Politics is, in many ways, a game defined the people one knows. As a result, the best path to becoming a political campaign manager may be one that leads to the center of the action and provides access to necessary contacts. Aspiring campaign managers can find ways to help out along the way, most likely starting as a volunteer and working their way up the ranks. Managers who have a college degree in political science, government, or a related field may have an advantage.
Starting as a campaign volunteer or intern may be the most direct path to becoming a political campaign manager. Political campaigns of all stripes and colors are always looking for volunteers. It’s often enough to simply walk into a campaign office and express interest.
Before deciding to volunteer, aspiring campaign managers should consider which political party and ideals they want to align with. Parties naturally hire people who have a track record of supporting their causes. For example, if you want to work as a political campaign manager for a Republican candidate, you shouldn’t start volunteering for Democratic causes right away. Volunteering during a period of relatively calm political waters may also be beneficial. In the midst of caucus mania, campaigns may use volunteer services, but they’re less likely to remember and observe individual merit.
After securing a volunteer position, the next step may be to explain ambitions to the campaign staff; explaining intentions to go beyond basic volunteer duties, such as handing out political swag, may help an ambitious volunteer stand out. Candidates can inquire as to whether or not their campaigns require volunteer coordinators. Volunteer coordinators have the advantage of taking on many of the same responsibilities as paid staff members, despite not being paid. These responsibilities may include actively recruiting and managing a team of volunteers, as well as coordinating special events such as fundraisers.
Once a volunteer has gained experience and excelled in the role, it may be easier for him or her to be hired as paid staff with a wider range of responsibilities. Staff members frequently have more direct contact with campaign leaders and, in some cases, political candidates themselves. These kinds of connections can be extremely beneficial to those who want to work as a political campaign manager in the future.
Campaign managers are often subjected to the same pressures and responsibilities as the candidates themselves. Many political candidates, in fact, have little contact with their paid and volunteer staffs, entrusting those responsibilities to the campaign manager. As a result, a campaign manager should be willing to work around the clock, assisting the candidate in fine-tuning his or her next campaign speech, ensuring that the right message is conveyed through political ads, and overseeing all campaign staff hiring and management.
To work as a political campaign manager, there are no specific educational requirements. A high school diploma or its equivalent may be required, and a political science degree may provide an advantage to an aspiring manager. Successful managers typically have strong communication skills, are at ease speaking to the media, and are proficient in writing, computer, and Internet use. There is no hard and fast rule about what level of campaign to start with, but it’s usually easier to start with a smaller, local campaign. By assisting a candidate running for city council, an aspirant candidate can gain experience as a political campaign manager. Managing campaigns successfully at the city and regional levels can serve as a stepping stone to managing campaigns on larger platforms.