In America, it's always an election year: Somewhere right now, someone is running or about to launch a political campaign.
As a citizen, your life will be significantly impacted by these campaigns in many unseen ways -- through bills passed, laws enacted, policies backed or dropped. But as a job-seeker, your wallet could be significantly impacted as well: You could party your way to a job!
For advice on landing a job in one of these campaigns, we spoke with John Philips, CEO of Aristotle Inc., a Washington D.C.-based political consulting firm. Aristotle is non-partisan and deals with campaigns of all sizes and parties. In the last presidential election, the company worked with almost every primary candidate -- including the ultimate winner. Most important, this company is HIRING.
1. How easy is it to join a campaign?
It's very easy. There's room for all types, Phillips says. Some people are passionately committed to the issues they share with the candidate or the party. Others just love the democratic process. But here's a caveat: Remember, politics is built on compromise. If you go into it assuming you're going to support every candidate position, you'll be disappointed. And if you'll only work for candidates who agree with you 100 percent, your job opportunities will be limited. The easiest way to get in the door is to volunteer at first. Show that you're indispensable. And don't think small races such as town council or mayor are easier or less important. Local races also provide good proving grounds for bigger races down the line.
2. Who makes a good campaign worker
Philips says campaigning is a tough business. After a bad day (and there will be bad days) you have to be able to brush it off and move on. Campaigning is like working at a business startup, except there's only a one-day sale: What happens the next day doesn't matter. Individuals need great focus and organization skills. The ability to be brutally honest helps, too. Philips says the most valued campaigning advice is the unvarnished truth.
3. When to jump on the bandwagon
If you're there at the start and stick around to the end, you're likely to reap some benefits. With a presidential campaign it is never too early. (Philips says people are already contemplating runs for 2012.) If you come in the last minute when everyone is jumping on the front-runners' bandwagons, it's much more difficult. Right now is a very good time to join congressional campaigns; the time between now and November is a blink of an eye, Philips says.
4. The bad news
Campaign workers put in very long hours. and there are always disappointments. No one likes to lose -- and in a political race, there's always a loser. It's a very fickle business; there isn't job security, even if your candidate wins. "Campaigns are not where I would go if I were planning for retirement," Philips says.
5. The good news
If you've proven yourself in a campaign win or lose, you'll be able to find a place in an upcoming campaign. Sometimes people follow the person who lost; he or she might win next time. Another option is working for one of the political consulting companies, which are hired by campaigns for advice and technology. Those companies are always working on different campaigns as third parties, so there is a bit more job security. There can be more variety too, as you might be working on more than one campaign at a time.
Don't believe that it's possible? Read one success story of when a political campaign led to a paycheck.
Places to look for a job:
Democrats and Republicans: PoliticalJobs.net