If you’re finally ready to make the leap into the campaign world, the fall is a great time to start. Countless campaigns will be in need of volunteers ahead of November so it’s not too late to get some 2014 experience on your resume. And being a part of a campaign’s GOTV efforts can be an incredibly rewarding and informative experience.
GOTV is the culmination of months of outreach and persuasion by the candidate and the campaign. It involves contacting and re-contacting the people identified as supporters by the campaign’s data and targeting team, and the field team.
A combination of calling, door knocking, and monitoring of polling locations helps the campaign gauge and track the eventual outcome of the election. The process takes a lot of manpower and campaigns are all too happy to have more hands on deck during that time.
How to find a campaign
If you’re not familiar with current races happening in your area, you can easily find out who’s running and for what by checking your state’s Board of Elections website. Once you find a campaign you want to support, you can find out how to volunteer by visiting the website.
Once you have contacted the campaign and agreed to volunteer, take a tip from the world of improv – say yes. Be open to different tasks and responsibilities. Take advantage of the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. What do you have to lose? If you don’t excel, there are plenty of other roles to fill. For example, if you are asked to go door-to-door but you don’t feel comfortable, try shadowing a seasoned volunteer or campaign staffer.
Whatever role you land in, take note of the other pieces of campaign machinery – how does the data and targeting team’s work influence the field plan? How do communication and finance teams work together? And take note of what you do like or don’t like doing. What’s the most fun and what training or additional experience do you need to land a paid position in the future?
Once the race is over, it’s the time to translate the on-the-campaign skills to your resume and look for positions for which you’re qualified. Below are a few ways to translate your current skills, values, and interests into a career in politics.
If you have strong writing skills and are able to communicate effectively, there are a number of opportunities that value and utilize this skill. Communications is a key part of any campaign, be it electoral or issue advocacy. The ability to tell the story effectively, conveying both the important facts as well as the emotional elements, is a necessity. This skill can be found in communications, research, fundraising, and new media positions, just to name a few.
Do have a particular knack for finding out all the facts about certain events, people, and controversies? Have you spent a considerable amount of time doing research whether for a product, in academia, or just for fun? Your eye for detail and ability to get into the weeds on topics can translate well in this area.
My first political job was as a canvasser for an environmental group that’s well known in my home state. One major aspect of this work was going door-to-door talking to people about the organization and signing them up to be members, which included a financial contribution. Because I believed in the work, and had a negative connotation in my head about salesmen, I was taken aback when a man at his door told me that I was in sales. Ultimately, he was right.
I have worked in private industry, the progressive movement and in the world of nonprofits. In each one, I have done sales in one way or another. But to me, the selling is always easy because I believe so much in what I am doing. The ability to talk to people quickly and effectively, as well as drum up support in a variety of ways, is highly valued, particularly in the realms of field and fundraising.
Are you at home in a word of metrics, numbers, and formulas? Political technology thrives on the ability to gather and analyze data, as well as use it to make strategic decisions. Can you write code and programs? This is an increasingly valuable skill as the use of technology continues to grow.
Lucy Hall is the COO of Democratic GAIN, a professional association for progressives.