For our latest employer perspective, we talked to Dani Bernstein — PolitiCorps’ associate director of the Oregon Bus Project — about starting a career in politics at the organizing level.
1. How did you get started in the industry? How can someone who is interested in your work get started?
The PolitiCorps program gave me my start in electoral organizing. I participated in the program the summer after I graduated college, and from there was able to dive right into campaigns with the critical skills and experiences that I needed to succeed. People come to organizing work with a range of backgrounds and experiences — some have been politics junkies their whole lives; others have only just discovered that politics might be the way they want to make an impact. You just need to start off with the right attitude: a willingness to work long hours and an unwavering desire to change the world. Doing a training program like PolitiCorps is a great way to build the skills and the network to launch a successful career in politics and public service.
2. What’s the future of your industry or job?
Nonprofits and campaigns are always on the look-out for new talent. There is a real need for young people who are committed to making a career out of working for the public interest. The electoral organizing community in state or local politics is a relatively small one, so once you establish a reputation as a hard worker and skilled organizer, jobs will come your way. And politics provides a never-ending cycle of jobs with every elections season.
3. What do you look for when you hire an intern or entry-level candidate?
A good work ethic is a must. This is a demanding field, so employees who are hard-working, and can have fun while they’re at it, are crucial. We look for candidates who are focused, driven and ambitious. And so much of organizing is about building relationships, so candidates also need to be charismatic and confident in interacting with people.
4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?
We’re impressed by interns who show a willingness to challenge themselves and try new things. A lot of political work pushes most people outside of their comfort zones, so someone can really distinguish themselves by seeking out new experiences and constantly striving to improve their skills.
5. Can you share a positive intern story and an intern horror story? No names needed …
One of our current interns basically showed up on our doorstep one day and said she wanted to help. She was willing to do any type of work and was eager to learn more about civic engagement. And she brought snacks to her first staff meeting — that won everyone over. Honestly, we’ve always been very impressed by our interns. We choose them wisely.
Sound like fun? Apply here to become a PoltiCorps fellow for the Oregon Bus Project.