College students and young adults type intensely on their laptops as they search for the gubernatorial candidates’ endorsements. Bright posters are hung everywhere on the walls, some displaying slogans and others motivational quotes. As I look around the offices, each staff member is either engaged in a conference call or drafting speeches. In a world where experience and knowledge are valuable assets, many teenagers take advantage of unique and engaging opportunities to get involved in the community, but there is one that many do not know about: volunteering for political campaigns.
This past summer I interned for Gavin Newsom in his campaign for California Governor. After commuting to one of his campaign offices day in and day out, meeting countless college students from different areas of the United States and compiling heaps of data into spreadsheets to contribute to the campaign, I realized that one does not even need to be interested in entering politics to volunteer for a political campaign. Regardless of anyone’s interest for a future career, I strongly encourage high school students to make use of this opportunity.
Today, work experience is vital to obtain a job. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, roughly 91 percent of employers want their employees to have work experience. This work experience does not need to be in the field that students want to go into, but instead needs to implement important skills that can be applied to any job. Working on a campaign does just that, as it requires crucial, high-quality work to be completed in a fast-paced environment.
While the campaigns are political, I soon found out that the work itself is not. In fact, the vast majority of candidates would ask all their workers to perform similar tasks: reaching out to voters, phone banking, data analysis, spreadsheet compilation, working on projects, helping prepare speeches and presentations—and the list goes on. Being a Democrat, Republican or being aligned with any other political party is irrelevant when it comes to working on a politician’s campaign.
Instead, the emphasis is on all of the skills that campaign volunteers and employees will gain while working for that campaign. I learned how to persuade people by catering to their needs and desires, use various technological tools and applications, manage different people and conduct research. I could have just as easily obtained this array of skills had I worked on someone else’s campaign. These specific abilities are prioritized by other employers as well. In a survey conducted by OI Global Partners, 71 percent of employers look for a team player, 65 percent look for people that motivate and engage others in their jobs and 60 percent look for employees that work efficiently and that are motivated. Political campaigns directly help improve all of these skills.
Networking and building meaningful relationships are also inevitable when working on campaigns. Many of the other interns and volunteers at these campaigns are college students from around the country with potential and drive. Not only do high school students meet co-workers, but many high-ranking officials as well. For example, when I was working on Newsom’s campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice, two well-known and high-profile organizations. These connections will serve as useful for the rest of students’ lives and will aid them in future job searches. There is no better place to network than in politics because of the constantly changing landscape and the variety of successful younger and older people in the field.
Joining a campaign will also guide high school students to learn about contemporary issues and current events, as well as how they apply to people’s lives. This is especially important as teenagers transition to an age where being an informed citizen is crucial for their understanding of the world around them.
During Newsom’s campaign, I had to constantly research different issues thoroughly to prepare him for various interviews and events, meaning that I had to read articles from objective and factually accurate publications as well as an assortment of pieces of legislation. These tasks helped me stay current with events so that I could have a conversation with anyone in the office regarding topics ranging from how converting to renewable energy will affect the economy to which hurricane is tearing towards land at the current moment. I was also able to better understand how different policies would impact my community and life.
Based on the abundant opportunities for personal growth and real-world experience they provide, political campaigns are one of the few jobs that prepare students for a multitude of other professions. They help students develop countless skills and supplement their understanding of how different issues affect the community and themselves. Working on campaigns goes beyond the scope of a typical job and becomes a civic duty instead. As members of American society, our role in this democracy is to continue bettering our country. Working for a campaign is an excellent way to accomplish this and the best part about it is simple: there is only upside. Working on a political campaign as a teenager is a low-risk, high-reward situation, and if students take advantage of the experience, they will reap all of the rewards.