The Benefits To Starting In Field by Nancy Leeds

By at August 6, 2014 | 11:32 am | Print

The Benefits To Starting In Field by Nancy Leeds

Nancy Leeds

Field seems to have the stigma of being an undesirable department within a campaign. Most entry level campaign jobs are in field, and so there is a false belief that other positions are more prestigious because they’re harder to come by. Don’t get me wrong, there are absolutely upsides to beginning your campaign career in another department. I don’t want to be guilty of advising you to take a particular path just because it is the one that I took. It’s just that the benefits of starting as a field organizer are rarely discussed, while other entry level positions seem to be vaunted. So here they are. Decide for yourself.

1.)Field connects you to and prepares you for every aspect of a campaign. As one FOCS put it, “If you “get” field, you can handle just about anything a campaign throws at you. In my opinion, in field, you get the best hands-on experience because field work provides the backbone for a campaign. Want to do finance? Learning the art of the hard-ask through volunteer recruitment is essential. Want to do operations? Learning what is really needed to make sure a field team is set up for success is key. Want to do communications? Being able to develop a person’s personal story through 1:1’s is so important. Want to do data? You’ll need to know the ins and outs of how field inputs what data.”

2.)Field is the most social (and fun!) department. As I said above, field is often the biggest department on a campaign. When it comes to a high profile Senate, Gubernatorial or Presidential race, field staff can number past a hundred. Statewide trainings, regional field offices where you practically spend all day with your coworkers, and big events that pull together staff from different regions, foster the kind of fun team mentality and collegiate, collegial atmosphere that you hear campaign veterans reminisce about. The stuff that often attracts people to campaign life in the first place. Plus the ability to wear shorts to the office and work with volunteers (some of whom can be very entertaining) in a brightly decorated office all day doesn’t hurt either.

3.)Field trains you to be a manager. There is no other job on a campaign where you are managing people from day one. During my first GOTV fresh out of college I had over 200 people under me. This is a very translateable bullet point no matter what you do after your first cycle. If you continue to come up through field you go from managing volunteers to managing the people who manage the volunteers to managing those people. Many finance or data people get pigeon holed in those paths, but field people go on to successive levels of management, or various other campaign departments, and ultimately to be some of the best campaign managers.

4.)Field creates a common bond. Because such a large percentage of political people start out on field campaigns, being an organizer is a common reference point among campaign people and even those who work in the administration or on the hill. Like the pledging a sorority or your freshman year on the field hockey team, being an organizer is in some ways the toughest part of campaigning, but also the most (positively) memorable.

5.)Field is what campaigns do. I always say the coolest thing about field is that no matter how much money or press goes into an election, a race can still be won by neighbors talking to neighbors. After all, what are commercials, talking points and independent expenditures for but to convince the people you interact with every day? Working in field means having your ear to the ground, which is essential if you ever want to manage, work in a government office, lobby, or be a candidate yourself one day. There is no better way to prepare for a career in politics than to start out by talking to voters.

So there you have it! FIELD FOREVER!!!!!!!! (But seriously, do whatever feels right to you just keep the above in mind.)

Nancy Leeds is a Democratic Campaign Operative with her Masters in Public Administration at Columbia University. She is the author of Campaignsick a blog about voting rights, electoral politics and best practices in Campaign Management.

campaignsick.blogspot.com   campaignsick@gmail.com

Management & Strategy

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