For those intrepid souls working on national, state or local campaigns, there's nothing wrong with starting to think about your next career move. Look, it’s not selling-out to think the chess game through three more moves ahead.
Win or lose, you will want to have career options and choices and it’s not too early to think about transitioning to corporate, non-profits, agencies or consulting firms. Showcasing your transferrable skills through packaging and personal brand is a good way to prep for a move.
At this year’s Reed Awards conference, which will be hosted by Campaigns & Elections in Charleston this Thursday, a team of political campaign pros will sit down with me to talk about taking their company’s services to new markets: Emily Parcell of Wildfire Contact, Chris Rusell of Chris Russell Consulting, and Danielle Winterhalter of SpeakEasy Political.
In prepping for our discussion, we’ve talked about how to expand from campaign season to corporate clientele and other matters. In the process, of course, we also addressed marketing ourselves. So here are five tips for those of you who cannot make it to Charleston this week:
- Know the Nomenclature
When pursuing a new gig, campaign experience must translate to corporate speak. Try several great resume writing books or online resources to change “scheduling” to “administration” or “advance work” to “event planner.” Resume reading software won’t know what GOTV means but Human Resources executives will understand “building constituencies” and your role in grassroots organizing activity.
- Package Transferrable Skill Sets
Speaking, writing, strategic planning and putting together briefs for the candidate or white papers are all transferrable to most employment settings. One just needs to know how to package it up. Share work samples with infographics, media clippings, or in a way that is accessible to outsiders beyond the campaign.
- Restart in a Related Industry
It’s hard to move from the addictive world of the campaign to the more mainstream world of a company or agency. Emily Parcell noted that she needed a transitional home in direct marketing first before finally deciding to go ahead with a new firm.
- Find a Mentor
While on the campaign trail, find people in your community and create a personal advisory group or a mentor you can use as a sounding board. Here’s a secret: most folks want to hear how you are doing on the campaign. They appreciate your intensity. Stay in-touch, give them some insight, then ask for help.
- Advantages to Being Homegrown
There are some real advantages in our sharing economy and one is that you can build your own business just about anywhere. There are advantages to “grow where you are planted” and use your home-base for friend and family connections to start a new career. In fact, there may be some disadvantages to staying in Washington, DC (inside the bubble) or a state capitol when trying to tap-in to your relationships pool.
Of course, another great option is to keep winning and build a personal brand and reputation for hard work. Chris Russell of his eponymous direct mail firm based in New Jersey noted “building relationships is incredibly important. You need to focus on what's right in front of you; but always keep your eyes looking ahead to the next cycle for opportunities. And when you do get an opportunity, do your absolute best because ultimately winning is what the business is about.”
I started my own business, GreenSmith Public Affairs, in 2000 using my local Reston, VA Chamber of Commerce Business Incubator program. I submitted a business plan and was selected. We were able to gain access to lawyers for legal help, financial and accounting professionals, bankers and insurance industry brokers.
These professional services firms provided me with a grounding in business and 16 years later are all still on my consulting team. Being alert and ready to morph yourself and your small business as markets shift is the key to success.
Michael Smith is the CEO of GreenSmith Public Affairs and a contributor to Campaigns & Elections.Smith has 30 years of public affairs and political campaign experience. He worked on the Press and Advance Team for Obama for President in 2008.