Imagine a US where everyone votes in local and national elections. Imagine a world where high school graduates work paid fellowships in local government or on a campaign before going to college. Or where all college graduates begin their careers in politics or public service.
Of course it’s hard to imagine this.
Political jobs are, by nature, temporary. They often require long hours. And the pay is usually in the range of free to not great. Scripted television tells us that people who work in politics are crazy smart, talk fast, are usually white, and have degrees from the best colleges around the country. While these stereotypes represent some people in politics, they are by no means representative of the thousands of people who will work in electoral politics this election year.
Political work often gets a bad rap. I, for one, was totally turned off by the idea early in my career. When I think about it, it was really the tv ads and many politicians themselves that did it for me.
That said, political work, especially paid political work, is the ultimate win-win set up for an employee or a campaign and furthermore for the community that a candidate or cause intends to serve.
Political work offers a form of identity and a higher sense of purpose. High school and college graduates seeking their first full-time jobs should look to local organizations or campaigns for ways to get engaged in their communities and actively create the future of the place they call home. Aligning work with passion gives you a reason to get up every day, roll up your sleeves, and do the work. And politics depends on and desperately needs people from local communities to bring their whole selves to work each day. Politics is better and more effective for us all when you share whatever it is that matters to you and your friends right now.
Working in politics can provide a huge stepping stone to a career or opportunities for entrepreneurship. The range of skills needed on even the smallest campaigns range from technology and data to writing and creating videos. Campaigns need people to help online and offline, too. They need all kinds of individuals to organize local events, to help making sure those events run smoothly. They need people to stand at the farmers market and pass out flyers or organize volunteers who will knock on every door on the block. No one person has all of those skills or time to do everything— it takes a team. Political or issue-based campaign work is a great way to connect the dots between what you learned in school and real life practice. It’s also a great way to get some experience and decide what you actually like doing. Or if you’ve been in the workforce for a while or maybe you took a break from working full time, political work is a great way to reconnect with your community and pick up new skills at the same time.
Many campaigns need more resources than they can staff so they outsource different elements of the campaign to freelancers, consultants, or agencies. This is where the opportunity for entrepreneurship comes in. For example, if you spend a 18-months on a small campaign as a digital staffer and learn how to build really great websites, you could spend the next campaign season working for multiple campaigns in your same region doing nothing but websites. Or maybe you are great at organizing people in the moment — you could be a local volunteer organizer that different organizations and groups could call on to help them with their events.
Finally, nothing is more rewarding than building lasting change in your own community. Whether your work changes the conversation around an issue or your work helps elect someone with great ideas, the time you spend on a campaign impacts you and the people around you. Your neighbors. Your family and friends. You will work with your community, for your community, in your community, and you will make life-long friends along the way.
If you’re seeking to find more happiness and fulfillment in your work life, consider a job in politics. If self-driven careerism doesn’t fill you with joy, consider political work. If you want to get up and do something, anything, to make our country better today and tomorrow, politics is a great place to spend that energy. All are welcome and all are needed.