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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wrong Life Plans

When applying to a campaign job, does your resume match the job?

I'm sure you've heard this advice from guidance counselors before, adapt your resume to match the job you're applying for.

And while this is sound advice, I realize it's unrealistic to spend the time adjusting your resume for each job. You should at least have a 'political' resume and a 'non-political' resume. I'd even say you should have a 'political: campaigns' resume and a 'political: other' resume.

Regardless of how you choose to do it, make sure your resume doesn't make you look like your real life plans are elsewhere.

I was recently interviewing a candidate for a political position, and asked him what his five year life plan was. His response was that he wanted to be in international affairs with a graduate degree. The job I was interviewing him for was, clearly, his last resort and he'd be jumping ship as soon as he could.

When a job asks you what your five year plan is, your response should always be, "working here, hoping for a promotion, working hard and being a valued member of the team."

It shows that you understand the situation and the real question, it isn't a time to be indulgent. When you make a resume and express your life plans, don't say or even hint that you want to be in international relations in ten years, or that you have a secret path to be a professor.

No one wants to know your real life plans. They want to hear that your life plans matches with their employment needs. That you'll be a stable regular employee for them, that's what they want to hear.

When you give these lofty dreams, you're embracing certain negative stereotypes: flaky college students, being unrealistic, being difficult to work with, etc.

Come across as someone looking to work hard, take direction, and make progress. Come across as someone whose life plans matches the job you're applying for at that moment.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Keep backups of receipts

When you incur expenses for a campaign or organization, always keep copies and a backup of your receipts. There are a few key reasons:

1) The organization might lose their copy and need it again, let's call this the absent-minded boss problem
2) The organization might refuse to reimburse you for a specific item, the confrontational boss
3) The organization might refuse to reimburse you for an item and not tell you, the evil boss.

I've seen and worked for all three. Each one should tell you that keeping a backup of your expenses is critical. Even if you can write-off that one invoice, these reimbursements will add up over time.

Always keep backups of your receipts.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Basic elements of a good campaign website

Campaign websites run the gamut from great to horrible. The websites that you've probably seen most often are the ones that have budgets far beyond the cost of your entire campaign. They're bad comparison points because you'll likely never be able to compete with them.

There are also an endless stream of companies, vendors and 'friends' who will want to build a campaign website for you, and give you the best rate they can give you, usually $1000 or something astronomical. For what you need, and for what you want done, you can easily get by spending $100-200 on a campaign website, with few frills. Don't pay the unemployed recent college grad a thousand dollars for your website, you're not getting anything and they're getting their beer budget donated to them for the summer.

So, decide to do it yourself, and let's go over a quick list of things that should be on your campaign website.

Issues - list out and discuss the top three issues facing your district. Don't get into a policy wonk discussion on each issue, because each extra issue you discuss means you made the pool of potential supporters smaller. You want to be clear, smart, wise and consistent on the main issues of the day.

Gallery - put up at least two dozen nice pictures of your candidate and their family and friends. Keep it plain. You want people to see your candidate in a few different settings, talking to people, at their work, talking to people in the community.

Contact - you don't need a physical campaign office, but you do need a mailbox. Also, it's very easy and simple to set up a Google Voice account so you can at least receive voicemails and respond to people who inquire. Have a separate number for 'media' inquiries, realizing that 95% of those who will call this number will likely be obnoxious bloggers looking for a scoop.

Donate - make sure you have a system set up to accept donations. Paypal is an altogether horrible service for accepting campaign donations. And several campaigns I know have had their entire paypal accounts frozen until after election day, when the released funds did them absolutely no good. There are a variety of donation providers who can process donations for you.

Make sure you can update this site, and that more than one person has access to it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Campaigns and Orgs: Have Effective Ways to Handle New Volunteers

New volunteers are a great source of talent and work. They add new personalities and momentum to a campaign. But many campaigns misuse them and, as a result, they often stop coming in or leave.

Let's go through a few effective things to do with volunteers:

1. Don't give them "bitchwork" - things that no one else around the office wants to do.
2. Don't give them menial tasks - things like letter stuffing
3. Don't test them to see if they'll do hard work, asking them to clean the bathroom
4. Get them involved, make their work seem important
5. Show them why their efforts can make a difference, how their action will get more votes
6. Keep a spirit of idealism, and don't project cynicism
7. Even unpaid people should be treated well, free volunteers aren't worthless, they're priceless
8. Have them learn a valuable skill: teach them basics of fundraising, or how to do graphic design
9. Value their time, with real dollars: keep track of how much time they've invested in the campaign as though each hour were worth at least $10, and treat them as a donor. If someone donates 40 hours, treat them like you would someone who just donated $400.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but many campaigns violate these basic concepts. Treat volunteers well, find opportunities for mutual win, and you'll recruit more people and retain even more. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Because I'm the boss" is always a losing argument

Getting people to take action is difficult. Anyone who says they're great managers and enjoy management either isn't doing it or hasn't done it very long.

Your title isn't a statement of your authority. When you're trying to encourage a recalcitrant employee to do something, never use the phrase "because I'm the boss" or "because I'm the campaign manager" or "because I'm whatever-title" - your title doesn't confer authority.

Your authority is whether people do what you say, it's your persuasive power to get things done because people trust that what you're asking them to do is urgent and necessary.

If someone is refusing to do the work you assign, or unable to do it the way you want, you shouldn't be afraid to separate that employee from the workplace. A paycheck is dependent on completing the required tasks, and there are plenty of people who are highly talented and looking for work such that you don't need to tolerate obstinacy from employees.

And yet many campaigns and organizations will tolerate lazy and mediocre employees because they think them too important otherwise. They're vital because of who they know, because the perceived costs of replacing them are too high.

You need people who will complete the tasks given to them, and who will work when assigned. If someone refuses to do those things repeatedly and defiantly, it's time to consider terminating their employment. The real challenge is when you don't have that authority and can't fire them, but have to work with them anyway.

In those cases your authority is only persuasive. You have all the responsibility and none of the necessary authority, a very challenging position.

And no matter if you can fire someone or not, most of the time your authority is much less than you think it is, so try to rely solely on persuasive power with people instead of the coercive power of terminations and saying "because I'm the boss."