Project Wonderful

Monday, November 24, 2014

What I Wish I Had Known At 30 With Lucinda Guinn

Lucinda Guinn, 34, WOMEN VOTE! Director at EMILY's List

This post came in a few days before my 30th birthday, but there was that whole election thing, and then vacation and then I was sick and now it's now. Still I could not deprive you of the wisdom of the campaign powerhouse that is Lucinda Guinn. Lucinda and I worked together for about two weeks when I first moved to DC, but even from that short time she is someone whose advice and insight I value immensely. Take it away, Lucinda!

1) Tell us a little about your career path.
I was always interested in politics. My dad was the county chair of the local Republican party in the town I was born in (hissss!). In college I started volunteering for the local Democratic Party and they liked me enough to start paying me. I thought, “hey, that’s neat!” So I stuck around for a while. I tried to escape politics once to work in high tech PR (that is really funny for anyone who knows my relationship with technology) and even though it was a great experience I didn’t leave work at the end of the day feeling like I had done anything to make the world a better place. Lofty? Yes. But we all get into this business because we have a strong belief system; we have the save-the-world gene. I’ll never be the type of person who can clock in for a paycheck, and in campaigns you have to be all in.

I moved to DC, realized very quickly that I needed to be on the road and spent the next several years working on campaigns all over the country. I popped back to DC a few times to work in direct mail and issue advocacy, where I learned a ton. Eventually I did 2 stints at the DCCC, once at the independent expenditure and once as the western political director. Most recently I was the Political Director at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and am now the WOMEN VOTE! director at EMILY’s List.

2) What are you most proud of?
Reaching Platinum status on United.

3) What is the best advice you've received?
“Go on the road while you’re young.”

Someone once told me that the only 2 industries where twenty-somethings are able to take on big responsibility are the military and political campaigns. On campaigns you manage staff at a young age, raise and spend big sums of money and encounter all kinds of personalities. The amount of professional and personal growth you can achieve on a campaign is huge.

4) What is the worst advice you've received?
There are all kinds of good and bad advice out there but something to watch out for when job hunting is folks looking to staff up a campaign quickly and push you in a direction you don’t want to go in.
There is a shortage of good finance directors and field operatives out there, so when someone is a good finance director, for example, they often get pigeon-holed into that job and have a hard time getting someone to give them their first opportunity as a manager or as a press secretary.

I think it is important when a cycle ends and when you are looking at your next job in your 20's to think about what you want to do next. Consultants, committees and candidates will often push you into a role that they need to fill instead of taking a step back to think about what would be a good fit for you. If you have the flexibility, don't jump into something just to have a job. Think about what gets you to where you want to go.

5) What lesson are you still trying to learn?
Work/life balance. Has that been everyone’s answer to this question so far? (Editor’s note: yes.)

6) What was the best thing about being in your 20's?
Throwing everything in my car and driving to a new campaign. Living all over the country. 9:30PM happy hour with fellow campaign staffers – after call time obviously. Making life-long friends and inside jokes at 2am while cutting turf. Cutting turf. (Y’all don’t do that anymore. It’s called cutting turf because we actually used to copy then cut pages of a street atlas with a pair of scissors and highlight the turf. How’s that for a throwback?) Trying to explain to my parents what I do for a living. Wait. That still happens.

7) What one thing should I absolutely do before I turn 30?
Spend time nurturing yourself. That can mean a lot of things but find a way to take care of YOUR needs and do it. Stay in touch with friends and family, read non-political books, go to the gym, make that dentist appointment, travel somewhere abroad. I sound like my mother but she is always right.

8) What's the best thing about being 34?
There were times in my 20s when I didn’t know whether the grueling 15-hour days and the time away from friends and family was worth it. I had a lot of anxiety about what came next and doubted myself a little too much. I know now that every job I had from field organizer to campaign manager to western political director helped me grow and learn and I added to a collection of wonderful friends. I can say with confidence that the role I have now will help me grow in to the next step, whatever that may be. I’m not sure I could do that in my 20s. I’ve been lucky, but I’ve also worked hard and learned that screwing up a few times was worth it.

9) What are you looking forward to?
More winning.

10) What else?
Pick an airline and a hotel chain, be loyal and start building points and miles asap. Let points and miles pay for your vacations. If you're gonna be (F)unemployed between campaigns you might as well do it on a beach.