So you lost that critical primary. Your campaign, which fought hard, came up short and now you’re unemployed.
Plenty of operatives will find themselves in this position over the course of the cycle. But be assured, this is a reality for the best of us who choose to make campaigns a profession. Here are a few ways to keep the paychecks coming in and keep you in the game this cycle even once your campaign gets knocked out.
1. Join the rival team.
Your campaign lost a hard-fought primary and you’re now looking for options. Have you thought about approaching the rival team? Every year there are a handful of campaigns that rise to the level of vitriol that would exclude a member of the rival team being accepted with open arms, but this level of competition within the primaries is rare.
Don’t fear this option. They’ll appreciate your strategic knowledge of the race, donors and volunteers – and you’ll appreciate the paycheck. But before you take this step, pay respect to those who you’ve been working with on your effort that came up short. Discuss the option of joining the rival team with your candidate, consultants and management team.
Have a transparent discussion about what’s proprietary to the candidate and campaign that suffered the loss, and honor this agreement. Taking this extra step will ensure that you retain the respect you’ve worked to build during the primary and that you’re clear about the items you can or cannot discuss with your new team members.
2. Look to down-ballot options.
Have you considered joining the campaign of a down-ballot contest? Moving down on the ballot allows for you to capitalize on your knowledge of the area, and for the campaign to acquire a talented staff member.
A move down the ballot might not be the payday you’re expecting, but what you don’t collect in your paycheck should be offset with greater responsibilities within the team. Joining a down-ballot contest also carries the advantage of not fully disrupting your personal life by accepting an opportunity that would require a physical move.
3. On to Washington?
Are you interested in calling D.C. your home? Then consider taking a temporary position with any number of potential employers in the District. Consulting firms will be looking for temporary staff to provide the kind of day-to-day client services that are needed leading up to Election Day.
Special interest groups will be seeking short-term staff who’re politically astute. You should consider a temporary position in Washington if you’re interested in making the capital your home. But you should also know short-term positions leading up to Election Day are no cakewalk. Expect to work long hours that rival the intensity of the campaign trail and know the job is a temporary solution.
4. Take a special interest gig.
Did your primary race take place in a particularly competitive district or state, possibly one that will have an impact on the presidential race? If yes, you should consider reaching out to the special interest groups that are looking to have an impact moving into the next phase of the campaign.
Special interest groups are increasingly seeking opportunities on the ground to influence local races. Labor organizations building field capacity, Super PACs seeking the opportunity to add to the day-to-day narrative of the race, or issue-based IEs seeking donors in support of a specific candidate are all becoming more driven by localized strategies. More importantly, they’re all potential employers.
Campaigns make for exciting workplaces that are mission driven and goal oriented, but they lack the stability that most who work outside of politics are willing to concede to advance their career. Unfortunately, more often than not you’re going to find yourself on the losing end of an election — sometimes long before November.
Take the time to consider concessions in lifestyle you’re willing to make to pursue your professional career, and move forward. And know the best of us who call campaigns a profession have been in your same situation.
JR Starrett is the national advocacy director for Common Sense Media, and a veteran campaign operative. Follow JR on twitter @JustinRyanS