Making political staff work into a career

By Joel Fischer of Portland, Oregon. Joel has been working in Oregon politics off and on for the last eight years as a legislative/campaign staffer, lobbyist and photographer.

Oregon politics is a seasonal gig for many political staffers. Campaigns for local offices don’t gear up until the May primary and only last six months. Elected officials need fewer staff than candidates, so not all campaign staff are guaranteed a job even if their candidate wins. And many elected offices, including the state legislature, are part-time.

That means a lot of seasoned political staff are looking for a new job every six months to a year and struggle in between with unemployment. Also, entry-level positions, which some spend years in, do not pay very well.

Like many others, I have bounced back and forth between legislative staff, campaign and lobbying jobs. I like doing this kind of work and cycles of unemployment aside; the interim has given me opportunities I wouldn't have had if I were permanently employed.

Rather than leaving politics behind or going back to school, I spent the last two legislative “off seasons” living and working in Taiwan. Life is good in Taiwan. The national health care is great, the climate is sub-tropical, public transportation is state of the art, the natural beauty rivals the Pacific Northwest and I learned to speak Chinese, 我能說中文 (I actually typed that myself!)

I have seen many other staffers, tired of the situation go on to any number of non-political jobs; many also move on to law school, grad school, Washington D.C. or work in the lobby.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing other careers or a higher degree; the fact is many political jobs are cyclical, so there will always be political staffers moving from job to job.

Why does this matter? I think that having talented, smart seasoned political staffers makes the political process better. We help legislators get more done, we help candidates tell their story without stepping off the path; we make the process more open by interacting with constituents. So we need to make it easier to be a political staffer by offering support, advice and guidance.

As a little cherry on top, political guru Stacey Dycus has organized a “mixer” on November 8th at 5:30 at The Waypost, giving soon-to-be-unemployed campaign staffers the opportunity to meet with more seasoned politicos such as lobbyists, legislative staffers, labor and advocacy organization staffers.

Come and share resumes, tips for getting hired, and potential career paths for political staffers. Wonks and Hacks, D's and R's- all are welcome, see more details on Facebook. The Waypost is located at 3120 N. Williams Ave, Portland, Oregon.

  • (Show?)

    Great article, well put.

  • (Show?)

    With all respect, one of the difficulties I see with trying to achieve campaign finance reform is the growth and need of the political business. Consultants, pollsters, campaign aids, bloggers who sell their social media services, advertising houses, newspapers, etc. All of that takes a lot of cash. And it is in the financial interest of the political business to avoid all money raising restrictions, regardless of whether it's good public policy or not.

    I don't know if that consciously effects a consultants opinions and strategic advice, or a newspaper editorial boards opinions on campaign spending and CFR, but it would be hard to believe that there wasn't at least a subconscious effect on how advice to a client on how she should approach CFR and campaign spending.

  • (Show?)

    Hint: do not work for Mitt Romney or others who enjoy firing those who provide services.

    Mitt Romney Campaign Aides Had Credit Cards Canceled Late On Election Night

guest column

connect with blueoregon