With campaigns, parties and political action committees hiring, here’s how to stand out in the political job hunt.
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This year’s presidential race – along with hundreds of Congressional, state and local contests – will dominate the news until Nov. 6, spurring many young professionals to seek political jobs.
With campaigns, parties and political action committees rapidly hiring staff for primary battles, nominating conventions and the general election, this is an opportunity for recent college graduates. But thousands of resumes are floating around – so how do you make sure you’re the one who lands the job?
Here are some tips to help you stand out in the political job hunt:
Broaden your network – because who you know gets you in the door
Campaign hires are made through established networks. Introduce yourself to every elected official who represents you – your city councilor, mayor, state legislator – and ask for their help in getting a campaign gig.
If you’re affiliated with an identity or issue group – LGBT, ethnic minorities, evangelicals, women, sportsmen, environmentalists, Young Democrats, College Republicans – reach out to leaders in those communities. Tap college alumni networks to identify elected officials and senior political staffers who went to your school.
Get an edge through formal campaign training
Sure, you aced your political science classes in undergrad, but few professors cover the nuts and bolts of campaign management.
Training programs like Camp Wellstone and the Leadership Institute not only teach campaign skills, but they can also expand your network and lead to a job. EMILY’s List’s Campaign Corps even includes job placements as part of its regular program.
Be prepared for the campaign to research you
Make sure your personal brand matches the campaign or political committee’s values.
Don’t waste your time trying to work on a Republican campaign if you’re a registered Democrat. (If you’re not registered to vote at all, immediately run to your local elections board.) If you tweet your staunch anti-choice beliefs, NARAL will throw your resume in the trash, and I doubt Rick Santorum is hiring people whose Facebook profiles call for “legalizing it” – be it marijuana, marriage equality or the Occupy Movement.
Don’t be a prima donna
A competitive campaign requires grueling, 100-hour weeks full of phone calls, door-to-door canvassing, data entry, chauffeuring candidates and clerical tasks.
I have quickly rejected applicants who expressed disdain during interview for “grunt work.” Although paying dues is anathema to us Millennials, demonstrating a strong work ethic and proficiency in basic campaign skills are the only ways to advance in the profession.
Volunteer or intern first
If you’re not able to get a paid campaign job immediately, offer your help as an intern or campaign volunteer. Political organizations create a farm team of good volunteers and interns, and they’re among the first to be called for paid openings.
For example, a college friend who started as an intern for a state political party six years ago is now a media strategist for the White House.
Realize it’s not about you
Many aspiring politicos think they’re as smart as Karl Rove or James Carville, ready to take the limelight and ink an exclusive cable news deal. But don’t get labeled a self-promoter. Show potential employers that your priority is helping the candidate win rather than purely advancing your own career.
The best political workers toil in anonymity. If campaigns were like the music business, Adam Levine would be the candidate and the rest of Maroon 5 would be staff. Fans love the band’s music and appreciate its hard work, but the lead singer gets 99 percent of the media attention.
Like a lead singer, your candidate faces intense public scrutiny and bears the ultimate responsibility for the campaign’s success. Your job is to support him or her as best as you can.
The first of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power is “never outshine the master.” If you start making more news than your candidate, run quickly. Either the campaign’s implosion or your termination letter is imminent.
Derwin Dubose is a public affairs strategist who connects people to policy. Connect with Derwin on Twitter or LinkedIn, and see his work at www.derwindubose.net.