Start early, start at the bottom.
If you’re in high school or younger, volunteer for local political campaigns. Answer phones, man phone banks, file papers, knock on doors. Do anything you can. Summers are especially fun for volunteering. If you’re in college, you should be in College Republicans. Start one if there isn’t one already. If you’re no longer in school, the same concept still applies – volunteer, volunteer, volunteer to do anything.
Read & Learn
If you’re in college you should get familiar with the Leadership Institute and Young America Foundation. These are two fantastic organizations whose purpose is to train up young conservatives both ideologically and tactically. Read every book you can get about campaigning and elections. Read about past elections. Read the newspaper and analyze the political commentary and coverage closely. Read Campaigns & Elections, Roll Call and Politico. Read my blog, and others like it (if you can find any, let me know). Most importantly, never stop reading and learning, because the field is constantly changing.
Actually Work for Campaigns and Political Entities
Before I started ‘consulting’ I had the following job titles (in no particular order): Field Representative, Office Manager, Volunteer Coordinator, Campaign Manager, Campaign Director, Strategist, Communications Director, Speech Writer, Political Manager, PR Director, and Secretary. You don’t have to necessarily get paid for the early gigs, but the fact that a campaign is willing to make you an official representative of the campaign lends you a lot of credibility, and the opportunity to gain tons of hands-on, actually on-the-job experience.
An important caveat: You need to be on winning campaigns. If you have a resume full of losers – especially on campaigns you managed yourself – well, that makes you a loser, too.
Get Noticed by The Local/State GOP
I don’t always hold the local Republican Party in high regard when it comes to actually affecting campaigns, but it is an excellent place to network, build friendships, and find like-minded folks to hang out with. If you’re interested in politics at a deep level, it’s worth it just for that. Eventually, opportunities to get involved with local candidates come up.
Offer to Help
This is how I became a political consultant. I helped a friend write their campaign plan for a county level election, and it grew from there. Eventually I was like ‘damn, I should charge for this.’
Don’t Try To Do It This Way
Email, send a letter, or show up on the door of a campaign peddling your ‘services.’ Especially after the primaries. This is what the leeches do, and it gives us all a bad name.
Market Yourself Appropriately
Carry business cards, attend GOP events, put “Political Consultant” under your name on your email and most importantly, offer free advice/help/services. Give seminars at the local GOP headquarters training new candidates on the basics of campaigning, for example. Not only does it get your name out there as a competent professional, but you get to actually help others as well.