Elections are awesome.
Why? Because as citizens of a democratic society we actually have an effect (small as it may be on an individual level) on decision-makers in Parliament, our provincial legislatures or our municipalities.
Our votes give someone a cushy seat in a big, old room where people yell at each other (in the case of municipal governments, the rooms are a bit newer).
In regard to the undervalued population of young voters, Rick Mercer suggests you should vote in spite.
“Employers realize the time commitment and dedication that goes into campaigns and can see how it will translate into your work on the job.” —Stephanie Fusco, public relations student, Humber College
I say you should go even further and participate to your full extent in election campaigns to build your network, gain skills further your own career goals – just like the politicians are doing.
What can you gain from volunteering in election campaigns?
Erin Miller, a former financial recruiter who is now an image and recruiting consultant based in Toronto, says volunteering with elections can accomplish two important things for young people:
Volunteers quickly learn how to sell an idea or a concept. “It’s something you have to do a lot no matter what industry you end up in,” says Miller. “So whether you’re selling a candidate’s platform or if you’re selling a product or a concept to your boss, you’re still employing the same skills.”
Campaign volunteers also have the opportunity to grow their network and meet people from a variety of sectors in a short, intense amount of time. “There are tons of volunteers and people from all different business sectors who get involved during elections,” says Miller. “Just being in the presence of these individuals and networking could lead to other opportunities outside.”
Can volunteer experience with an election campaign help you land a job?
Stephanie Fusco is a blogger and Humber College public relations student who is currently volunteering with the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC).
“I think people are impressed when they see you’ve volunteered extensively in politics,” she says. “Employers realize the time commitment and dedication that goes into campaigns and can see how it will translate into your work on the job.”
In addition to working with the LPC, Fusco was Director of Communications for Daniel Salvatore, a fellow Queen’s University grad and city council candidate during the recent Vaughan, Ont., municipal election. She performed a variety of tasks including managing volunteers and consulting on matters related to social media. She was also a social media volunteer for Rocco Rossi‘s mayoral campaign in Toronto in 2010.
While she suspects past election gigs have helped her land jobs, she says it’s clear that the opportunities dramatically increased her network.
“Volunteering in a social media capacity for Rocco Rossi connected me to lots of social media– and politically-inclined people who I still keep in touch with today. Working on the campaign in Vaughan allowed me to connect with journalists, especially on Twitter, and business people in the Vaughan area.
“It also helped me transition some university relationships. While the candidate and manager were friends from Queen’s, I now respect them in a professional capacity and vice versa. While their networks were always open to me, now they can recommend me in a professional capacity and I’ve definitely reaped the benefits of that.”
What if you aren’t that into politics?
It’s easy for young people to be cynical during elections and overlook the opportunities they present. To reprise one of Rick Mercer’s rants, students are only useful to politicians for delivering the lawn signs. “But past that, you could be on fire for all they care.”
But volunteering in some way can still be beneficial. According to Miller, if you aren’t associated with a political party, volunteering with Elections Canada and “get out the vote” NGOs – even organizing vote mobs – can show a great deal on your resumé.
Fusco also suggests volunteering with municipal campaigns in your city if you don’t want to be openly partisan.
Still, any kind of effort “shows initiative [and that you are] someone who’s engaged and knowledgeable,” says Miller. “Anything that happens in politics ultimately influences whatever sector you work in.”
Although campaigning for the federal election is almost over (election day is Monday, May 2 – do you know who you’re voting for?), there are plenty of upcoming provincial and territorial elections:
- Prince Edward Island provincial election: October 3, 2011
- Northwest Territories territorial election: October 3, 2011
- Manitoba provincial election: October 4, 2011
- Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election: October 11, 2011
- Ontario provincial election: October 6, 2011
- Saskatchewan provincial election: November 7, 2011
Check the provincial or territorial elections websites to see if they have any volunteer or job opportunities available – they’re often posted closer to the election. Visit your city or town’s website to find out when your next municipal election is.
Want to volunteer with a particular candidate or party? Check their website to see if they have anything posted. If not, contact them and tell them you’re interested in volunteering. Parties and candidates are always looking for extra hands. Especially young ones!