Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Ask An Election Nerd: How Does One Get An Entry Level Campaign Job Outside The Field Department?
Hello! You've posted some good posts about finding jobs and how you got started on campaigns working as an organizer. Do you have an advice for an upcoming college grad who's interested in working on campaigns but simply LOATHES the prospect of doing field work? It seems to be the only entry level job I hear campaign operatives talk about but having volunteered for campaigns in the past I know its not something I'm interested in doing full time...
Thanks for your question! After recovering from my initial knee-jerk reaction to anyone who refuses to work in field, I got to bounce your question off a couple of coworkers, one of whom started in field and then went on to manage and one of whom started and continues to work in finance.
The consensus among the three of us is that first you should consider why you "loathe" working in field. Common complaints about field include the long hours, the stress, the abuse you take from local stakeholders and the awkwardness of making cold calls. If these are your objections to field work, then campaigns in general are probably not for you. Finance, which is probably the second most available entry level campaign position, includes all of these drawbacks in spades. Also, as a junior staffer when the campaign approaches GOTV you will more than likely get absorbed into field. So keep that in mind.
Now, field positions are the most available at the entry level because there are the more of them. Even a large statewide campaign could have 100 field organizers but would be lucky to have even 5 finance assistants. If you are interested in working in a non-field department (which, by the way, might include research, finance, communications, operations and scheduling) your best bet is to apply to jobs early and before they are advertised. One coworker brought up the great point that when you see a posting for a Comms or Finance Director you should send your resume and let them know you are interested when they get around to hiring entry level positions in that department. That way when that director is hired and needs a staff, your resume is the first in the pile. You might also contact a campaign soon after a candidate announces and let them know you are interested when they start staffing up. Campaigns tend to have openings very suddenly (ie. when they get the money) and fill them very quickly. Letting your interest be known in a way that acknowledges that you understand that reality by being available but not pushy will work in your favor.
I would encourage you to seek out informational interviews with people who have worked in your department of interest. First, they will be able to give you an idea of what the day to day of an entry level job entails and whether it would be a good fit for you. Second, they will likely have networks in those specific areas of campaigns and be able to push your resume or let you know when their former colleagues are hiring. Note, I suggest contacting people who took the cycle off or now work at PACs, government offices or non-profits, since those currently on campaigns may not have the bandwidth to help network on your behalf.
Finally, if you are a Democrat and want to work in finance check out EMILYs List. They have a fantastic reputation for their finance trainings and also for placing staff on the ground afterward.
Best of Luck!
(Expect an upcoming post on why field is great.)
Campaign Love and Mine,