending where you are working, but it’s usually at least $15 an hour.

Tips for getting a good political job for the next four months:

  • Learn as much as you possibly can about the candidate
  • Figure out if anyone in your network knows the candidate and could possibly put you in touch
  • Find people who work on the campaign and get to know them
  • Volunteer on the campaign and demonstrate your skills and capabilities
  • Apply online to a specific campaign job opportunity

Political skills learned on the campaign trail can be used in many other kinds of work, said Sally Smith, 35, who ran Obama for Teachers and Obama for Educators in New Hampshire during his 2008 campaign. After the election, Smith went on to do international humanitarian work, starting her own firm in 2012.

“I always encourage people to go to campaigns,” Smith said. “You learn so many skills directly and indirectly through field organizing and voter turnout. You have to be able to speak easily about any public policy issue. You have to be your own messenger. You have to be able to think on the spot, and how to say positively, ‘I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.’”

The Internet is the best place to look for campaign job postings. Here are a few places to look:

Job seekers have unlimited access to our online job search tool to locate job opportunities that best meet their needs. Click here and discover the number of opportunities in your area.