The second you get your driver’s license, this is an option. Odds are there’s something going on somewhere in your community — so seek it out. Go to a community meeting, find someone with an air of authority, and ask how you can help out. Step 1? Check.
- Generally speaking, there’s a 5-10 month window for serious volunteer work that precedes the election date, whatever election it may be. Every four years there’s obviously the big presidential campaign, but every two there are smaller, state-wide campaigns that need help, too.
- If you’ve hit the right time, you’ve wandered into the wonderful world of door-knocking and making political phone calls. It’s not glamorous work, but you have to start somewhere. If you find a candidate whose views align with your own, being passionate about spreading the word will be easy.
2. Go to college.
Not only is this near mandatory for your imminent political success, but it will expose you to a whole bunch of organizations and people you otherwise wouldn’t know of or meet. It’s best to major in political science, law, communications or statistics, depending on your ultimate goals.
- Once you’ve got your mini-fridge and collapsible shoe rack unpacked and you’ve exchanged an awkward hello with your dormmate, find the organization on campus affiliated with your political party. Each campus should have one and they’ll be able to get you started. Eventually, think about running for student government and being an active part of campus politics.
- While you’re at it, get involved in local and municipal elections. You’ll want to have as many irons in the fire as possible, small as they may be. The more people who know you, the easier it’ll be to make connections and continue climbing the ladder.
3. Beef up your resume in other ways.
Namely, with the military and nonprofit organizations. While virtually every president has been involved in some charitable initiative, 29 of the 45 presidents (let’s ignore Grover Cleveland at the moment) have had some kind of military service to their name.
- If you’ve ever seriously considered joining the military, this is a path that has led many people into political office. Whether you’re thinking about joining as an enlisted service member or putting the time into studying to become an officer, the leadership skills, discipline and experiences can make for an impressive political resume in the future. However, there’s far more to serving in the military than political aspirations, so make sure you’re fully aware of the responsibilities and dangers before making a final decision.
- Another career option you might want to consider is working for a nonprofit, community organization in your area. By landing a position in a community outreach program or charitable initiative, you’ll begin building a resume that demonstrates you care about helping the people around you.
4. Become a field organizer.
Alright, you’ve done the dirty deed of door knocking and you’ve met all the right people. Now it’s time to be movin’ on up. A field organizer is the next logical position — you’ll now be directing and recruiting volunteers to do the job you just did for either a state-wide or coordinated campaign.
- A state-wide campaign is pretty self-explanatory. You are working on behalf of a candidate that is running for some type of political office within the state. It can be anything from the Secretary of Agriculture to a senator. Sometimes the teams are quite small — a little more than a dozen or so people can comprise the entire team (depending on the candidate and the state, obviously).
- A coordinated campaign is where you’re working for the entire party, more or less. If a whole bunch of offices are open for election, sometimes campaigns merge to kill two birds with one stone (or three, or four). That way, instead of Mrs. Jenkins throwing out the third door knocker she had to be bothered by that day and subsequently switching her party affiliation, she’s only contacted once and can thoroughly enjoy her free bumper sticker.
5. Advance to a director position.
Woohoo, look at you! Now that you’ve proven your worth, it’s time to oversee the field organizers and work with county parties. You’ll be speaking to various groups and truly represent the party and your candidate.
- You’ll also be hiring a field staff and setting the win number once you hit Field Director material. Needless to say, the responsibilities are many.
6. Manage a campaign.
Now it’s time to oversee the implementation of the entire campaign plan. You’ll be assembling a team of directors (fundraising, communications, comptrollers and the treasurer) and making sure everything goes smoothly.
- If your candidate wins, you’re likely to receive an offer to work in the official office. So, from your perspective, it’s obviously best to work with a candidate who’s serious and has a likelihood of winning. From here on out, it’s time for you to run for an office of your own.