Elections 2012: A Golden Opportunity to Gain Valuable Experience

You might not know it from reading or watching the news, but the battle for the Presidency is NOT the only decision voters will face in November.

Voters will decide the fate of all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 13 seats in the U.S. Senate, 13 Governorships, and innumerable state and county seats. If you’re looking to gain real-world experience you can add to your resume or portfolio, consider volunteering on the campaign of a candidate of your liking.

Real Skills Equal Real Responsibility

If you volunteer for a campaign or are lucky enough to get a paid position, chances are you’ll have to do more than your fair share of knocking on doors, putting up signs, passing out literature, cold calling voters or making airport runs to pick up donors or campaign big wigs. But don’t despair!

Chances are you have skills that the campaign needs:

  • Social Media – In the age of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter knowing just a little bit can go a long way.  Many candidates know they need to use social media, but don’t always know how to effectively use it.  Convince a campaign higher up that you know what you’re doing and you could really have an impact on the campaign.
  • Mobilize – Many college students are very adept at quickly mobilizing their friends to act. If you can demonstrate to campaign leaders that you have the ability to get people to      an event or to volunteer for the campaign – you will get noticed.
  • Data – Can you maneuver your way around a spreadsheet? Do you know how to organize and manipulate data? If so, a smart campaign will certainly put you to work.  Press contacts, donor lists, poll results, and voter registration drives are all data driven components of a successful campaign. A campaign that doesn’t  have a lot of money to hire expensive consultants would really appreciate this skill set.
  • Fundraising – Have you raised substantial money for your sorority, fraternity, or other school organization? Some people have a real talent for convincing people to open up their wallet or checkbook.  If you’re such a person – you could end up being a candidate’s best friend and getting a job offer after they win in November.
  • Public Speaking and Media Relations – Can you give an effective pitch for your candidate when you knock on a voter’s door? Can you deliver a concise and cogent message to a reporter? Are you able to stand up in a room full of strangers and give an unforgettable 60-second speech? Demonstrate these skills to a campaign and you will certainly be asked to join their team.

Energy Everyone!

A campaign cannot survive without this key ingredient.  Young people bring energy to a campaign – plain and simple. If you have none of the skills listed above, but are a positive person who is excited to be involved and willing to put your heart and soul into a campaign, then you could be an extremely valuable asset. “Being a part of a campaign is energizing,” said Stacie Allen, Coordinator of TFAS Institute on Business and Government Affairs and Legal Studies Institute. Allen served as the deputy campaign manager for a Virginia State Delegate race in 2009. “To see your teamwork pay off makes you feel like you made a difference,” added Allen.

Sell Yourself & Stick to it

When you first go to a campaign headquarters, treat this encounter as a job interview. You want to make a great first impression. Be prepared to tell the person you are meeting with how many hours a week you are available. If the campaign brings you on board, make sure you work the hours you said you would.  A dependable campaign worker is a valuable campaign worker, and valuable campaign workers are normally given greater opportunities along the way. If your candidate wins and he or she needs to hire staff, your hard work and dedication will really pay off.

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