The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Internships 101: Interning with a Political Campaign

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The Rockefeller Center occasionally posts tips on securing great internships through its Internships 101 series. Such postings do not constitute an endorsement by the Center of the political objectives of any one person or organization. 

Terren Klein '17 speaks with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during his spring, 2015 internship in Claremont, NH.

With 2016 just around the corner and presidential candidates making their way to New Hampshire, now is the perfect opportunity to get involved with a campaign. Whether you have your heart set on a certain presidential candidate or want to work for a local campaign, here are several tips to help guide you through the process.

1. Do Your Research: Possibly the most important aspect of getting involved is to determine the candidate that you best align with. Take the time to research current issues, develop your own positions, and understand where each party and candidate stands before determining who you would like to represent. The more you know about the candidate’s positions, the better you will be able to perform your internship later on.

2. Resources On Campus: To find out more about internship opportunities, connect with local campaign staff and the political party. At Dartmouth, you can contact the College Democrats and Republicans to ask for campaign staff contacts or upcoming events for candidates. Brian Chen '17 shares, "In general, the way to get involved is to start networking. New Hampshire isn't that big a state, so getting to know political operatives here is worth the effort. Through College Republicans (and my own libertarian network in the state), I've gone to a lot of political events and managed to meet a lot of the operatives." Also be sure to check the internship opportunities listings on Rocky's internship opportunities blog.

3. Seek Volunteer Opportunities: Check out the campaign candidate's website for a section for volunteers and interns. Taylor Stevenson '10, two-time Minnesota State Senate candidate shares, "Especially in NH leading up to the primary, campaigns look to build their organizing power through unpaid internships and volunteer opportunities... Paid internship are incredibly uncommon, but if a person throws him/herself at the work and the candidate wins, proving oneself in a volunteer capacity during the campaign can open the door to job opportunities."

4. Be Ready For Field Work: Working for a campaign, you can expect to do a lot of field work. Stevenson explains, "[Most] of a political campaign worker's job is direct voter contact in the form of door knocking and phonebanking. Most interns spend anywhere from 4 to 8 hours a day on the phones or in the field. Sometimes, especially if it's a really grassroots campaign, you'll get some side tasks like social media/communications work, staffing the candidate, etc." Another Dartmouth alum explained, "You will learn a lot from interacting with voters and organizing volunteers. Many former field interns come out of the campaign able to strike up a conversation with anyone, and acquire valuable skills in organization and database work."

5. Campaign Fundraising: Fundraising is another essential part of any campaign. Although it can be difficult to find an opportunity within campaign fundraising, it can provide you with broader exposure to different organizations and people, as well as the candidate. One Dartmouth alum and former campaign intern mentioned, "Getting involved in campaign fundraising (at least in my experience) is the best path to getting maximum contact with the candidate and building networks."

6. Build Relationships: Working on a campaign can go a long way in building your network, both professionally and personally. Stevenson shares, "In my experience, 'campaigns' are appropriately named... Looking back on the campaigns I've been involved with, I remember the people I worked with and with whom I forged some amazing bonds... you always remember the time you 'served' together."

-Written by Student Program Assistant Sarah Han '17 and Rockefeller Center Staff

The Rockefeller Center is not able to provide funding for interns who are working for a political campaign. For more information about the Rockefeller Internships Program please click here.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences