There’s no escaping it. Though the election is still about nine months away, between the endless debates, 24/7 news coverage, and now with the beginning of primary season, you can’t help but notice we’re in a presidential election year. Has it really been four years already since the last one?
Are you tired of it yet?
What? You’re not? You think of the presidential election as Oscar Night, the Fourth of July, and the Super Bowl all rolled into one? Then you might be a politics nerd.
But with all the drama and excitement, even those of us who aren’t fixated on politics sometimes wonder what it would be like to be part of that world. What would it be like to work in a political campaign or a K Street lobbying firm? Or maybe as part of an organization that seeks to make the world a better place by influencing government officials?
If it’s your dream to work in the world of politics/public policy, there are a lot of options short of actually running for office yourself. Some jobs require specific degrees or training; others are open to almost anyone.
So what kinds of jobs are out there for politics nerds?
One of the easiest and fastest ways to get involved in politics is to volunteer for a campaign. Chances are you won’t get paid. However, if you’re interested in working beyond the campaign, volunteering can open doors that might turn into a paying gig.
Staff Member – Elected officials at all levels need various staff members to keep their offices running smoothly. If you’re lucky, you might get hired as an aide or spokesperson, but there’s always plenty of grunt work to be done like answering phones and returning correspondence. Legislators like to hire people from their own districts, so one of the best ways to be considered is to volunteer first and introduce yourself.
If you don’t want to move to DC, consider a position with your US Representative or Senator at their home office in your district. You could also look for opportunities in state or local government.
Lobbyist – From the oil industry to green energy advocates, from women’s health organizations to healthcare corporations, lobbyists are the go-betweens who represent the concerns of their clients directly to legislators. To get a job with a lobbying firm, you’ll probably need a college degree as well as extensive knowledge of the field. Working as a congressional aide or staff member is a good way to jumpstart a lobbying career.
Nongovernment Organization (NGO) – If you’re passionate about a global cause such as fair elections, humanitarian aid, or women’s rights, you might enjoy working for an NGO like the United Nations, Amnesty International, or Doctors Without Borders.
Political Blogger – Don’t count on making a living as a political blogger… but who knows? You might be one of the rare few who break out of the pack and gain an international audience. But whether you’re conservative, liberal, or centrist, what’s most important is expressing your unique point of view.
Podcaster – You don’t need a big platform to create a political podcast that can be heard worldwide. Remember that – love him or hate him – Rush Limbaugh started out as a local radio DJ. Your knowledge of politics combined with your unique spin could make your podcast go viral or get you a gig as a radio show host.
Pollster – Got mad math skills along with your jones for politics? Consider working for a polling company like PPP, Gallup, or Rasmussen. Polling firms are looking for math-savvy candidates with a good understanding of the political process and a feel for how voters think.
Translator or Interpreter – Thanks to the internet, globalization, and international security issues, the demand for skilled translators (written word) and interpreters (spoken word) has never been higher. You can work as an employee or as an independent contractor for government or nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
Specialty Librarian – If you have a masters’ degree in Library or Information Science, the local public library isn’t your only job option! Government entities, corporations, educational institutions, political think tanks, and even advocacy groups like AARP or the NRA employ Specialty Librarians to curate high-level information.
So whether you have political ambitions of your own… if you want to make the world a better place… or if you just get a thrill from proximity to the political action, there are plenty of ways to get involved. And the 2020 election is only four years away!