Running for Office When You Have a Day Job

There are over 500,000 elected officials in the United States.  While many, including the Congress, Governors, some state legislators and big city mayors, etc. are full time jobs, the vast majority of elected positions are not full-time.  Most candidates in the U.S. are running for part-time slots, which means they’ll have full-time (“day”) jobs, both while they are running for office and after they get elected.

As anyone who has ever done it can attest, running for office is hard… the campaign rallies, fundraising events, calls, letters, grassroots campaigning… it takes a toll.  This is double true for candidates who have full-time jobs.  If you’re running for office on nights and weekends, but holding down a full-time job during the day, these tips are for you:

Plan Ahead

The single best thing you can do to prepare to run for office while working full-time is to plan ahead.  A year or more out from Election Day, sit down with your calendar and figure out when you’ll most need to be out of the office to campaign.  When do you need a flexible schedule?  Certainly around Election Day, and perhaps around debates, party conventions, and other events.

Check in with your employer, supervisor, or, if you’re the boss, with the board of directors of your company to see if you can arrange some flex-time that you can use to campaign.  Many companies are glad to see their employees and managers getting involved in the community, and are more than willing to allow you some leeway so that you can campaign.

Some possibilities include: allowing you to shift hours, allowing you to work a portion of time from home, letting you work extra hours now to save up time off for when you need it to campaign, and letting you go part time for a few months or take an unpaid leave of absence.

Whatever you arrange with your employer, just be sure you don’t violate any campaign finance laws (in many places, it may be illegal for a corporate employer to pay you while you are out campaigning, unless you have sick or vacation days saved up, etc.)

Get Help

If you’ve got to work long hours (or even if you don’t), running for office when you have a day job is much easier if you assemble a team of dedicated volunteers or paid staffers to help complete the work of the campaign.  Your team can be stuffing envelopes, making calls, and going door to door during the day, and you can pick up the slack at night, along with going to events and doing fundraising calls.  (For tips on recruiting great volunteers, check out: How to Find Volunteers for Your Political Campaign).

Maximize Your Time

This is key – if you’re running for office while working a full-time job, the amount of time you can dedicate to the campaign will be limited.  In order to win, you will need to maximize the time you are spending on the campaign by eliminating any work that doesn’t make a huge difference in helping you win.

You’ve got to prioritize.  For example, if you’ve got fundraising calls to make and doors to knock on, and only three hours to campaign today, you probably shouldn’t be stuffing envelopes and sitting on Twitter.  Outsource those tasks to volunteers, staff, or friends.

Likewise, you won’t have time to read the day’s papers cover to cover – instead, do an online search for the news that is relevant to your election, and read only that, then move on to the campaign work that will help you win.

It Can Be Done!

If you get discouraged, remember this: it can be done!  Running for office while working a day job can be exhausting, but thousands of people have done it successfully.  Just keep plugging away until Election Day, then take your family on a much deserved vacation.


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