Project Wonderful

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: To Campaign or Not To Campaign?

First of all, I love your blog! I graduated from college a year ago, studying PoliSci, and have had a really comfortable job at a nonprofit for a year. We are going through a merger, which seems like a natural time to leave if I want to, and I have the opportunity to quit and work on a campaign. I really want to explore a career in politics, but I can't decide if I should leave my stable calm lifestyle for the uncertainty of campaigning! How do I choose what to do?!

Not knowing you or the circumstances surrounding your life I say, "Go for it!" There is no better way to know whether you want to do something with your career than to try it and no better time to try working on campaigns than when you are fresh (or practically fresh) out of college. In general, the older you get, the less practical it becomes to drop everything and go work in the field. Especially when you are just starting out, you can get a gig on a campaign for only three or four months, so in that sense the investment is minimal.

There are some things to consider before I recklessly encourage you to take the plunge. Campaigns are physically and mentally taxing. You don't need to be a paragon of fitness or mental healthy by any means, but you do need to be in a place where you can work long hours in a fast-paced, stressful environment. Also, what will you do immediately after? Most campaign families will help you find your next job after the race is over, but that is by no means immediate or guaranteed. If you have nowhere to go (ie friends' couches, parents' house) or will be in crippling debt if you find yourself unemployed for a couple of months, then this might not be the time to make a move.

The tradeoff between stability and excitement is one I've often debated myself, and one that campaign people continue to debate throughout their careers. As you will note every person who written a "What I Wish I Had Known at 30" post thus far notes that their favorite thing about being in their 20's was the adventure and energy of being on campaigns. I will tell you that even my friends who only worked one or two cycles and ultimately decided it wasn't for them don't regret the experience. It is grueling, rewarding, intense, passionate, fulfilling work and I wouldn't trade a second of it. I hope you find the same to be true!

See you in the field?


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